So much of American politics is about class differences and grievance. It has grown especially toxic in this era of unprecedented economic inequality. The era started in 1980 with Reaganomics and inequality has only gotten worse. A lot of Americans, especially in rural America, feel left behind. They resent urban America, which is politically liberal and racially diverse, so they blame the left — and minorities — for their plight, even though their economic vulnerability was created by conservative, free-market economic policies backed by the 1 percent wealthy elite, which is predominantly right-wing.

Instead of aiming their ire at the Republican Party, rural America focused it on the Democrats and their efforts to aid people of color, particularly urban Black Americans and incoming migrants from Latin America, who are their economic “competitors” on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. So they vote for Republicans, which only makes their lives worse, and they vilify the Democrats, who are the only ones trying to do anything to improve their lives.

Instead of voting the real elitists out of office, they have branded the progressive/liberal left as elitist. The media has adopted that false narrative and, remarkably, many liberals accept it as true. It must be our fault. If we weren’t such arrogant, condescending elitists, looking down our long noses at our long-suffering civic brethren, they would never have cast their lot with the dark side. It’s our inability to reach them and persuade that has caused our Great Divide.

Sorry, not buying it. I hope you aren’t either.

Our national challenge is to redefine America as a place where no one feels superior and no one feels inferior. We’re a long way from making this real, but that has always been our nation’s goal. All human beings are created equal, no matter their circumstances, and we all deserve to be treated as equals. Everyone, no exceptions.

That includes Trump supporters, who are not hapless, helpless dupes to be looked down on. They are an energized, feisty, fierce political force to be reckoned with. They do not consider themselves our inferior. If anything, it’s the other way around.

They don’t agree with us and we don’t agree with them. We are in conflict. Not violent conflict — a conflict of ideas, a clash of cultures. They will defeat us if we do not defeat them. And wallowing in our self-doubt is not going to change that. 

Irresponsible elitist

Their war cry, by the way, is “Own the Libs!” Does that sound like a group of distressed fellow countrymen waiting for us to throw them a lifeline? On the contrary, they believe they own us. And they might be right since so many “libs” have internalized the accusation that we’re nothing but a bunch of overeducated, silo-hugging elitists.

Every time someone in the pro-democracy camp agrees with that assessment, and every time the misguided media reinforces that phony notion, we undermine our efforts to prevent Trump from regaining power and destroying democracy. And every time we say Joe Biden is too old to be president, we take another step toward losing. Why are we doing that to ourselves — and to our country?

The first rule of any contest is: respect your opposition. Do not underestimate them. But also do not underestimate yourself. They are our equals and we are their equals. No side is ever entirely right or entirely wrong. But we have the advantage. In this case, we are more right than wrong — enough to take a firm stand.

Donald Trump, public enemy #1, the most wanted man in America (on both sides of the Great Divide) is a liar who tried to overturn a legitimate, free and fair election by illegal means, including, but not limited to, inciting an insurrection against the Capitol. His followers support his efforts to overturn democracy. We are not being elitists by stating our opinion about that effort. We are not being arrogant by pointing out, in the clearest manner possible, that they are wrong about the 2020 election.

On the contrary, we are being patriotic.

I don’t consider myself “better” than any Trump supporter, and I’m guessing you don’t either. As fellow citizens, I see them as equals. Our advantage in the upcoming, all-important 2024 contest, is that we’re more in touch with reality than those who buy into the Big Lie.

We will win if we are committed, actively involved, stop doubting ourselves, and, above all, stay united.

That is not elitism. That is not arrogance.

That is responsible citizenship. 

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