Coverage that seeks to coddle, soothe and ultimately infantilize President Trump’s voters has pervaded post-election media. How could 74 million Americans vote for Trump? Why are they so alienated? Why haven’t we been listening to them?

But, instead, perhaps it is time to understand the 80 million voters who chose President-elect Joe Biden. In understanding who they are and what their motivations might be, we might wind up casting some of the most disappointed Trump voters — his “Make America Great Again” hard-liners — in a more realistic light.

Biden voters generally know we are in the middle of a deadly pandemic and anxiously await a vaccine. However, they understand social distancing and mask-wearing are by far the best ways to keep themselves and their families safe. They listen to Anthony S. Fauci and other experts and do not buy into quack cures.

Most Biden voters have opened their eyes to enduring, pervasive racism. They believe America is a good and decent country, but not faultless. They understand that we are forever in the process of making “a more perfect” nation. They understand that racism does not merely emanate from venom-spouting neo-Nazis but can be embedded in institutions that solidify and perpetuate historic injustice. There is a reason huge gaps between Blacks and Whites persist in wealth, longevity, education, policing and most every facet of American life. They understand that we do not live in a zero-sum world in which addressing these historic inequities means “taking” something from other groups.

Leticia and her son crossed the Rio Grande seeking asylum from danger in Guatemala. Instead, they were torn apart by a policy designed to inflict trauma. (Jeremy Raff, Connie Chavez/The Washington Post)

On immigration, most Biden voters do not favor “open borders,” but they understand that a wall between Mexico and the United States is utterly ineffective and a colossal waste of money. They understand that we need immigrants at all levels of the economy, because they will help fund our retirement programs, start new businesses, buy homes and become entrepreneurs and innovators. They recognize there is scant evidence that immigrants displace native-born workers, and that their negative impact on wages is minimal and generally limited to those without a high school diploma.

In addition, Biden voters seem to want the benefits of a capitalistic economy, but with restraints and regulations. They understand that everything from environmental protections to child labor laws impinge on free markets, but they desire these interventions as necessary for a humane, livable society. They know government cannot make us all economically equal, but they do think government should stop increasing the gap between rich and poor. They want affordable health care, access to higher education for those who want it and wider prosperity.

More generally, most Biden voters think government is there to solve problems, not to define their identities or to extract revenge for perceived slights. They know that government is imperfect but nevertheless can make major improvements in the lives of Americans. They want competent officials, just like they want competent teachers and doctors. They know the difference between a middle-of-the-road Democrat and a “socialist.” They know Confederate flags represent the rebellion against the United States for the purpose of securing slavery. They believe in the sanctity of elections and have seen no evidence of fraud, let alone pervasive fraud in the 2020 elections. They do not want to cringe when the U.S. president speaks or tweets.

If all this seems utterly ordinary, one might now go back and understand that the hardcore MAGA crowd disagrees with or cheerfully embraces ignorance about much of this. They are anti-mask, pro-wall and climate-change deniers. They prefer unprovable conspiracy theories to fact-based arguments and allow Trump to say that the death toll is a success in fighting covid-19. They are convinced the election was stolen and that the deep state perpetrated the “Russia hoax.” They seek to express racial grievances and tribalism through government while also thinking racism is practically nonexistent. They want to go back to an era when they imagine White Christians ruled the roost and most Americans looked like them.

Bridging the gap between Biden and MAGA enthusiasts won’t be possible so long as the latter hew to myths, prejudices, conspiracies and flat-out lies. They might want to reflect on whether their anger-driven approach to politics really inures to their benefit. But in the meantime, back on Earth, 80 million Biden voters (and those Trump voters outside the MAGA cult) would like to get back to the business of solving national problems, running a responsible government and modeling American values.

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