Intellectual Curiosity and the Presidency
“I rather be a stupid person wanting clarification and answers, in order to be wiser, than be a stupid person that blindly believes the lies they are told, without question.” ― Shannon L. Alder
I’ll be honest right now and tell you that I have never liked Donald Trump. On “The Apprentice” he seemed smug and narcissistic. Before the premiere of this show, I had played with the idea of electing a business man as president. A “CEO-in-Chief” made some sense to me. Of course, Ross Perot blew that idea out of the water. He said some really smart things, but then he would run off into the woods, tear off his shirt, and be Coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. Once he was shown to be a bit nuts, his chances became slim.
Then that show premiered. Maybe it’s my “left coast” sensibilities, but I believed strongly that this man was a buffoon. But the nation disagreed for several seasons while I pursued other interests.
We had a few presidents during that time each governing to various levels of success. Then we elected Barack Obama.
My first impression of this man was how much he wanted to learn. If he didn’t know the answer, he found someone who did. He was highly educated, but my impression was that he knew that his education was never ending. He had a very successful eight years in office.
Regardless of politics, the average person had nothing truly bad to say about the man personally. Of course there were some who were ignorant. Some tried to say that he wasn’t born in the United States, even though we have a birth certificate to prove it. Some tried to say that he was a secret Muslim, even though there was proof otherwise. So, for the purpose of this article, let’s remove those people from the equation.
After President Obama’s two terms in office, the country elected Donald J. Trump by means of the electoral college and not the popular vote. The country wasn’t really evenly split on this issue. The popular vote difference was staggering. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2,868,691.
And why was this? I believe it is because the liberal elite started to forget about the middle of the country. And if you look at the electoral college, you can clearly see the result of such neglect.
During the election, I could tell the difference between the candidates. Hillary came off as qualified yet impersonal. Donald came off as not qualified but very personal. And that drew people to him.
But my issue with the man is his lack of intellectual curiosity. Psychology Today defines the intellectually curious person as having “a deep and persistent desire to know…asks and seeks answers to the “why” questions...doesn’t stop asking at a surface level, but instead asks probing questions in order to peel back layers of explanation to get at the foundation of ideas concerning a particular issue.”
Since Donald Trump, in my opinion, is a narcissist, it doesn’t surprise me that he isn’t intellectually curious. He often said that he alone could fix the problems in the country. By saying that, he instantly discounts anyone else’s opinions on any subject. His opinion is the right one. That’s not to say that he doesn’t ask questions. The people he calls advisers, however, are also cut of the same cloth. They are quite sure of their opinions and have closed their mind off to any evidence challenging their world view.
So what does this mean for us as a country? I think we are seeing the fallout right now of what happens when you elect someone who believes that they have been given carte blanche to follow their Id no matter what. I am a libertarian. A hard core social liberal with a somewhat conservative fiscal bent. But I can say that Reagan, Clinton, Bush and even Nixon was at least intellectually curious. The man occupying the Oval Office today stopped wanting to learn after he left Wharton.
“A wise man knows he has more to learn, a fool thinks he knows all.” — Ancient Chinese proverb.
I hope the American people are learning our lesson. Because how foolish would we seem if we aren’t.