Red Roots, Blue Life

Straddling Two Worlds

Educated Arrogance uses my increasingly rare vantage point as a dual national of red America, where I grew up, and blue America, where I have lived and worked for decades, to explain how the nation came to this state of extreme polarization and to suggest steps that we can take to mend the red-blue rift and begin to heal the nation.

Lisa, with mother Thelma and
sister Sheila 1968
Lisa, far right, as a gender consultant to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 1996
Teaching torts at UC Davis School of Law 2007

“I have spent my life straddling the increasingly acute red-blue divide. I grew up and have deep roots in what we now call red America, but I have lived and worked most of my adult life in what we now think of as blue America. With a foot in each of these increasingly polarized camps, I have a distinct perspective for understanding both. I also care deeply about both, but I am no longer entirely at home in either.”

Lisa R. Pruitt

Where other books tell readers why the red-blue rift emerged, Educated Arrogance shows readers how many folks in middle America came to be at war with bureaucrats, technocrats, and others in the coastal chattering classes. To do so, Pruitt draws upon her decades-long migration from the deep-red Arkansas Ozarks and what the credentialed class frequently considers “white trash” to bright-blue California and a rarefied world even beyond the white collar, to the ivory tower.

Lisa, son, and Thelma Pruitt,
at Buffalo National River at Pruitt 2015

I grew up a cradle Democrat in an impoverished corner of the rural Arkansas Ozarks, the daughter of a long-haul trucker and a teacher’s aide.  My parents married the day my mother finished high school, on my father’s 19th birthday.  By the time she was 20, my mother had given birth to two daughters; I was the second. Mom and I book-end the Baby Boom era.

The diverging paths of my mother and me are a microcosm of the national rift. The illustrative vignettes that begin each chapter are drawn alternatively from her world and mine, red America and blue America. The reader thus sees how the two came to talk past one another, how they lost touch and, with it, the capacity to empathize with each other.

Lisa R. Pruitt, UC Davis
Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law

Having to manage this tension in my personal life has given me insights into what we can and should do as a nation to step back from the extreme polarization that is threatening our democracy. Using my and my mother’s lived experiences as illustrations helps readers grasp abstract concepts that are otherwise difficult to comprehend. This is particularly important because academic terminology—e.g., institutional racism, whiteness, critical race theory—has crept into mainstream political discussions and is getting in the way of effective communication between the working class and the credentialed class, thus widening the chasm.

While blue America blames red America for the rift, the arrogance of the educated class and the denial of social esteem to workers is a force that must be reckoned with if we are to step back from the precipice and again unify the nation.

Lisa’s Recent Articles

Forthcoming Speaking Events

Mending the Rural-Urban Rift

Westminster Town Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 25, 2022

Politically, the division between rural and urban parts of the United States looks stark. But the story of rural American politics is not so simple, according to Lisa Pruitt. Metro-centric political leaders, media, and academics must better understand rural communities if we wish to heal this divide.

UC Davis School of Law 2014

Photo Gallery