Backlash against a story published by the Federalist this week resulted in perhaps the best argument against reflexive outrage over disagreeable opinions made in recent months.
The publication ran an article on Thursday titled "Why Alabamians Should Vote For Roy Moore," in which the author defended his decision to vote for the controversial Senate candidate despite the numerous credible allegations of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, that have been leveled against him. It's an argument virtually nobody in the Acela Corridor, myself included, would endorse. Yet plenty of voters in Alabama still want Moore elected, leaving many of us puzzled as to why they would continue to support a man facing so many serious and troubling accusations.
So shouldn't we listen to them?
"One of the great problems of the current political moment," Domenech wrote, "is that so many people, even those on the right, are blind to the possibility that 'Why Alabamians Should Vote For Roy Moore' offers a very valuable perspective."
"If recent polls are to be believed, Roy Moore is about to become the next U.S. senator from Alabama," he rightfully observed. "If you are troubled by this development, shouldn’t you want to seek to understand the reasoning of those who are overlooking the serious accusations against Moore? Understanding that mindset would be useful for how to approach future partisan controversies. It tells us what is going on in the nation in which we live."
Domenech drew an instructive parallel between the media's dismissive approach to both Moore's and Trump's supporters, contending that to "tell voters certain values and opinions they hold dear are beneath discussion is, for better and for worse, How You Got Trump."
"Because the party establishments and the media which enable them had decided their job was to advocate rather than inform, to opine rather than listen, and to judge rather than educate, they completely missed the political earthquake was happening right beneath their feet," he reflected. The same impulse "to advocate rather than inform, to opine rather than listen, and to judge rather than educate" remains evident now, and not only when it comes to Moore.
We disagree with the article, that's fine. But did reading the article offer us insight into the reasoning of thousands of people we're struggling to understand? Yes, it did. The Federalist did not endorse or normalize the author's perspective which, again, I found uncomfortable and deeply wrong. But giving well-intentioned people outside of Washington and New York City a platform to amplify their voices is exactly what needs to be happening if we ever intend to check our cultural biases. It also offers us an opportunity to argue right back, highlighting flaws and engaging in good faith with people we hope to persuade.
In fact, actors across the political spectrum largely acknowledged those cultural biases approximately one year ago, inspiring many a pledge from Beltway observers to better understand people outside our insulated communities. Now would be a good time to actually start.