By David Brooks | 2020 Taught Us How to Fix This – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by Michael Houtz; photographs by Getty Images

“This is the year that broke the truth. This is the year when millions of Americans — and not just your political opponents — seemed impervious to evidence, willing to believe the most outlandish things if it suited their biases, and eager to develop fervid animosities based on crude stereotypes.

Worse, this was the year that called into question the very processes by which our society supposedly makes progress.

So many of our hopes are based on the idea that the key to change is education. We can teach each other to be more informed and make better decisions. We can study social injustices and change our behavior to fight them.

But this was the year that showed that our models for how we change minds or change behavior are deeply flawed.

It turns out that if you tell someone their facts are wrong, you don’t usually win them over; you just entrench false belief.

One of the most studied examples of this flawed model is racial diversity training. Over the last few decades, most large corporations and other institutions have begun racial diversity programs to combat the bias and racism pervasive in organizational life. The courses teach people about bias, they combat stereotypes and they encourage people to assume the perspectives of others in disadvantaged groups.

These programs are obviously well intended, and they often describe systemic racism accurately, but the bulk of the evidence, though not all of it, suggests they don’t reduce discrimination. Firms that use such courses see no increase in managerial diversity. Sometimes they see an increase — not a decrease — in minority employee turnover.

Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev offered a clear summary of the research in a 2018 essay in Anthropology Now. One meta-analysis of 985 studies of anti-bias interventions found little evidence that these programs reduced bias. Other studies sometimes do find a short-term change in attitudes, but very few find a widespread change in actual behavior.” . .

Brooks goes on to say that what scientists say works, is integrating neighborhoods, schools, teams and organizations. Social psychologist Gordon Allport wrote decades ago about a contact hypothesis.  Only doing things together changes prejudice and minds.

Opinion | 2020 Taught Us How to Fix This – By David Brooks – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by Michael Houtz; photographs by Getty Images

“This is the year that broke the truth. This is the year when millions of Americans — and not just your political opponents — seemed impervious to evidence, willing to believe the most outlandish things if it suited their biases, and eager to develop fervid animosities based on crude stereotypes.

Worse, this was the year that called into question the very processes by which our society supposedly makes progress.

So many of our hopes are based on the idea that the key to change is education. We can teach each other to be more informed and make better decisions. We can study social injustices and change our behavior to fight them.

But this was the year that showed that our models for how we change minds or change behavior are deeply flawed.”

Opinion | The Sidney Awards – By David Brooks – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Getty Images

“This has not been a great period for free expression. The range of socially acceptable opinion has shrunk, as independent-minded journalists and experts have been eased out of their jobs at places ranging from New York magazine to Boeing and Civis Analytics for saying unorthodox things. The esteemed scholar James R. Flynn wrote a book called “In Defense of Free Speech” which was in turn canceled by his publisher for being too controversial.

Fortunately, a range of people from across the political spectrum have arisen to defend free inquiry, including Noam Chomsky, Cathy Young, the University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer, Caitlin Flanagan, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Jonathan Haidt, John McWhorter, Yascha Mounk, Jonathan Rauch and magazines like Quillette and Tablet.

Rauch was the subject of an interview by Nick Gillespie in Reason magazine, called “How to Tell if You’re Being Canceled,” which gets the first Sidney of 2020, the awards I give out for the best long-form essays of each year. Rauch was an early vocal champion of the movement for same-sex marriage, which was led by people who, in the early years, said things that seemed shocking and offensive to others. All they had back then was their freedom of speech, Rauch observes.

In Reason, he takes up the argument that certain ideas should be unsaid because they make other people feel unsafe. “The emotional safety argument, I argue, is fundamentally illiberal, and there is really nothing about it that can be salvaged. It is just inconsistent with the open society,” Rauch says.

“The notion here is that emotional injury is a kind of harm like physical injury, and because it’s a kind of harm it’s a rights violation. The problem is this is a completely subjective standard, and it makes any form of criticism potentially subject to censorship and cancellation and lumps science into a human rights violation.”

