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Anti-Intellectualism in the Modern Presidency: A Republican Populism
Colleen J. Shogan
Perspectives on Politics
Vol. 5, No. 2 (Jun., 2007), pp. 295-303
Published by: American Political Science Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20446425
Page Count: 9
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Due to the amplified importance of forging an intimate connection with the American public, modern presidents must adjust their political personalities and leadership. To combat allegations of elitism, recent Republican presidents have adopted anti-intellectualism as a conservative form of populism. Anti-intellectualism is defined as disparagement of the complexity associated with intellectual pursuits, and a rejection of the elitism and self-aware attitude of distinction that is commonly associated with intellectual life. This article focuses on the benefits and costs of anti-intellectualism as a strategic response to the plebiscitary demands of contemporary presidential politics. As I describe it, an anti-intellectual approach to leadership originates from both a president's attitude about intellectual life and his public posturing. Brief case studies of Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush illustrate the political benefits of presidential anti-intellectualism. The limitations of presidential anti-intellectualism are also outlined.
Perspectives on Politics © 2007 American Political Science Association