If you've read the shock and surprise of the past two weeks, you'd be certain no one could have predicted the Trump and populist win. But you'd be wrong. Some commentators were alert to the electoral change. Both before and after the election, a passage from Richard Rorty's 1998 book, Achieving Our Country, circulated on the web.
Here's what he had to say:
The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for--someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodern professors will no longer be calling the shots. . . One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. . . And the treatment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
But contrary to the past, it was no middle class Huey Long, who'd dropped out of college for financial problems. Instead, it was a Wharton grad with an inherited fortune, and supposedly worth billions of dollars. Although we've lived through 4 or 5 populist surges since the founding of our country, this is the first time populism has elected a president.
But Trump is smart enough to perform in blunt terms: "I love the poorly educated." And shrewd enough after the Nevada caucus to tell the crowd, "We're the smartest people, we're the most loyal people."
And so, as the New Yorker's David Remnick has written, "America is indeed a place where all things are possible: that is it's greatest promise and, perhaps, its gravest peril."