When you prioritize anti-expert politics, you get reality-denying leaders

August 30, 2021 ☼ elitestrumpanti-science

Source: The Washington Post - Link

In the abstract, it always seemed incongruous to refer to Donald Trump as “anti-elite.” The guy had billions of dollars and lived in a spacious penthouse suite in Manhattan at the top of a building that bore his name. But that’s not what “elite” meant in the context of Republican politics in 2015. What “elite” meant was that there was a party establishment that remained tethered — however shakily at times — to certain views of policy and politicking that followed from tradition and a shared sense of reality. What “anti-elite” meant was that someone was willing to chuck all of that, to treat the unserious complaints that filled hours of coverage on Fox News and hundreds of words on Breitbart as accurate and actionable. “Anti-elite” didn’t mean that someone had no power, it instead meant that the person was willing to elevate inaccurate, exciting and dangerous popular views over staid, boring and unexciting realities.

There’s not much use in spending a lot of time articulating how Trump manifested this particular sense of anti-elitism. The Washington Post’s fact-checking team spent years doing so. Trump would say and do things that his base wanted before he would say or do things that they didn’t, even if the latter was real and the former wasn’t. In doing so, he made it increasingly difficult for others in his party to do anything else. No one wanted to be the Republican telling the base uncomfortable truths when Trump was energetically telling them comfortable falsehoods.

I think this is true. There has always been an anti-science strain in American culture (probably all cultures). Trump amplified this “my opinion is just as good as your science” meme. Now everyone who can do research on Facebook is just as good as researcher who has spent years in the field.