Now that the white working class has enabled a Manhattan billionaire to dick-swing his way into the White House, it’s time to realize the idea of a “liberal elite bubble” is a false one. The notion of such a bubble presumes that US cities, with diverse populations in close proximity to each other, are not representative of the actual American citizenry, but rather are an aberration.
Let’s extend that thesis through a few broad generalizations (and, heads up, I’ll be making generalizations throughout, because that is the only way to deal with big ideas such as one of a profoundly changing nation: in general terms). There’s a persistent idea that the real America cannot be found on our coasts or in our cities, but can only be located in the heartland, a geographically vague but enormous swath of country that can basically be diagrammed by locating the red states that won Trump the presidency. These states, as we’ve been told, are filled with working-class families (many of them white, but let’s put that to the side for one second) who emphasize family and religion and the value of a hard day’s work.
And yet, by all accounts, the population of these places are suffering from a lack of jobs, from systemic poverty, from widespread drug addiction, from a tragic and pronounced dearth of opportunity. This is unfair, and unfortunate, and their frustration has legitimacy. But how have they ended up like this, stripped of any means to recover themselves (bar a game-changing president who’s supposedly in their corner)? One could argue that, as their economies suffer, these non-liberal anti-bubbles (let’s call them that for now) have devolved into places of xenophobia and stagnation, places that have been left behind by a liberal elite that seeks to frame the country in its own progressive image. One could argue further that these non-liberal anti-bubbles have thus gotten themselves stuck in time, and as a result are missing out on the growth, the economic progress, the prosperity that the rest of the country is palpably experiencing. These arguments have validity. That our non-liberal anti-bubbles have refused to accept the cold, hard, undeniable reality that some sort of self-directed change is necessary to hoist themselves out of their terrible trough of poverty and blight is, well, kind of outrageous.
But against all logic, the idea of the liberal bubble persists. It’s a completely backward idea. How has the white working class—which, with this election, got its own back (to put it charitably), and/or held the rest of the nation hostage (to put it less so)—been credited for its “true” American qualities, when it’s far, far closer to the truth to say it’s existing in a bubble of its own?
Our so-called liberal bubbles—our cities, in other words—are thriving, economically. The national employment rate is at a nine-year low, with most of those jobs in our country’s population hubs. Our cities are not only becoming bigger by the day (something Portlanders have witnessed firsthand), many of them are growing more diverse as well, representing the US population as it truly exists—not as a white rural conservative wishes it would exist, but as it inarguably, in reality and actuality, exists. By necessity, cities are emphasizing the forward-looking ideals of environmentalism (city dwellers, by circumstance, must create a smaller carbon footprint than suburban or rural dwellers) and rejecting the restrictive, anti-humanitarian rules that conservatism has historically placed on the peoples it wishes to oppress. But these are ideological arguments, and not easy ones to win. So let’s look at the numbers: The growth sectors of the US economy, whether they come from new technologies or are in thriving existing markets, are found by and large within the nation’s cities. This is no bubble—this is as close as you can get to our current reality.
Therefore, the real bubbles are to be found in any of the white working class rural areas that are ignoring, ostrich-like, not just the future, but the present-day circumstances of our country as a whole. It’s a pipe dream to want America to remain as homogenous as possible; it’s even more of a pipe dream to wish for the return of the manufacturing and coal jobs. The country’s population will grow ever browner, no matter how strongly certain people don’t want it to. And manufacturing jobs are simply not going to return in any realistic capacity; those that do remain will do so at great expense to the nation as a whole (like Carrier’s enormous and well publicized tax break of $7 million to save 800 jobs, which, when broken down, comes to a whopping $8,750 per employee). How is failing to recognize these realities not living a bubble?
When you look at how the plurality of Americans chose to express themselves at the polls—by selecting Hillary Clinton by a margin of greater than 2.5 million votes and growing—it’s clear that the so-called city “elites” exist in larger numbers than the (presumably rural) Trump voter. As such, any actual bubble-like conditions should be attributed to places where voters went against the interests of the American people—not in our cities, but in the blighted rural areas that fell for Trump. There is no longer any reason whatsoever to accept the idea of a “liberal bubble,” or of the “coastal elite.” The real bubbles are to be found in the parts of the country that have refused, to their detriment, to accept the country's current economic and demographic circumstances. When someone says “liberal bubble” to you, it’s time to pop that expired and outlandish phrase out of their vocabulary immediately.