Yale Columnist: Beyond the Establishment

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Trump represented a shift away from the incestuous incompetence that has plagued our government, media and universities for the last two decades.

The establishment said that he will be a bad president. I’ve gotten used to betting against the establishment.

The establishment has been beaten. And it feels good.

Our University’s administrators, professors and students are largely beholden to the old establishment. Many of our alumni go into politics, media and corporate leadership because of the connections they foster at Yale and the esteemed brand they can stamp on their resumes. Many of our administrators and professors rely on these institutions to grow Yale’s brand and endowment.

The networking opportunities and the prestige that go along with Yale aren’t accidental. Many before us came here to learn how to think critically and then applied the skills they learned to change the world. They gave back to the University with their time, influence and money to help future generations do even more impressive things. Yale students are one of the most privileged groups in the world. We have amazing resources, access to leaders from almost all fields, generous financial aid and an abundance of opportunity. Most of our complaints could easily be called first-world problems.

We aspire to McKinsey instead of greatness.

We have, however, become lazy and complacent about our obligations to our country and scornful of the people who inhabit it. We retreat into protracted arguments about things that don’t matter outside the ivory tower. We aspire to McKinsey instead of greatness. We learn to voice the “right” opinions instead of how to think critically about them. We play it safe instead of taking bold risks. We act weakly when we could be strong. Even Yale’s leaders have become spineless cowards.

The failings of the Yale administration, faculty and students aren’t confined to our University. After all, there is a lot of crossover between our University and our nation’s elite. This means that many journalists, politicians and academics know each other — they run in the same circles. They think alike, speak alike and often have similar interests.

Anyone who only watched CNN and read the New York Times couldn’t be blamed for thinking that Trump was a stupid racist. But they could be blamed for reading only the New York Times and watching only CNN.

Unsurprisingly, I have seen some students express pain and anguish over the result of the presidential election. This pain comes largely from a false understanding of what Trump represents. Anyone who only watched CNN and read the New York Times couldn’t be blamed for thinking that Trump was a stupid racist. But they could be blamed for reading only the New York Times and watching only CNN. The media — part of the establishment — may have had a vested interest in the election and may have wanted to convince you of one thing or another.

Trump represented a shift away from the incestuous incompetence — described above — that has plagued our government, media and universities for the last two decades. The establishment wasn’t happy to have their position challenged and fought him vigorously. But the establishment had become lazy and incompetent. Instead of fighting the ideas that underpinned Trump’s movements (and believe me, no matter what your snide social science professor might say, there are many powerful and concrete ideas), the establishment decided to launch baseless ad hominem attacks against Trump and his supporters. Peter Thiel was more charitable than I am; he argued that while supporters took Trump seriously but not literally, the establishment took Trump literally but not seriously. In either case, the establishment got it wrong and lost. Big league.

The establishment said that Trump would never win. He won convincingly. The establishment said that Trump was incompetent. He won with a fraction of the resources that Clinton had. The establishment said that Trump used dark and divisive rhetoric. Anyone who charitably and critically listened to Trump’s speeches couldn’t help but see an optimistic and unifying vision for our country. The establishment said that he will be a bad president. I’ve gotten used to betting against the establishment.

Karl Notturno is an undergraduate studying philosophy at Yale University. 

This article appeared originally in the November 11, 2016 edition of the Yale Daily News.

 

Articles authored or co-authored by Karl Notturno.

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