Opinion | Mark Shields and the Best of American Liberalism – By David Brooks – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist,  Dec. 17, 2020

“Every Friday evening for the last 19 years, Mark Shields and I have gathered to talk politics on the “PBS NewsHour.” When people come up to me to discuss our segment, sometimes they mention the things we said to each other, but more often they mention how we clearly feel about each other — the affection, friendship and respect. We’ve had thousands of disagreements over the years, but never a second of acrimony. Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light.

This week, at 83, and after 33 years total on the show, Mark announced he was stepping back from his regular duties. Friday will be our final regular segment together. I want to not only pay tribute to him here, but also to capture his conception of politics, because it’s different from the conception many people carry in their heads these days.

We are all imprinted as children and young adults with certain ideas about the world, which stay with us for the rest of our lives. Mark, like many who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s — including Joe Biden — was imprinted with the idea that politics is a deeply noble profession, a form of service, a vocation.

Mark’s father was the first Catholic to serve on their town’s school board. The first time he saw his mother cry was when Adlai Stevenson lost to Dwight Eisenhower. Mark went off to Notre Dame and then served in the Marine Corps, before working as a congressional aide.

This was the mid-60s. Evidence that government worked was all around. The G.I. Bill had worked, though mostly for whites. Mark had served with Black Marines because Harry Truman had the courage to integrate the military. Mark saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

There was never a moment when passing this stuff was easy, but everybody took for granted the legitimacy of the system, treasured the country and the way it worked. “The two hallmarks of American politics are optimism and pragmatism,” Mark told me this week, pointing to the optimism of F.D.R., J.F.K. and Ronald Reagan.

To this day Mark argues that politics is about looking for converts, not punishing heretics. You pass bills and win campaigns by bending to accommodate those whose votes can be gotten.

He went on to work on and run political campaigns, for people like Bobby Kennedy and Ed Muskie. He came to deeply respect those he worked to elect, including presidential candidate Mo Udall: “Just a great human being.” Vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver: “He had the best relations with his family of any candidate I have known. His kids revered him.” And Gov. Jack Gilligan of Ohio: He “believed in us more than we believed in ourselves.”

After decades in journalism, Mark still puts the character lens before the partisan lens. He has been quick to criticize Democrats when they are snobbish, dishonest or fail to live up to the standards of basic decency — often infuriating some of our viewers.

I don’t know if it was midcentury liberalism or the midcentury record of the Boston Red Sox, but Mark instinctively identifies with the underdog. Every year he invites me to do an event with him with Catholic social workers. These are people who serve the poor and live among the poor. They have really inexpensive clothing and really radiant faces, and in their lives you see the embodiment of an entire moral system, Catholic social teaching, which has its service arm and, in Mark, its political and journalistic arm.”   . . . . .

Through out the Trump presidency, my lady and I have stayed tuned to the PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff, which we tape, and often watch in the middle of dinner. During the pandemic, we became more faithful, and our favorite nights were Friday, ending with Mark Shields and David Brooks, and the weekends, reduced to 30 minutes, and with the firm thoughtful voice of Hari Sreenivasan. 30 minutes requires better discipline, and Sreenivasan often covers climate change around the world. Shields and Brooks have been spectacular, if you can follow Shields, who speaks quickly and mumbles. But tonight is his last regular appearance. Mark Shields is retiring at the age of 83. As this Brooks essay reveals, Mark Shields has the heart and ballast of a saint, and he speaks with the wit and intelligence of general. Please join Kathleen and me, in watching the final 10 minutes of regularly scheduled Shields and Brooks, sometime between 7 and 8 pm, Eastern Time.

