Mike Rowe and the Myth of “Uneducated” Trump Voter

The lack of a degree does not necessarily indicate a lack of knowledge in all the key things that should inform citizenship.

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on November 14, 2016

“Trump won.  Let the uneducated have their day.”

Thus spake faux everyman Garrison Keillor concerning supporters of the new President-elect. Another champion of the people (whether they like it or not), academic Marci A. Hamilton asks, “Why are white, uneducated voters willing to vote for Trump?” she asks. “Job unhappiness to be sure, but I would posit that it is also because they have not been adequately educated to understand just how dangerous a President Trump would be to the Constitution.”

Georgetown University’s Jason Brennan, writing in Foreign Policy, at least had the moral courage to write with less self-conscious detachment: Trump won because of the support of “uneducated, low-information white people.” He went on to call the President-elect’s victory “the dance of the dunces.”  Just the kind of educated guy I want teaching my kids, that Jason.

It is comforting, I’m sure, to the populizers of Leftism to tout this line of argument. It delegitimizes the election of someone they find horrific. However, unfortunately for them, it has the disadvantage of being untrue.

According to Pew Research, “College graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%).” This is hardly evidence of any move toward Neanderthalism. Nine percent is an interesting bit of data, but not especially noteworthy. Additionally, the Pew study notes, “Trump won whites with a college degree 49% to 45%.”

The frantic drive to explain away Trump’s victory as the barbaric conquest of the unwashed is both offensive and rather sad. (“Why won’t the booboosie listen to us? Can’t they see we know best?”) It also displays a very shallow view of education.

An “education” is more than earning a degree. I teach at a university, and esteem the collegiate experience. Training young minds in Aristotle and Augustine is a joy for me and, I hope, formative for their own understanding of life and the world.

Yet we are now living in an era in which the curious can watch lectures from international experts in all the recognized disciplines on-line or on cable programming any time. They have access to “Massive Online Open Courses” (MOOCs) on every subject imaginable. There are the TED talks and instructional programs on everything from nutrition to physics.

The standard argument — that the auto-didact does not receive the full range of exposure someone in a college will — only holds true insofar as the self-instructing student is unable to look at the myriad online curricula available for reference. In other words, not a whole lot.

The lack of a college degree does not of necessity indicate a lack of knowledge in all the key things that should inform citizenship.

Yes, college matters: In-the-moment, face to face interaction with professors and peers is but one critical benefit. The STEM resources at a university can provide a level of training difficult to obtain in any other venue.

But the lack of a degree does not of necessity indicate a lack of knowledge in all the key things that should inform citizenship. Moreover, I know of a man who graduated from one of the country’s most prestigious law schools without ever reading the entire Constitution. I will pit the self-taught reader of The Federalist against him any day.

Additionally, the “uneducated” compose most those who wear military and police uniforms, men and women sufficiently educated to value patriotism, honor, duty, public safety, and the security of the country they love.

Mike Rowe Gets It

Mike Rowe, famous for hosting the television program “Dirty Jobs” and rightly ennobling those who perform them, wrote this on his Facebook page: “There are many ways to become educated that don’t involve the purchase of a diploma. Why would the media ignore thousands of apprenticeship programs, on-the-job-training opportunities, and all the other alternative educational options that have led so many people into so many successful careers? The answer is obvious — many in the press are looking for ways to impact the election. If a biased reporter can get away with labeling Trump supporters who didn’t graduate from college as ‘uneducated,’ he can simultaneously imply that any ballot cast for Trump is the hallmark of an ‘uneducated’ voter.”

Mr. Rowe is a more perceptive analyst of what happened this past Tuesday than many other “professional” commentators who spend their time reflecting on why their obvious wisdom is not endorsed wholesale by the broader public.”

Those demeaning the “uneducated” might deign to spend time with those who work in mines, clean drainage pipes, build refrigerators, and pour concrete. Many of these men and women, although lacking formal higher education, not only have skills on which the enraged elites depend daily, they also have minds that actually work. They read newspapers and watch programs other than Dancing with the Stars. They experience daily what their betters foist upon them with respect to workplace regulations, income taxes, and difficulties in their supply chains because excessive rules deter their ability simply to do their jobs. And they also have a lot of practical wisdom and common sense, something of which people who spend their lives in the unaccountable academy and temperature-controlled television studios in Washington and Manhattan know disturbingly little.

Colleges Can Make Some Students Stupid

And a final note about college generally: I have supervised, directly or indirectly, around 500 college students as interns in my roughly 25 years in Washington, including students from some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. My conclusion: The college one attends has only a marginal effect on the caliber of her mind and intellectual maturity.  The student’s diligence and the personal interest of the teachers she has, whether at Yale or Appalachian State, are what matters.

Last year at Professor Brennan’s school, renowned Georgetown U, the phrase “beat a dead horse” was banned after a student cartoonist depicted “the winners of (a recent) student government election holding bats while standing over two of the losers dressed in a horse costume.”

Georgetown is a fine institution, but I doubt the “uneducated” would ever be dumb enough to tremble beneath this kind of fascistic, ludicrous political correctness.  Three cheers for them.


Schwarzwalder, former Senior Vice-President at the Family Research Council, was a presidential appointee in the George W. Bush administration.

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