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Davis Journal

If it can’t work for you, America, can it work for any of us?

Nov 14, 2022 11:37AM ● By Bryan Gray

A daily host on KSL Radio regularly claims that Americans aren’t really too far apart politically due to their shared values.  From my conversations with both Democrats and Republicans, I have scoffed at the KSL analysts. To my mind, there is a wide gulf based on education and lifestyle.

Last week Republican columnist David Brooks was in my camp.  In a well-reasoned column, he said the underlying structure of society has changed with Americans “sorting themselves out by education.”

Surveys and voting patterns clearly show that Democrats have lost their hold on working-class men and women, especially white voters but also leakage on working-class Latinos and Blacks. Warehouses are filled with Trump voters, whereas high-rise offices are home to Democrats. The Democratic base is now college-educated Americans and Asians (who also fall into the most educated of all minority groups). 

Brooks notes that many think Democrats have lost working-class voters by not focusing on economic issues. But he explains that idea is too simplistic.  Americans with and without college degrees not only have different views on the role of government but on almost every other aspect of lifestyle. “They have different relationships to patriotism and faith, they dress differently, enjoy different food, have different ideas about corporal punishment, and of course, race. You can’t isolate the difference between the two classes to one factor. It’s everything…People have put up barricades and perceive the other class as a threat to what is beautiful, true, and good.”

There is certainly an economic ingredient in the political stew. Inflation, for instance, hasn’t hurt airlines, the hospitality industry (high-end restaurants and hotels) or banks – all industries favored by college-educated patrons who are generally immune from sticker shock on gasoline and eggs.  And when it comes to the “culture wars,” the college-educated and those without stand on different protest sites.

The KSL host can say all he wants about all of us wanting the same thing for families and our neighborhoods. But we don’t – and we don’t live in the same neighborhoods and ZIP codes either!

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Andrew Sean Greer also viewed the political chasm in his newest novel (“Less is Lost”).

“America, how is your marriage?” he asks. “Your two-hundred-fifty-year promise to stay together in sickness and in health? First, 13 states, then more and more, until 50 of you have taken the vow…Did you ever dream of being on your own again? Never having to be part of someone else’s family squabbles? Never having to share a penny? Tell me honestly, because I have contemplated marriage and I wonder: If it can’t work for you, America, can it work for any of us?”

We have become a nation almost as tribal as any Middle Eastern or African country. When the 80-year-old husband of the Speaker of the House is brutally attacked and suffers a severe brain injury, one tribe is gleeful and falsely speculates that it could be a homosexual attack while the other tribe points its finger at the hatred stemming from Trumpism.

Issues and fairness don’t matter as much as to which tribe you belong.

Bryan Gray, a long-time Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front. λ