Here is a comment I strongly recommended:

Socrates
Downtown Verona, NJDec. 17

A beautiful, poignant ode to a friend. And we should also note a very important context. The “PBS NewsHour” is still a reflection of the way news was reported for many decades in this country before the rise of cable TV and partisan news. The “PBS NewsHour” has always practiced – and still practices – the Fairness Doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission that was introduced in 1949 that required the holders of broadcast licenses to present policy issues of public importance and to do so in an honest, equitable, and balanced manner. When the FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine policy in 1987 under Republican Ronald Reagan, it precipitated a long slow decline of news quality and accelerated the flow of one-sided opinion, misinformation and disinformation that passes for ‘news’ today. Had the Fairness Doctrine remained in place, Americans would be much better informed, less polarized and much more willing to forge common political ground to move the nation forward with good old-fashioned boring public policy that is more than an empty basket of tax cuts. Shields and Brooks always represented respectful ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ perspectives. Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would be good for the country and our national sanity.

14 Replies1223 Recommended

Opinion | Will We Get the Coronavirus Relief We Need From Congress? – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“If we can’t get a Covid-19 relief package through Congress in the next week or two, we’re sunk. It means we have a legislative branch so ideologically divided it can’t address even our most glaring problems. It means we have representatives so lacking in the willingness and ability to compromise that minimally competent government will be impossible, even under a President Joe Biden.

The problems a basic relief measure would address couldn’t be more obvious. Under current law, up to 12 million Americans could lose their jobless benefits by year’s end — a wretched Christmastime for millions of families, which could spawn a wave of depression, morbidity, family breakdown and suicide.

Millions of people could be evicted from their homes. Thousands more businesses may close during the long winter months before a vaccine is widely available. These are not failing, unproductive businesses. These are good, strong businesses that would have provided jobs and opportunity for millions of Americans for decades if they hadn’t been hit by the pandemic.

Wendy Edelberg of the Hamilton Project calculates that if nothing passes, the U.S. economy will be $1 trillion smaller in 2021 and $500 billion smaller in 2022.

The means to prevent this suffering are also glaringly obvious. We did it less than a year ago with the CARES Act. All we have to do is pass a version of what we did before. How hard can this possibly be?

The $2 trillion CARES Act was one of the most successful pieces of legislation of modern times. Because of the lockdowns, U.S. economic output contracted by a horrific 9 percent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the first quarter. But because of the CARES Act, disposable household incomes increased by 10 percent. The personal savings rate increased by 34 percent in April.

I don’t love big government, but government is supposed to step up in a crisis, and with the CARES Act, it did.

Since summer, as the economy has deteriorated, Congress has been gridlocked on how to pass a supplemental relief package. At times Nancy Pelosi has been rigidly uncompromising, as if not wanting to hand Donald Trump a victory. But the core problem is that Republicans have applied a dogmatically ideological approach to a situation in which it is not germane and is in fact ruthlessly destructive.

Some Republicans act as if this is a normal recession and the legislation in front of them is a conventional Keynesian stimulus bill. But this is not a normal recession. It’s a natural disaster. The proposals on offer are not conventional stimulus. They are measures to defend our national economic infrastructure from that disaster over the next five brutal months.”

David Brooks, largely describing the work of Jonathan Rauch. “The Rotting of the Republican Mind,” – reactions

I’m still grappling with, and excited by these two articles I have referenced or posted, by David Brooks, largely describing the work of Jonathan Rauch. “The Rotting of the Republican Mind,” is about fake news and conspiracy theories become the tools of dangerous populists, despots and dictators. I am now looking at the comments to the Brooks piece, here is a sampling. The most popular comment:

Dan B.Southern CaliforniaNov. 27Times Pick

It is not the Democrats who have systematically deprived people of quality healthcare, education and a living wage. It is the Republicans. How do you convince voters that their economic success is being sabotaged by those who they put and keep in power?59 Replies3699 RecommendedHere is one that I have mixes feelings about:LlenzBostonNov. 27Times Pick”Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?” Because Republican economic policies contribute more to the growing wealth gap – the disenfranchisement of everyone but the very wealthy – the Republican party can only maintain power by fleecing a large portion of the electorate. They know it’s easier to fleece people with less training in critical thinking, such as those without college degrees, or people who were raised to take the words of the Bible literally, without question. They knew their marks and groomed them perfectly for someone like Trump. Cynical emotional appeals to people opposed to abortion and gay marriage all too easily gave way to an outright disinformation strategy, fashioned by Fox and weaponized to full extent when the internet came along. The flood of disinformation available due to the internet is destabilizing governments around the globe. Honestly, if we don’t figure out a way to address this problem, we’re tanked.

