Jonathan Chait writes:
Trump has … exposed [a] deep insecurity among right-wing intellectuals: the fear that their movement appeals to rubes. The conservative movement’s tightening grip over the Republican Party has coincided with its elevation of leaders incapable of explaining their policies cogently. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin all drew the disdain of liberal elites for their reliance on simplistic aphorisms and poor grasp of detail, humiliating conservative intellectuals, who defended the keen minds of their heroes. Whether or not Donald Trump the human being is intelligent, there’s no question that “Donald Trump,” presidential candidate, is not. His entire campaign operates well below the level of rational thought — it’s all boasting, absurd promises, repetitive sloganeering, and abuse. Just as email scammers intentionally salt their messages with typos in order to weed out anyone educated enough to see through their swindle, allowing them to focus on the most gullible, Trump seems to consciously repel anyone possessed of a brain.
It has indeed been strange, over the years, for UD to read impassioned defenses of people like Sarah Palin from people like Joseph Epstein:
Here is a woman raising five children who is able not only to have an active hand in the life of her community but actually win the highest political office in her state. As the governor of Alaska, moreover, she took on the corrupt elements in her own party, which requires courage …
Once a Northwestern University literature professor, once editor of American Scholar, Epstein of all contemporary essayists has prided himself on his own high literacy and his championing of only the most cogent and brilliant of writers (Henry James in particular). It was remarkable to UD — who knew Epstein when she attended Northwestern and found him as scrupulous a speaker, writer, and cultural critic as most of his published work suggests — it was remarkable to find him, in 2008, employing his pellucid writing in service to Palin.
If the founder of Trump University becomes the Republican nominee, as seems likely, it will be interesting to see which Epsteins step up to spend their intellectual capital on him.