WASHINGTON – Who are they and what drove them to vote in such huge numbers, even during a pandemic? What makes them tick? Is it culture? Tribalism? Race? How did they come to their world view, and why do they cling to it so passionately? What do they mean for the future of American democracy?

I’m talking about the opaque and inscrutable Joe Biden voter, of course.

After Donald Trump won in 2016, the media and academia embarked on a numbingly comprehensive sociological and anthropological examination of “the Trump voter.” Reporters and researchers swarmed what seemed like every bereft factory town in the industrial Midwest, every hill and hollow of Appalachia, every windswept farming community throughout the Great Plains. I’m pretty sure television crews did, in fact, bring us reports from every single diner in the contiguous United States – at least, those where at least one regular patron wears overalls.

Never mind that nearly 3 million more of us voted against Trump four years ago; no one seemed terribly interested in our inner lives, our hopes and dreams.

This time, however, the gap was too big to ignore – Biden beat Trump by more than 6 million votes. He won back the heartland of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He won Georgia, for heaven’s sake.

Logically, then, we should put aside those dog-eared copies of J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” and subject “the Biden voter” to the same kind of microscopic scrutiny. Venture out of your bubble, Trump supporters, and try to understand how most of America thinks.

African Americans were Biden’s most avid and loyal supporters, giving him 87 percent of their votes, according to exit polls. To understand the stories of those Black voters in cities such as Milwaukee, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, you might start by reading “The Warmth of Other Suns.” Isabel Wilkerson’s magisterial opus charts the Great Migration in the first half of the 20th century, which brought millions of African Americans from the South to the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest.

If you’re more of an audiovisual learner, scroll through your streaming service until you find one of the film adaptations of the seminal plays by the late August Wilson, who lived and wrote in Pittsburgh – “The Piano Lesson,” say, or “Fences.” (The most recent Wilson production, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” starring Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, won’t be available for streaming for another few weeks.) Alternatively, you could just listen to the transcendental music of the incomparable saxophonist John Coltrane, who was born in North Carolina and moved to Philadelphia as a teenager.

Biden lost overall among white voters, but his big gains among college-educated whites who live in the prosperous suburbs of major cities nationwide may have been decisive. These voters, many of whom had benefited from Trump’s tax cuts, seem to have simply been appalled at Trump’s behavior in office.

To understand white suburbanites who were disgusted by Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville, Va., and his refusal after the George Floyd killing to say the words “Black lives matter,” you might dive into scholar Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist,” which has become a must-read in many of those circles. To experience the pain and anger many suburban voters felt about Trump’s policy of taking children from their immigrant parents along the southern border, I’d recommend “Separated: Inside an American Tragedy” by Jacob Soboroff, a correspondent for NBC News (where I am a frequent contributor).

Craving a mind-meld with those white voters whose driving impulse for choosing Biden may have been their more generalized horror at Trump’s unfitness to serve as president, there are, of course, the mega-selling accounts “Rage” and “Fear” by my longtime Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward. For a slightly different perspective, the psychological portrait by the president’s niece Mary L. Trump, “Too Much and Never Enough,” is incisive and harrowing.

To supplement your reading, you could rewatch pretty much any episode of “Saturday Night Live” from the Trump era. And if you want to know what peak anti-Trump outrage sounds and feels like, John Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight” takes you there and beyond.

If Trump supporters want to understand why Trump’s margin of support declined, albeit just modestly, among voters 65 and older nationwide, they can visit any of the media websites that track the COVID-19 pandemic. Imagine how many of these older voters will have to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas without seeing their grandchildren except via FaceTime or Zoom.

It turns out “the Biden voter” isn’t so mysterious and unknowable after all. “I, too, am America,” wrote the poet Langston Hughes. And if you haven’t read him yet, add him to the pile, too.

– Follow Eugene Robinson on Twitter @Eugene_Robinson

(3) comments

Enough Already

This is a BS article if there ever was one. Eugene Robinson is a moron if he believes any of what he wrote. Everything is backasswards of what he says and given enough time the election fraud will be proven. Trump won this election going away and just because media elitists and and leftist liars write stupid articles like this doesn't make them creditable. Wait for it!

jzrobbin

Another sad, delusion trumper you are, I see. He lost. Just like Hillary did. HE. LOST. By a lot. More voters voted for Biden than anyone in US history. Multiple lawsuits have been filed, they all lost. Nothing was proven. Multiple recounts have been done, they all stayed the same result, with Biden winning, and in a few cases, actually added to Bidens tally. Trump always has been and always will be a complete POS. Forget politics, look at his track record before he ever entered them. He's trash, always has been. He should have grown up in skyline, he's that level of trailer trash. He brainwashed a once proud and able to think Republican Party who were so obsessed with beating Hillary, they didn't care who was on the Republican ticket, it wouldn't have mattered who won the primary, they would have beat Hillary because she was trash too. Biden is not the answer, he's a career politician with no defining moments in over 40 years in office. But he might be a step in the right direction for the future. Trump blinded good people, books will be written about his disaster of a presidency for years. He ranks in the bottom 5 of almost every presidential category if you go look it up. I'm sure you'll call it biased liberal media even though most of the top ranked presidents are republicans in the lists, but oh well. Open your eyes and realize what Trump was and is REALLY doing. He's profiting as much as he can to pay all his debts off, that's the only reason he ran. The power to make even more money. For every idiot that says, oh well he doesn't take a paycheck... he's earned more than 200 years of presidential salary from going to his own golf courses, this is not made up, look it up yourselves, and don't go to Fox to do it. You fell for his nonsense, hook, line, and sinker. Millions more are now going to fall for Bidens... I have no idea if anyone will ever come along and be for America and not just their own interests and their own party...but I do hope it happens in my lifetime. I don't see it on the horizon, however.

Enough Already

Try getting your head out of your posterior; your brain is oxygen deprived. The truth is out there but only if you are interested. I won't go into all the accomplishments of President Trump or all the detailed filings of fraud lawsuits in democrat/communist strongholds like Detroit, Philadelphia, or Atlanta because I see you cannot grasp reality now. You might have a stroke. Either way, the fun is just starting. Get some popcorn kickback and enjoy the action. It will be over when the smoke clears and not before.

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