The Chronicle of Higher Education emailed me a few weeks ago asking for a book recommendation or two for background reading to understand the Trump phenomenon. I recommended Jeffrey Bell’s fine 1992 book Populism and Elitism: Politics in the Age of Equality. (I think I also recommended Christopher Lasch’s The Revolt of the Elites.) As I explained to the Chronicle, Bell predicted that the conflict between left and right would be displaced by a conflict between populists of both wings and elites of both parties.
Today the Chronicle bundled my recommendation together with those from several others, including Harvey Mansfield Jr. and Wilfred McClay, into a complete course syllabus on Trump they call “Trump 101.”
You can read the whole thing yourself and disagree with many of the picks (since the panel included lefties like Michael Kazin and Alan Wolfe). But I especially enjoy this comment from the comment thread:
Respectfully, this syllabus offers a disgraceful example of white methodological myopia. 1) There are no books by people of color. 2) The entire syllabus fails to grapple with the actual experience of Trumpism being endured by subalterns. 3) Dan Carter work is great (thanks Robert Green), but there’s a broad and rich literature on white popular sovereignty, the racial contract, the dangers presented by non-white political gains (like, y’know, a two-term black president), and the political economy of so-called “backlash” politics and “color-blind” racism, written by historians, anthropologists, literary critics, sociologists AND pundits. The disregard for those catching hell under deportation politics, Islamophobia, racism, and sexism, becomes even more evident through glib references to “big hair” or the elevation of ghost-written works by Palin and H. Ross Perot. At best, these documents are little more than superficial (and arguably cynical) expressions of deeper political and economic transformations that, again, have a literature. At worst such titles serve as filler to pad a syllabus that suffers from profound racial illiteracy. I’ve already been castigated by some of my colleagues and professor-friends for not calling this what it is, so I won’t make the same mistake here. This syllabus is racism. Intended or not, this document offers sad testimony to the ongoing segregation of American political history, and is far less an interrogation of racism than an artifact of racism itself.
Another commenter complains:
Not much diversity in the faculty or the authors of the readings.
These folks never disappoint, do they? I’m not sure how much more diverse in ideology you can get than Mansfield and Alan Wolfe, or Michael Kazin and Bill McClay. But such is the hothouse of the academic left these days.