With Joe Biden’s poll numbers holding strong, my wife and I cautiously look forward to Nov. 3 as a day of deliverance. So, too, does virtually everyone we know. Yet for the 40% or so of voters who back Donald Trump, his defeat would make the day of the election seem the eve of the apocalypse.

So if our fractured nation is to be made whole again, it is imperative that we liberals, if we achieve a victory, celebrate without gloating.

That means holding off on a cutting-edge agenda. A program such as the Green New Deal may sound like progress to us but would look to them like we’re rubbing it in.

Such restraint will require an exercise of the imagination. America is divided by ZIP code as well as political philosophy. Many liberals like me live in big-city neighborhoods. Trump’s following is concentrated in small towns in the rural hinterland. We and they rarely cross paths.

So we have to ask ourselves a tough question. What is Trump’s magical attraction? To us, he is a foul-mouthed prevaricator, lacking any sense of morality, and a tax cheat unworthy of the presidency. To his base, he is the messiah. Why?

The word that comes to mind is alienation. Trump’s followers don’t see him flouting worthy traditions of American democracy. To them, his outlandish behavior mirrors their sense that the game is a sham designed to hide the reality of an establishment that couldn’t give a fig for the little guy.

Sorry to say, our side has played into that cynicism.

On May 13, 2016, the Obama administration decreed that public schools must allow transgender students their choice of bathrooms.

It didn’t say as of some future date. The letter didn’t follow town halls convoked by the feds. It didn’t recite scientific evidence for the therapeutic or educational value of its requirement.

The Obama administration simply said: Do it or face losing your government funding for holding fast to a social norm dating to the Book of Genesis 3-7: Adam and Eve “realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Suppose you took your faith seriously. What would make more sense to you, the Bible’s words or the government’s?

Indeed, the Obama administration’s guidelines reeked of paternalism. The subtext was: “We know what’s right for you. Your feelings don’t count.”

Hillary Clinton came right out and said it. During her 2016 presidential campaign, she said half of Trump’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables.”

Of her environmental proposal, she blithely said it would close a lot of mines. We shouldn’t have been surprised that her run for the White House was buried, in part, under an avalanche of votes in West Virginia and Kentucky.

I went into a coal mine once. For days afterward, I coughed. The miners alongside me were proud of their work, notwithstanding the danger of being in a hole hacked out of a mountain. On their lunch break they ate dessert first. So if tons of stone came crashing down, they’d die with a smile on their face.

We want to replace the environmental regulations Trump revoked wholesale. But we need to acknowledge the price to be paid for clean air. The bill doesn’t come due in places like my neighborhood.

So en route to eliminating fossil fuels, how about awarding miners a monthly stipend when their mines close. An accompanying note will be inscribed: “From your fellow Americans with gratitude for the coal you dug to produce the electricity that lighted our homes and cooked our meals.”

One final caution: If we want the Biden administration to be more than a pause between Trump and a Trump-like president, we need to stop the America bashing. The Black Lives Matter movement and others have rightfully made us aware of the nation’s shameful treatment of African Americans and Indigenous people. From that has been extrapolated an unflattering image of our country. Especially on college campuses, it’s assumed that our faults dwarf our virtues.

But a lot of Americans are offended by that idea. I’m among them. My great-grandmother sent her young children here from Eastern Europe. She steeled herself to the hard reality of never seeing them again. She did it because she believed in an American dream she never saw. The Nazis murdered her in Treblinka.

Her children bent over sewing machines in Chicago’s sweatshops. Within two generations, their offspring were college graduates. So don’t lecture me about America. I tear up when the flag goes by or a band plays “America the Beautiful.” So, too, do millions of voters with similar family histories.

Of course, it’s possible I’m worrying needlessly. Trump might be re-elected. In which case, I’ll eat my hat.

Its size is extra large.

 

Ron Grossman is a reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune.