In Our Time

What Is Populism?

Dining out with my wife in a restaurant in Paris recently, I became aware of the well-dressed Frenchman seated with his wife two tables away from us listening in on our conversation.  The table for two between us was unoccupied.

“Where are you from?” he inquired, in excellent English, when he saw I had noticed.

America I said.

“What did you think of your elections two weeks ago?”

I told him I thought the Republicans did pretty well, considering.

“And what do you think of Trump?”

I said I like him very much and think he’s doing a good job as president.  (I added that I’m keen on Brexit, too.)

He looked me over quickly.

“But you are trés distingué.  How could you vote for Trump?”

I explained as briefly as possible that the stereotype of the Trump voter as an ignorant blue-collar white man of the lower-middle classes, while accurate to a degree, is only that—a stereotype.  Most of my oldest friends, I added, are graduates from the Ivy League, many wealthy, some gentlemen and scholars, a few of them even handsome, and a good many voted for Donald Trump.  His wife observed me impassively as I spoke.  Perhaps she did not understand English.  Her husband gave up at last and returned to his dinner.  I told them “bon...

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