Runciman on Trump and Brexit

David Runciman, head of Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies, has an article in the latest London Review of Books that has some new (to me at least) and interesting ideas.  It also has some flaws: at some stages he attributes something like reasoning to Trump supporters.  The attributions are perhaps plausible if they are qualified by something like ‘it’s as though they reasoned’, but otherwise not.

The full article is here:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n23/david-rhow-democracy-ends?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=3823&utm_content=usca_nonsubs

But Trump is not a disruptor: he is a spiteful mischief-maker. The people who voted for him did not believe they were taking a huge gamble; they simply wished to rebuke a system on which they still rely for their basic security. That is what the vote for Trump has in common with Brexit. By choosing to quit the European Union, the majority of British voters may have looked as if they were behaving with extraordinary recklessness. But in reality their behaviour too reflected their basic trust in the political system with which they were ostensibly so disgusted, because they believed that it was still capable of protecting them from the consequences of their choice. It is sometimes said that Trump appeals to his supporters because he represents the authoritarian father figure who they want to shield them from all the bad people out there making their lives hell. That can’t be right: Trump is a child, the most childish politician I have encountered in my lifetime.  The parent in this relationship is the American state itself, which allows the voters to throw a tantrum and join forces with the worst behaved kid in the class, safe in the knowledge that the grown-ups will always be there to pick up the pieces.

The above at least offers an explanation of possible catastrophic foolishness in these two instances. The only other explanation I have seen of both together appeals to a lack of education. If Runciman is right, it may well be that the lack of education explains a faith in the state-father, as opposed to an ignorance of the consequences the state will protect one from.

If you can get access, the rest of the article is well worth reading. One nice point he makes is that Trump so misdescribed America’s actual problems that they are not there to be fixed.

One thought on “Runciman on Trump and Brexit

  1. Runciman seems spot on to me, new link.
    I don’t think education (as in “time spent in school”) is the issue, as many fairly educated people support Trump. So (at least US-american) education doesn’t help. What may be a factor is (literal and magical) faith. Both because it predisposes people to believe in state-father, and to not critically engage with information if it comes from the “right” source. Let’s not forget about half of Americans believe in a magical creation story over evolution.
    And, of course, they are reasoning, if based on very misguided assumptions. What do you mean by ‘it’s as though they reasoned’?

    (Your question on the other post needs some thought. I am as astounded by your position, as you seem to be by mine. Am currently travelling/busy, and will reply when I return home.)
    Cheers,
    Delft

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