Sunday, June 5, 2016

The populist and the intelligence

Not all the people that support parties that are not "mainstream" are irresponsible populists. Some of them have good reasons to behave politically the way they do. And some of them are able to articulate their reasons in a respectful way. But not all of them. A few days ago I had to listen to the criticisms of one of these populists in a dinner with several people. He spoke with a lot of self-confidence, arguing that publishing a political book (something I've done recently with two other authors with a book in Spanish) was something old fashioned and ineffective, because people (especially the young) "do not read books any more." He reminded me of a sentence I heard from Donald Trump in a rally on TV: "I like the poorly educated." Now, after reading an article in The New Yorker about the fraud that the Republican candidate sponsored as a so-called "Trump University," I understand better why he likes the poorly educated. Education and books are old fashioned. Well, then long life to the cave men and women that keep reading and writing them. These are a couple of fragments of the article by John Cassidy in The New Yorker (entitled "Trump University: It's worse than you think"): "Following the release, earlier this week, of testimony filed in a federal lawsuit against Trump University, the United States is facing a high-stakes social-science experiment. Will one of the world’s leading democracies elect as its President a businessman who founded and operated a for-profit learning annex that some of its own employees regarded as a giant rip-off, and that the highest legal officer in New York State has described as a classic bait-and-switch scheme? If anyone still has any doubt about the troubling nature of Donald Trump’s record, he or she should be obliged to read the affidavit of Ronald Schnackenberg, a former salesman for Trump University. Schnackenberg’s testimony was one of the documents unsealed by a judge in the class-action suit, which was brought in California by some of Trump University’s disgruntled former attendees. (...) So will Trump University be the thing that brings Trump down? In a post forThe New Republic, Brian Beutler argued that it will be “devastating” to him. On my Twitter feed, some people reacted more skeptically, pointing out that many of Trump’s supporters appear oblivious to any criticisms of him, and that Clinton isn’t necessarily the ideal prosecutor. It is also worth recalling that, in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, another populist businessman, served as Prime Minister four times despite a list of allegations against him that included bribery, tax evasion, sexual misconduct, and having ties to the mafia. One thing is clear, though. If the revelations about Trump University don’t do any damage to Trump, it’s time to worry—or worry even more—about American democracy."

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