The day before Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance within the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs hosted an event entitled “The Surprise of Trump’s Election: Polling, Election, Analysis, and Populism.”
The event, moderated by Dr. Larry Jacobs and held in the mostly full Cowles Auditorium, featured a panel of four University of Minnesota professors: Timothy Brennan, Paul Goren, August Nimtz, and Wendy Rahn. Topics covered a wide range of political issues, but focused mostly on issues relevant to Trump’s election.
Dr. Wendy Rahn brought up some ironic points relating to Trump. First, though many see him as authoritarian, according to Rahn’s analysis, Trump’s supporters are less authoritarian than past Republicans. Additionally, he captured a large portion of the blue-collar vote, despite being worth several billion dollars.
Marxist, Dr. August Nimtz, also made several notable observations throughout the discussion. For one, he claimed that the Democratic Party lost in large part because they failed to be the party of the working class. He proclaimed, “Both the Sanders and the Trump phenomenon are here to stay.” Nimtz also emphasized the importance of listening to people and not writing them off and name-calling.
The most controversial voice of the group was that of Dr. Timothy Brennan. When asked a question about how people in academia are generally biased toward liberal views, Dr. Timothy Brennan responded, saying, “I think there is a direct correlation between knowledge and being progressive, and there’s a direct correlation between being on the political right and being ignorant.” This was largely met with applause, though a few groans could be heard from the crowd.
Dr. Rahn had a more moderate view: “Each side of the political spectrum has its own blind spots and its own intellectual hubris that makes us think we’re smarter than other people.”
Brennan also criticized the technical study of political trends, and argued that the humanities have a better approach to finding answers to the many questions raised by political outcomes. “What the humanities study is much more relevant to figuring out these issues which have to do with ideology—cultural patterns and so forth.”
Many interesting topics were discussed at this event, and only time will tell whether this sort of intellectual political dialogue will continue throughout Donald Trump’s presidency.