Post-truth politics, prejudice and the path ahead

Last week’s Economist included a commentary on “post-truth politics.” Art of the lie asks, “Politicians have always lied. Does it matter if they leave the truth behind entirely?”
I’ll let them explain what they mean by post-truth politics:
“That politicians sometimes peddle lies is not news. … Dictators and democrats seeking to deflect blame for their own incompetence have always manipulated the truth; sore losers have always accused the other lot of lying.
“But post-truth politics is more than just an invention of whingeing elites who have been outflanked. The term picks out the heart of what is new: that truth is not falsified, or contested, but of secondary importance. Once, the purpose of political lying was to create a false view of the world. The lies of men like Mr. Trump do not work like that. They are not intended to convince the elites, whom their target voters neither trust nor like, but to reinforce prejudices.
“Feelings, not facts, are what matter in this sort of campaigning. Their opponents’ disbelief validates the us-versus-them mindset that outsider candidates thrive on. And if your opponents focus on trying to show your facts are wrong, they have to fight on the ground you have chosen.”
On the whole, I found the article to be insightful and illuminating. It (as well as some other recent pieces on the subject) shines a light on the way ahead. A way that seems like an awfully twisty, slippery, maddeningly-confusing, muddy path.
However, I take issue with one word in that excerpt: “prejudices.” I think it is both dangerous and unfair to wholesale paint Trump supporters as prejudiced. One, because it’s too broad a brush. Millions upon millions of people will vote for Trump and they’ll do so for a wide range of reasons. Two, because the only purpose it serves is to further isolate his supporters. And therefore “validate[] the us-versus-them mindset that outsider candidates thrive on.”
What I think the article would have been better off saying is “supporters’ worldview.” The fact is, the American public is currently very divided in how it sees the world. A coalminer in West Virginia, a stock trader on Wall Street, a bus driver in Baltimore, a tech worker in San Francisco – they don’t simply have different opinions on a number of subjects, they tend to actually see the world in different ways.
Which makes this truth/post-truth thing all the more tricky.
Because yes, I am very (extremely, I can hardly express how much) concerned about the trend toward relegating truth to a secondary level of importance. But I am also sympathetic to those who lean in that direction because they have felt for years that their view of the world does not count to the people who have influence in this country.
I wish that media and political elites had a better way of understanding those who are different from them than labeling them as prejudiced. (Or worse yet – deplorable.) 
Because the more they fan that flame, the one born of the feeling that somebody else’s (wrong) view of the world seems to count more than your (right) view, the more this post-truth phenomenon will persist.
And I just have no idea how we’ll navigate that path. We can move forward – difficultly, strenuously – while wrestling over the facts and tugging at the truth to see how it stands up. But what in the world are we supposed to do with a twisted, slippery, mess of a marsh where the truth is irrelevant? Where “Feelings, not facts, are what matter”?
What then?

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Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.