“…What really is wisdom in the 21st century?
Is it to be judged according to the values of those who inhabit the Podesta WikiLeaks archive? Is being smart defined as being on lots of corporate boards, having an impressive contact list of private cellphone numbers, name-dropping one’s Ivy League degrees, referencing weekends in the Hamptons or on Martha’s Vineyard, or being ranked in the top 100, 1,000, or 5,000 of some cool magazine’s list of go-getters and “people to watch…”?
Is there not wisdom in being able to drop an 80-foot pine tree with a chain saw within a foot of the mark, or to take apart a hydraulic ram in an hour, or to steer a bulldozer on a narrow uphill road? Can MSNBC news reader Brian Williams tell the truth any better than the Michigan lathe operator? Is Lois Lerner, formerly of the IRS and now enjoying a multimillion-dollar retirement, more likely to file an honest tax return than the Wyoming rancher, or would you feel safer knowing that Press Secretary Josh Earnest was working on a high-voltage wire outside your front door?
Or is wisdom sometimes gained by losing the polish on one’s hands? Is the wrinkled man’s face as trustworthy as the thirty-something’s peach fuzz or the Botox grin of the middle-aged metrosexual on the evening news or the pollster who assures you that the election has already been decided before the voting?
In this year of weariness with the elite and their definition of success and wisdom, lots of such questions are being asked.
For now, Donald Trump has proved that the animal cunning necessary to survive in the jungle of Manhattan real estate — duplicitous and venal politicians, all-powerful unions, incompetent and vindictive regulators, fair-weather bankers and investors, and dozens of special-interest crusaders — trumps the definition of traditional political wisdom: finding a young hip graduate from the right school with the right résumé to hire the right people to run the right sort of campaign.
Trump instinctively sensed that to win, Republicans would have to recapture the Rust Belt states, and to do that, he would have to campaign on illegal immigration, jobs, trade, and the economy. He sensed that populism was a state of mind and speech, not necessarily net worth. What good did it do for pundits to insist that a billionaire could not appeal to the horny-handed when the billionaire in fact talked and connected with the horny-handed? What good did it do to deplore the loud vulgarity of Trump if one’s own polish and sobriety could not hide the vulgarity of the carnival grifter, glib plagiarist, and loquacious fabulist? Is the local town paper in Wisconsin more or less fair in its coverage than the New York Times? Did the fact that well-spoken Fareed Zakaria snickered at the crudity of Trump suggest that he was not himself a Harvard-trained plagiarist? Who Are Wise, Who Not?