32 Replies 2871 Recommended

DL: We can quickly fix a lot of fake news on Fox, by returning an law turned off by Ronald Reagan, the Fairness Doctrine of the FCC, that requires any news organization if they put forth an side of an argument over Federal airwaves, they are required to put forth the other popular or competing arguments as well. They have to give the other side equal time. FCC fairness doctrine – Wikipediaen.wikipedia.org › wiki › FCC_fairness_doctrine”The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced.”

Here is a comment that is full of promise, though I don’t know how easy to accomplish:A. W.Brooklyn NYNov. 27Times Pick

A third thing that can be done is to shift education’s focus from rewarding students for the answers they give to rewarding them for the questions they ask . If we train our youth to challenge information offered them from their earliest years they will be better equipped to ask the urgent questions needed before voting. Spitting back facts on exams to get a good grade does not hold a candle to learning to ask the teacher, “ How do we know that is true?” A student body that is used to asking this question is more likely to become a thoughtful citizen. And to be clear, training in this way doesn’t require a college education. It can be done at the earliest levels in our classrooms. As a former elementary school teacher I asked my students to challenge my statements. And bit by bit they did. I had to prove where my information came from and they had to decide whether to believe me because I was the authority in the classroom or because my answer to their questions conformed to their growing sense of how we should access truth.

32 Replies 1281 Recommended

Opinion | The Rotting of the Republican Mind (second half) – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“. . . .  People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.

People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.

For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.

Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set. He and his media allies simply ignore the rules of the epistemic regime and have set up a rival trolling regime. The internet is an ideal medium for untested information to get around traditional gatekeepers, but it is an accelerant of the paranoia, not its source. Distrust and precarity, caused by economic, cultural and spiritual threat, are the source.

What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact, reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those without a college degree.

Rebuilding trust is, obviously, the work of a generation.”   -30-

Opinion | The Rotting of the Republican Mind – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Dan Anderson/EPA, via Shutterstock

“In a recent Monmouth University survey, 77 percent of Trump backers said Joe Biden had won the presidential election because of fraud. Many of these same people think climate change is not real. Many of these same people believe they don’t need to listen to scientific experts on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality. Moreover, this is not just an American problem. All around the world, rising right-wing populist parties are floating on oceans of misinformation and falsehood. What is going on?

Many people point to the internet — the way it funnels people into information silos, the way it abets the spread of misinformation. I mostly reject this view. Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?

My analysis begins with a remarkable essay that Jonathan Rauch wrote for National Affairs in 2018 called “The Constitution of Knowledge.” Rauch pointed out that every society has an epistemic regime, a marketplace of ideas where people collectively hammer out what’s real. In democratic, nontheocratic societies, this regime is a decentralized ecosystem of academics, clergy members, teachers, journalists and others who disagree about a lot but agree on a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge.

This ecosystem, Rauch wrote, operates as a funnel. It allows a wide volume of ideas to get floated, but only a narrow group of ideas survive collective scrutiny. “We let alt-truth talk,” Rauch said, “but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review, set the research agenda, dominate the front pages, give expert testimony or dictate the flow of public dollars.”

Over the past decades the information age has created a lot more people who make their living working with ideas, who are professional members of this epistemic process. The information economy has increasingly rewarded them with money and status. It has increasingly concentrated them in ever more prosperous metro areas.

While these cities have been prospering, places where fewer people have college degrees have been spiraling down: flatter incomes, decimated families, dissolved communities. In 1972, people without college degrees were nearly as happy as those with college degrees. Now those without a degree are far more unhappy about their lives.

People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.”

. . . .

