By David Runciman
On 23 February, Donald Trump stood before a rally of cheering supporters to celebrate a thumping victory in the Nevada Republican caucus – his third consecutive win, in defiance of the naysayers who had predicted that his bubble was about to burst. “If you listen to the pundits, we weren’t expected to win too much – and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country,” he bragged. “We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”
That last line provoked immediate waves of mockery. It sounded at the time like another one of Trump’s many gaffes – he loves that people do not get a decent education? Yet behind the mockery was a real sense of disquiet, which has not gone away: Trump loves the less educated because they appear to love him back. As the Atlantic reported in March: “The best single predictor of Trump support in the Republican primary is the absence of a college degree.” Education – or the lack of it – seemed to be propelling the Trump bandwagon.
The possibility that education has become a fundamental divide in democracy – with the educated on one side and the less educated on another – is an alarming prospect. It points to a deep alienation that cuts both ways. The less educated fear they are being governed by intellectual snobs who know nothing of their lives and experiences. The educated fear their fate may be decided by know-nothings who are ignorant of how the world really works. Bringing the two sides together is going to be very hard. The current election season appears to be doing the opposite.
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