“At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban 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 postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”
I n the Times for November 21 Jennifer Senior tells the story of the reception of Rorty’s 1998 book, then and now. But, of course, Rorty’s predictions only came fully true because of our bizarre Electoral College system; it’s import to remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Trump is a minority president much as he may hate the word.
But Rorty’s observations raise questions that start in the political realm and reach more deeply into our culture, not least What is a genuinely diverse education? That question surfaces now, not because of Trump’s contemptible rants, but because of the well-intentioned strategy adopted by Hillary Clinton.
Hillary, I am convinced, made a bad blunder in accepting the advice of those advisors who were sure that a coalition of women, African Americans, Hispanics and other “identity groups” could assure her election. Demography would triumph over Trump’s trumpeting of his devotion to the working class.
That strategy didn’t work - not because its emphasis on diversity was rejected by a bunch of bigoted rend-necks. It failed because its brand of diversity was not inclusive enough. It sent the message, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, that she did not really need, or especially want the support of white working class men. They got the message and so did many women of this class. Many of these men and women voted for Trump, others just stayed home and opened the door to Rorty’s strongman.
Hillary turned out to needed these votes; she needed more diversity, not less. That simple point, clear in the voting statistics, raises a wider cultural and educational question: how do we achieve a truly inclusive culture?
The answer will not come, I am sure, by rolling back the accomplishments of the past half century, nor by insisting that colleges and universities turn their bacs on affirmative action, or abandon their diverse course offerings that have been developed. Instead, we need to be sure every student, whatever sociological or demographic group he or she may fall into, experiences a genuinely diverse education, one that opens up the rich experience of cultures beyond the one with which they most readily identify. That would be a strategy of inclusive diversity. We need t in politics and in education. It’s a winner.
November 23rd, 2016