Opinion | Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Elinor Carucci/Edwynn Houk Gallery

“After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself:

Approach with awe. C.S. Lewis once wrote that if you’d never met a human and suddenly encountered one, you’d be inclined to worship this creature. Every human being is a miracle, and your superior in some way. The people who have great conversations walk into the room expecting to be delighted by you and make you feel the beam of their affection and respect. Lady Randolph Churchill once said that when sitting next to the statesman William Gladstone she thought him the cleverest person in England, but when she sat next to Benjamin Disraeli she thought she was the cleverest person in England.

Ask elevating questions. All of us have developed a way of being that is our technique for getting through each day. But some questions, startling as they seem at first, compel us to see ourselves from a higher vantage: What crossroads are you at? What commitments have you made that you no longer believe in? Who do you feel most grateful to have in your life? What problem did you use to have but now have licked? In what ways are you sliding backward? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Ask open-ended questions. Many of us have a horrible tendency to ask questions that imply judgment: Where did you go to school? Or we ask yes/no questions: Did you have a good day? Which basically shut off interesting answers. Better questions start with “What was it like. …” or “Tell me about a time. …” or “How did you manage to cope while your wedding was postponed for a year?”

Make them authors, not witnesses. The important part of people’s lives is not what happened to them, but how they experienced what happened to them. So many of the best conversations are not just a recitation of events. They involve going over and over an event, seeing it from wider perspectives coating it with new layers of emotion, transforming it, so that, say, an event that was very hard to live through is now very satisfying to remember.

Treat attention as all or nothing. Of course, we all have divided attention. In “You’re Not Listening,” Kate Murphy writes that introverts have more divided attention than others while in conversation because there’s so much busyness going on in their own heads. But in conversation it’s best to act as if attention had an on/off switch with no dimmer. Total focus. I have a friend who listens to conversations the way congregants listen to sermons in charismatic churches — with amens, and approbations. The effect is magnetic.

Don’t fear the pause. Most of us stop listening to a comment about halfway through so we can be ready with a response. In Japan, Murphy writes, businesspeople are more likely to hear the whole comment and then pause, sometimes eight seconds, before responding, which is twice as long a silence as American businesspeople conventionally tolerate.

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Keep the gem statement front and center. In the midst of many difficult conversations, there is what the mediator Adar Cohen calls the gem statement. This is the comment that keeps the relationship together: “Even when we can’t agree on Dad’s medical care, I’ve never doubted your good intentions. I know you want the best for him.” If you can both seize that gem statement it may point to a solution.

Find the disagreement under the disagreement. In the Talmudic tradition when two people disagree about something, it’s because there is some deeper philosophical or moral disagreement undergirding it. Conversation then becomes a shared process of trying to dig down to the underlying disagreement and then the underlying disagreement below that. There is no end. Conflict creates cooperative effort. As neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett writes, “Being curious about your friend’s experience is more important than being right.”

The midwife model. Sometimes people talk to solve a person’s problem. The Rev. Margaret Guenther wrote that a good conversationalist in these cases is like a midwife, helping the other person give birth to her own child. That means spending a lot of time patiently listening to the other person teach herself through her narration, bringing forth her unthought thoughts, sitting with an issue as it slowly changes under the pressure of joint attention. “To influence actions,” neuroscientist Tali Sharot writes, “you need to give people a sense of control.”

Deeper conversations help people become explicable to each other and themselves. You can’t really know yourself until you know how you express yourself and find yourself in another’s eyes. Deeper conversation builds trust, the oxygen of society, exactly what we’re missing right now.

“Humans need to be heard before they will listen,” Amanda Ripley writes.

It’s been a rough year for all that, but this Thanksgiving, the possibility of deep talk is still out there, even over Zoom.” -30-

Opinion | Five Great Things Biden Has Already Done – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“Many of our best presidents have been underestimated. Truman was seen as the tool of a corrupt political machine. Eisenhower was supposedly a bumbling middlebrow. Grant was thought a taciturn simpleton. Even F.D.R. was once considered a lightweight feather duster.

I’ve been reading Joe Biden’s speeches and I’m beginning to think even his supporters are underestimating him.

