As Trump’s surprise candidacy disrupts everything it touches, it is now exploding into the academic realm, launching a yuuuuge new wave of what you might call Trump Studies. From philosophy to law to computer science and history, researchers are finding they can’t look away from Donald J. Trump. For some, like Mercieca, the astonishing popularity of the celebrity real estate developer is the perfect tent pole to hang their existing research on. For others, his candidacy is like an experiment on a national scale, blowing up conventional wisdom about how American politics and society work.
“It’s a gift of sorts,” said DePaul law professor Terry Smith, who has used Trump to bolster his research on a range of civil rights issues. “We weren’t going to get the same thing from Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton or any of the other presidential candidates.”
There’s a measure of irony in that Trump’s candidacy—grounded in an anti-elite message and regular bashing of the political correctness “crap” rooted on college campuses—is such a boon to professors. Though Trump flaunts his academic bona fides—the degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an exceptional vocabulary (“I know words. I have the best words.”)—his almost proud indifference to detail and accuracy has made him perhaps the least popular candidate among the American professoriate in recent memory. None of the two dozen professors and student researchers interviewed for this story signaled they were a Trump supporter.
But like the rest of America, they’re fascinated by the Trump phenomenon, and they’re turning the tools of research and analysis to figuring out what it means, why it’s happening, and what the aftershocks might be.