By Louis Bayard and Danny Salles / Special To The Washington Post
You thought your candidate was going to coast to victory. But now you’ve lost a hotly contested election, and you’re trying to figure out how it could have happened. How did you miss all the signs? How could you have ignored the anger that was consuming such a substantial part of the nation? Could it be that you were just too locked in your own filter bubble to recognize the fever-dreams churning inside so many of your fellow citizens?
We’ve been there. Four years ago, progressives of all stripes were scolded for being out of touch with — or worse, willfully blind to — the drift of political opinion in the United States. We were told to descend from our privileged aeries on the coasts and walk the plains and prairies with the common folk. Heck, we were given reading lists: “Listen, Liberal” and “The Populist Explosion” and “Strangers in Their Own Land” were popular choices. Some of us may have actually read those books. It was hard work bending that far over backward, but we persevered; because we wanted to understand why America had settled on Donald Trump as its choice for president.
And now that the shoe’s on the other foot, we’re sure that some of you folks on the right are feeling the same way. Even though none of you has said that, exactly; or at all. But just in case, we’ve prepared a quick guide to understanding our people. You gave us “Hillbilly Elegy.” We give you “NPR Elegy.”
Myth: Liberals are chardonnay-sipping elitists.
Fact check: Partly true. But market research suggests liberals gravitate toward Malbec-Syrah blends in the winter months and that, over the past four years, they have exponentially increased their consumption of hard liquor. On some occasions during the Trump presidency (continuing into the attempt to reverse the outcome of the most recent election), they have been known to dispense with the shot glass entirely and sit alone in a darkened corner with a bottle of Don Julio tequila.
Myth: Liberals like to cry.
Fact check: Many conservatives continue to believe that progressives are easily “triggered” into emotional meltdowns: “Cry more, lib,” tweeted new Republican House member Madison Cawthown (N.C.) as he headed to victory. But a recent study of liberals in three Pacific-coast states found that, in the past four years, they have actually shown a decrease in the ability to express any emotion, as measured by per capita tears and the ratio of intact to torn hair follicles. Scientists also cite the soothing effects of legalized marijuana and baking-competition shows.
Myth: Liberals prefer flying over heartland America to driving through it.
Fact-check: Yes, but only because air travel, per passenger, generates fewer carbon dioxide emissions than car travel. And also because if God (or Gaia or the Divine Spark of Consciousness) had wanted us to drive from New York to California, he’d have made the country smaller.
Myth: Liberals have declared a war on Christmas.
Fact-check: According to statistics, liberals celebrate Christmas with the same frequency as conservatives. To be sure, in some jurisdictions, they have declared a war against the playing of Christmas carols before Halloween, but on this question, they have formed unexpected alliances with their conservative brethren.
Myth: Liberals are too concerned with political correctness.
Fact-check: Surveys have found that, when “political correctness” is defined as “the correctness of a defeated politician remaining indefinitely in the job from which he was unequivocally fired,” liberals are unanimously against it.
But in the end, it’s not enough just to give you facts (attached as we are to them). You need to get to know us in person.
That’s why we encourage you to travel, in the most sustainable way possible, to our coasts. Stroll with us down our riot-free urban streets. Drink our organic, cold-brew Fair Trade coffee. Grab a kombucha and avocado toast at the local refugee-staffed cafe. Help us take out the composting. Try your hand at “downward dog.” Meet a scientist! Feel the delicious frisson of saying “Sylvia Poggioli” again and again.
And, at the end of the day, after you’ve binge-watched “The Queen’s Gambit” and taken a final sip of your magnolia-bark tea, be sure to fill out your gratitude journal because you made the world a slightly brighter place today. In part by not being you.
What we’re saying is, walk just a mile in our Lululemons and then maybe — just maybe — you’ll have a glimmer of understanding for this other side of America.
Or? You could stew in ungovernable rage for the next four years. We’ve got tips for that, too.
Louis Bayard is a novelist and reviewer whose most recent book is “Courting Mr. Lincoln.” Danny Salles is a television producer-director and a playwright.