He’s walking across treacherous cultural ground, confronting conflicts that are shredding the nation, and he’s mastering them with ease.

Biden is campaigning in a country that has lost faith in itself. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe our nation is in decline, according to a study from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

He’s also running in the middle of a political and cultural civil war. Eighty-two percent of Biden voters believe that “Donald Trump would like to gradually transform our country into a dictatorship,” according to that I.A.S.C. study. Ninety percent of Trump voters believe that the Democrats want to gradually turn America into a socialist country. According to a survey conducted by Braver Angels, a group that sponsors bipartisan conversations, 70 percent of Americans believe that if the “wrong” candidate wins, “America will not recover.”

Biden is campaigning in a land filled with fear, hatred and apocalyptic thinking. It would be so easy for him to reflect that fear and hate back to voters. That’s what Trump does.

But Biden is not doing that. Never in my life have I seen a candidate so confidently avoid wedge issues. Biden is instead running on the conviction that, despite it all, Americans deeply love their country, and viscerally long for its unity. He’s running with the knowledge that when you ask America about the greatest threats to our future, “political polarization and divisiveness” comes out No. 1.

It’s easy to say you’re for healing division. But here’s what Biden has actually done:

He’s de-ideologized this election. He’s made the campaign mostly about dealing with Covid-19. That’s a practical problem, not an ideological one. Conservatives and moderates don’t have to renounce their whole philosophy to vote for him. They can just say they’re voting for the person who can take care of this.

He’s separated politics from the culture war. Over the past generation, culture war issues have increasingly swallowed our politics. Trump has put this process into overdrive. He barely talks about policies. Instead, his every subject is really about why “our” identity group is better than “their” identity group.

So now the positions people take — on issues ranging from climate change to immigration — are determined by whether they see themselves as part of the rural white Christian conservative army or part of the urban multicultural secular progressive army. Policies are no longer debated discretely; they are just battles in one big, existential fight over who we are.

But Biden goes back to the New Deal, to an era of policymaking when there really wasn’t a polarized culture war. He sidesteps the Kulturkampf issues — which statues to take down — to simply talk about helping the middle class.

Biden has scrambled the upscale/downscale dynamic. The most important fissure in our politics is education levels. The Democratic Party’s greatest long-term challenge is that it might become the party of the highly credentialed college-educated class and let some future Republican rally a multiracial working-class coalition. Even Trump is now making surprising gains among Latino and Black men.

Biden has avoided all the little microaggressions that cultural elites use to show they are morally superior. Wokeness, for example, is partly about fighting oppression, but it’s also become a status symbol. It’s showing people that you are so intellectually evolved that you can use words like intersectionality, decolonizing and cultural appropriation. Political correctness is not just a means for the less privileged to set standards of behavior; it is also sometimes the way people with cultural power push others around.

Unlike, say, Hillary Clinton, Biden has a worldview and a manner that is both educated class and working class and defuses the divide.

Biden has avoided the stupid binaries about race. Donald Trump went to Mount Rushmore and made a speech essentially saying you can either believe in systemic racism or you can love America. Biden went to Gettysburg and argued that you can “honestly face systemic racism” and love America. He argued that you can believe in fighting racism and believe in law and order. His worldview is based on universal categories — the things we share — not identitarian ones — the ways we supposedly can’t understand each other across difference.

He’s done a good job reaching out to white evangelicals. Right now, many of them think he’s a godless socialist who will usher in a reign of anti-religious terror. In his campaign he’s done a pretty good job reaching out to those voters. His campaign has run ads on Christian radio and reached out aggressively to evangelical leaders. If he can allay their cultural fears (by making it clear he will not shut down Christian charitable groups) and win them over with working-class economic policies, he can create a long-term governing majority.

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Seventy percent of Americans in that Braver Angels survey say America is facing permanent harm, but 70 percent also say the most important job after the election is to heal our enmity, to do the hard job of working with people whose views we find completely objectionable. This unity impulse is powerful in the populace, but it is deeply hidden.

Joe Biden knew it was there.