What the Bartender Saw

By James Fallows

Getting us back to politics-and-sociology, and as a segue to more from and about the Atlas Shrugged Guy and his California quasi-sympathizer, here is a note from a reader in the northeast. Context is the general phenomenon of people seeing, and not seeing, selective versions of reality.

One of my three jobs is for a catering company.  It allows me to see various denizens of different bubbles in their most comfortable habitats.  Among the events I worked this year were ones for Romney and one for Obama.  Ironically, both were hosted by extremely wealthy donors at private homes not far from each other in Brookline, Massachusetts.

When you deal with them, the guests are pretty much the same.  But they are all in their own bubble.  Obama got a question as to why he had tried to deal with Republicans, Romney talked in part about how "they" don't get the US is an exceptional country, to the applause of the crowd.  (That is all I heard, I left the tent where he was speaking because it was insufferably insipid.)

The elite on both sides should talk to people who are completely outside their income brackets.  When I tell my liberal professional friends that most of the people I work with hate the Mass. Health law, they are shocked.  When I explain why, that they are happy taking their chances with clinics and emergency room, I get what I call the "Liberal Lecture."  "Someday they will get really sick, everyone should contribute, they will benefit...."  Nice argument to make if you get an employer-subsidized plan, not so persuasive if you don't and rely on seasonal and/or hourly wages.  And the right, well, please think about how the people who work for you get by.  The minimum wage matters in ways you cannot imagine to people who earn it.

I could add more stories about what I have listened to among the detached and opinionated, but that is enough for now.

I recognize that this could be read as a version of "false equivalence": everyone's biased, it all evens out, etc. Which would be at odds with dawning consciousness on the right that the Romney campaign and conservatism in general were disproportionately weakened/blinded/blind-sided by the reality-distortion field created by partisan right-wing media. But I think the reader is mainly talking about the blind spots created by class difference, which are real and, in different ways, transcend party. More on political perception and mis-perception ahead.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/what-the-bartender-saw/265331/