• Howard

    I don’t buy it.
    I think the article’s reference to Thomas Leonard’s comparison between the mildly illiberal tendencies among some progressives and the vastly, fundamentally illiberal core of the Trump campaign is apt. But calling everyone who believes that social sciences are useful in public policy “liberal” for their belief in measures of reality, and then calling all liberals “smug” for their insistence that knowing stuff matters, is a time-honored technique for dismissing facts from any debate. And, apparently, a wildly successful one. Schambra does not go quite that far, but his analysis endorses this perspective more than it challenges it. I will offer two brief suggestions to challenge the perspective that illiberal liberals are a significant determinant of our current political crises. (1) the world is presently too complex for anyone to really claim to have a comprehensive view of much of it. All of us with areas of specialization perceive that almost no one outside of our fields has a very real sense of what we do or what we know. So while some claim to have the only access to truth, most of us just bemoan the fact that we have so little voice in the arenas that could benefit from our participation. That’s not the same as wishing to dominate all discussion ourselves. (2) The Trump campaign was almost entirely based on lies, backed by conspiracy theories, and propped up by fake news. How can any educated person watch this and not wonder who the hell believed these lies, and why? Media references to the “low information voters” mirrored Trump’s own comments about the “under-educated.” My progressive information circles did not include any calls to disenfranchise those voters. They lamented the fact that false narratives overwhelmed voters who did not have the time and resources to fact check and find the somewhat more reliable though still imperfect narratives underneath.
    There will always be some elitism among elites, by definition. But the bulk of actually progressive thinking tends towards sharing the wealth of knowledge, information, and public debate, not hoarding it.