The author of Hillbilly Elegy wasted no time is using his position as expert on “white America” to explain the results of the election. If you read his Time piece, you’ll get exactly what you expect. But I was struck particularly by the yearning in the last section.
It would be great if people returned to areas of the country that need talented people with good economic prospects. Our country would really benefit if those who went to elite universities, who started businesses, who started nonprofits weren’t just doing so on the coasts. Folks should be encouraged to return home—but in the broadest regional sense. It’s not just that somebody who’s from southwest Ohio needs to go back to southwest Ohio. People should be encouraged to go back to so-called “middle America.” One of the takeaways of this election certainly should be that we can’t have an elite culture isolated from the rest of the country. It’s not a durable way to have a well-functioning society.
It reminded me a lot of how furious anti-Brexit youth were that their EU passports wouldn’t be so easy, and they wouldn’t be able to relocate to other cities in other countries — and how the Brexit voters pointedly did not care.
We talk a lot about the “resentment” the rural areas and small towns have for cities, but pure tribalist fighting is a bad way of looking at it. Many of these rural voters see their future fleeing away to the cities and to other countries and to worlds foreign to them. They want their kids to come home, and to see the new restaurant, and to help with grandpa. Hearing how great life in Los Angeles is makes them feel insecure and lonely.
Voting based on this emotional need, let alone voting for an idiot, is not responsible. But it may allay some of our urban terror to know that those people are just sad like this. That bridge may be crossed some day.