Flashback–Harvard Prof Noah Feldman: ‘Tempting’ to Patronize ‘White People Who Didn’t Go to College’

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 4: Constitutional scholar Noah Feldman of Harvard University testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. This is the first hearing held by the Judiciary Committee in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President …
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Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman — who testified as a witness at the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry hearing on Wednesday — wrote an October 2016 op-ed warning his readers against giving in to the tempting desire to patronize “white people who didn’t go to college” if Hillary Clinton were to win the presidential election.

“That would be a noble lie,” added the professor of the importance of treating Trump supporters “as though they were ordinary, rational voters.”

“The country doesn’t need more cultural condescension toward white people who didn’t go to college,” wrote professor Feldman in an October 2016 Salt Lake Tribune op-ed, entitled, Why voters want Trump is a question deserving serious reflection.

Feldman added that while “it will be tempting to excoriate or patronize” Trump voters if Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 presidential election, expressing “moral outrage” over Trump supporters would be a mistake.

“Democrats might be tempted to say that anyone who voted for Trump has bad morals and belongs in the much-discussed ‘basket of deplorables,'” explained Feldman, who instead proposed “a much better strategy,” that involved engaging in “selective memory, and [treating] Trump voters as though the whole sorry episode of his candidacy never occurred.”

The law professor insisted that patronizing Trump supporters would be a mistake, “practically, rather than morally,” suggesting that tiptoeing around “whites without college degrees” would be important, as they “have been especially vulnerable to the reduction in manufacturing jobs in recent decades.”

Feldman also advised his readers against trying “to win over Trump voters” or “woo them to your cause,” as he believes that doing so would require “crafting policies aimed at saving the white lower-middle class” or “using Trump-like dog-whistle politics that scapegoat immigrants and minorities.”

Nonetheless, Feldman instructed his readers not to assume that all Trump voters are calling for “immoral policies toward Latinos and Muslims.”

The professor added that while some may applaud what he referred to as “immoral policies,” condemning all Trump voters as immoral would be wrong, as he believed there were Trump supporters willing to vote for then-candidate Donald Trump simply due to their “political and economic concerns.”

“That’s a perfectly justifiable reason to vote for someone, no matter what you might think about the rest of his policies or his character,” acknowledged Feldman, as he cautioned that his readers “treat Trump voters as though they were ordinary, rational voters choosing among policy options available to them.”

“That will require pretending retrospectively that this election wasn’t somehow special or distinctive, and that Trump wasn’t a uniquely dangerous candidate,” he added. “That would be a noble lie, well worth it to help Trump voters feel more connected to a polity that will (hypothetically) have rejected their candidate.”

“The last thing the U.S. needs is for large numbers of citizens to feel that they’ve been morally repudiated for supporting Trump,” said Feldman. “The country doesn’t need more cultural condescension toward white people who didn’t go to college.”

“Fundamental political structures and morality really are at stake,” concluded the professor. “And on Nov. 9, we should go back to pretending it never happened.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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