I now think that it possible that voters will elect Donald Trump the next President of the United States. And I must confess that the prospect reinforces my confidence in the social sciences. Just imagine if a community completely neglected its young and elderly, deprived the vast majority of its citizens of educational opportunity, health care, and a living wage, ignored its veterans, and invited private wealth to buy its political system wholesale; just imagine if all this were true and it led instead to a positive outcome. That would mean that all of our social scientific theories, however rational and intuitively sensible, were quite wrong in all of their details.
Donald Trump and the Republican Party are precisely what one should anticipate from the violent, mean-spirited neglect to which American voters have been subjected. If Donald Trump is not elected, then something is terribly wrong with our models.
But let us suppose that, by some miracle, Donald Trump is not elected President. Let us suppose instead that a Democrat further to the right than Richard M Nixon or Dwight D Eisenhower is elected. Would this invalidate our models?
This question invites us to critically reflect — as Aristotle critically reflected — on the kind of electorate we would need to elect the kind of policy makers we want. It could bring us to critically reflect on the policies we would need to cultivate an electorate equipped to make responsible choices. And it could bring us to critically reflect on that immense gulf separating the ideal conditions that make for responsible political judgment from the actual conditions that exist today.