There was more nuanced commentary, of course. And there were plenty of respondents who were either dealing with similar complications in their own lives or were open to recognizing that they exist.
I tried to write back to everyone who had questions or shared disbelief or skepticism. I put out a lot of fires, but a couple of them continue to smolder. I found it particularly difficult to engage productively in conversations about bigotry and racism, in large part because their victims have every reason in the world to see those problems as clear divisions between right and wrong. A discussion about ambiguity doesn't protect their loved ones from getting killed.
I think it's important to note that I did not choose the title of the essay. In fact, I did not know that the TLS had called it "The Humanity of Trump Voters" until I saw it in print. Immediately I knew how angry that would make some people, and I wonder if the editors deliberately chose to invoke that discomfort. On the other hand, they may not have realized exactly how many American progressives do not want to consider the humanity of Trump voters.
When I sent the TLS link to my 19-year-old son, his response was "Strikes at the heart of liberal elitism." His wording made me laugh. Like so many young people, he loves an Excalibur solution. Also, he is a liberal elite. What makes him different is that he was born and raised in Harmony, Maine. According to 2000 and 2010 census data, 939 people live here. The median age is 49. The average household income is $29,500, and 20 percent of families live below the poverty line. The racial makeup is 98 percent white. Among residents older than age 25, 3 percent have a four-year college degree. In the 2016 election, 65 percent voted for Trump, 33 percent for Clinton. Despite disbelief, this demographic does exist.
I stand by what I said in my essay: a significant portion of "our fractured American electorate resides in the places that educated Americans are least likely to visit."
The fact is that generations of people live in those shabby towns you drive through on your way to somewhere better. And Donald Trump’s victory means that you might need to learn who these human beings are.