An imagined conversation between Flyover Man and Urban Guy.
URBAN GUY: I hope you read the rough transcript of that Trump phone call with the Ukrainian president. Trump clearly used public power to ask a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his political opponent. This is impeachable. I don’t see how you can deny the facts in front of your face.
FLYOVER MAN: I haven’t really had time to look into it. There’s always some fight between Trump and the East Coast media. I guess I just try to stay focused on the big picture.
The big picture is this: We knew this guy was a snake when we signed up. But he was the only one who saw us. He was the only one who saw that the America we love is being transformed in front of our eyes. Good jobs for hardworking people were gone. Our communities in tatters. Our kids in trouble. I had one shot at change, so I made a deal with the devil, and you’d have made it, too.
Nothing in this impeachment mess makes me rethink this bargain. If people like you are unable to acknowledge my dignity and see my problems, I’ll stay with Trump.
U.G.: The big picture? The big picture is the U.S. Constitution. It’s no man is above the law. We can’t live in a country in which our leaders flagrantly commit high crimes and nothing happens.
F.M.: I get it. He said some stupid crap on a phone call. But are you going to undo my vote for that? I wouldn’t even rank this among the top 25 worst things he’s done, and I’m a supporter of his!
Listen, do you remember those months just after the election when people like you were briefly curious about people like me? You sent your reporters out on wild safaris into the hinterlands to interview Trump voters. You read “Hillbilly Elegy.” Back then it was fashionable to say that Trump is just a symptom of real problems in America. He’s the wrong answer to the right question.
It didn’t take you long to lose interest in all that. Now we’re just a block of concrete you call “his base.” Now, all you care about is Trump, not his supporters or the issues driving us. Your whole media is Trump-O-Centric.
U.G.: We became Trump-O-Centric because his daily outrages undermine norms, spread xenophobia, degrade public morality.
F.M.: You think that because you have the kind of jobs that allow you to follow Twitter all day. I don’t have that luxury. So all that passing nonsense seems far away. I have to deal with the actual realities of life.
One, mass immigration is changing my town, region and state. Two, the cultural liberalism you preach but don’t practice is leading to the breakdown of families up and down my block. Children out of wedlock. Young men with no dad when they’re young and no wife in their life when they’re grown. Third, an Ivy League elite running government and the economy for itself and shutting out those of us who actually make things with our hands. Fourth, China is replacing us.
U.G.: I’m happy to talk about these big problems.
F.M.: Like hell you are. The media fixates on scandals because they’re easier to talk about than complex issues like why urban and rural America are drifting further apart. You wasted billions of hours speculating about the Mueller report, and now news about Adam Schiff overshadows everything else while my world burns. Let’s face it: Bashing Trump is the media’s business model. That’s what drives eyeballs and profit.
U.G.: We can’t have a productive conversation with Trump around. He lies with abandon. He slanders and insults. He pollutes the water near and far.
F.M.: We can’t have productive conversations if every time I open my mouth you call me a bigot. You may not realize this, but you have Trump supporters around you all the time. It’s just that we’ve learned to keep our mouths shut in your presence. The crushing climate of blue cultural privilege is too strangulating.
U.G.: OK, I get it. You’re not the first person to spin the right-wing victim narrative in front of me. Why don’t we focus on impeachment? On rule of law.
F.M.: Fine. Bottom line: I would be open to impeachment if you cared about my problems. I’d be open if all those silent Republican dissenters in the Senate had given me some GOP alternative candidate who speaks our language and addresses our issues. I’d be open if there was a moderate Democratic Party that I thought deserved a shot. But I only see Democrats who’d make everything worse: Open the border! Socialism! More power to Washington! You could have paid attention to the forces driving Trumpism, but you ignored us.
So please don’t ask us to sign up for our own obliteration or support your impeachment. This is about identity and pride.
Here’s a confession. I used to think Trump was a jerk. Now, after three years of battle, I see him as my captain. He deserves my loyalty, thick and thin.
See ya’ in hell, brother.
David Brooks is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.