I think we have been unduly harsh on some liberals. After the election, a number of liberal commentators wrote that those who voted for Bush had to be stupid or had lost touch with reality. If you were like me, you rolled your eyes and wrote them off as left-wing wackos who were, themselves, living in a looking glass world. I think we may owe them an apology.
Several weeks ago, I came across an article about people from North Korea who had managed to make it across the border into China in an effort to get some food (I can't seem to find it now). There was a quote from a woman in her 50s who expressed shock that everything she had been told by the North Korean media was untrue. In China, she had begun to discover the reality about her country and the world.
I felt really sorry for that woman. And I certainly didn't blame her that she had once believed much that was false. Her views were only as informed as the quality of her information. And it dawned on me that liberal pundits in the US deserve the same compassion.
Let's take a moment to look at the election from the point of view of a liberal writer living in Manhattan. He gets his news from the NY Times, CBS, CNN and Time. He knows that George Bush is the worst economic president since the depression. And he knows that Iraq is a complete disaster. On the two critical issues of the day, the facts are undisputed. Every source he reads, watches and listens to confirms what he knows. And none of his friends, neighbors or co-workers dispute any of it.
Given the information he had, the voters must surely have seemed to be insane. But he shouldn't be condemned. Like the North Korean woman, we really should feel sorry for him. He simply doesn't have access to all the information we have. He doesn't have the necessary contacts.
Compare our liberal writer to a high school dropout living in rural Georgia, or a business owner in Texas, or a truck driver in Kansas. They all had access to much better sources of information on the two pressing issues in the election, the war in Iraq and the state of the economy.
People in red states have family, friends and neighbors who are in the military or have children who are. In e-mails, letters, phone calls and return visits, these military personnel told us how the war was really going. Their messages were e-mailed to friends who e-mailed them on to others. In the red states, the truth got out. The successful elections in January came as no surprise.
The liberal writer in Manhattan, however, doesn't know anyone in the military. And doesn't even know anyone who knows anyone. He simply lacks access to the same quality of information on the war which was available to a high school dropout flipping hamburgers and living in a mobile home in rural Georgia.
The same is true regarding information on the true state of the economy. Truck drivers, waitresses, salesmen, small business owners and construction workers always know how the economy is doing. Their work provides constant feedback. The unfortunate writer in Manhattan lacks that kind of quality feedback. His liberal friends work for government, teach at universities and write for the media. What could they know about the economy? He was forced to rely on the NY Times and CBS to tell him what to think.
So I want to apologize to those liberal pundits for the thoughts I had about them when I read their disparaging comments after the election. I should have recognized how closely they resemble the woman in North Korea. They couldn't help it. Based on the information they had available, voting for Bush must have seemed insane. And I can't blame them for lacking sources with quality information. They, like the North Koreans, are stuck in an intolerant, provincial backwater where information is tightly controlled. They live and work in a culture dominated by superstitious beliefs about "evil Republicans" and "theocratic right-wingers" and suspicious of outsiders from red states.
We should feel sorry for them, as we do those trapped in North Korea. And look forward with hope for the day where they might be able to get accurate information, too.