Professor Daniel Robinson: Why I’m voting for Trump

Daniel Kodsi interviews the Oxford philosopher about his support for Donald Trump

If nothing else—even if I disagree with him politically, even if our age gap is more than 70 years, even if I think that he is manifestly, unequivocally, indefensibly wrong about Donald Trump—then Professor Daniel Robinson, a professor of mind, psychology, jurisprudence and Kant at Lincoln College, remains one of the most interesting people I’ve ever interviewed. He has two lessons for me as well: First, read Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold. Second, he tells me, I have a choice: between integrity and popularity. I am still young—now is the time for me to choose. “You’d better be careful,” he says.

This might seem to be a discursive introduction to an article ostensibly about the American presidential election, but I don’t think it is at all. Too often this election we have reduced our political adversaries to caricatures, fitting them into carefully constructed archetypes: the disenfranchised white male, the naive college student, the political or journalistic establishment hack. It has been suggested by some of my friends (and certainly in the media I follow) that it is in some way incoherent—a logical impossibility—for a person to be at once rational and considered as well as a supporter of Donald Trump. We are quick to condemn, prima facie, and in doing so, fall prey to an homogeneity of thought. As Robinson tells me, “People expect an academic to say certain things, which shows the homogeneity of the academic community. If you can get an academic community almost uniform in these political judgments, then what critical ability do you reserve to them?”

The core premise of Robinson’s argument for Donald Trump is that he is not Hillary Clinton. Clinton, Robinson says, “is not a good person. That’s not a judgment I make frivolously. She is not to be the president of my country. I would vote for a fire plug before I would vote for her.”

The second premise is that Donald Trump, who “is patently not a fool”, has been underestimated and misrepresented by “the political class—which is a class unto itself, marked chiefly by almost legendary proportions of incompetence and self-interest.” For instance, the testimony of many of the women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment, Robinson claims, fails to hold up to scrutiny. He adds as well that he media has ignored the reality that Judge Gonzalo Curiel—who Trump declared in May to be unfit on the basis of his ethnicity to rule on Trump University lawsuits—would be unqualified to be a juror, because of his political activism, in the case over which he presides.

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“What many find utterly unlikable about Trump”, Robinson says, “I also find unlikable. There is a vanity which so far exceeds Aristotle’s notion of proper pride as to be a caricature of it.” But if you think the alternative is far worse—would be a threat to the American democracy—and that your candidate is intelligent and been defamed by hostile misinformation… Well, isn’t that why so many of us support Hillary Clinton?