The Next Right-Wing Populist Will Win by Attacking American Higher Education

I want to make a prediction: The next successful Republican politician will rally the Right by making America’s universities his punching bag — and the universities will prove even more vulnerable to that politician’s attacks than the media were to Donald Trump’s.

A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that Republican opinion of the nation’s higher-education system has deteriorated remarkably in a very short time. In 2015, 58 percent of Republicans thought that colleges and universities had a positive effect on the country; an only slightly larger share of Democrats, 65 percent, agreed. Just two years later, the numbers are dramatically different: Only 36 percent of Republicans view colleges positively, compared to 72 percent of Democrats. A whopping 58 percent of Republicans think that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country.

Now imagine what could happen to that number if a Republican presidential nominee tweeted every day and gave speeches around the country attacking our colleges. Imagine how many more Republicans would come to view the nation’s academic enclaves negatively if their party’s standard-bearer complained daily about the indoctrination of our children, the ceaseless rise in tuition costs that bleeds regular folks dry, the decline in pedagogical rigor, the political bias, the lies. Imagine what would happen if such a politician branded universities as the “enemy of the American people.”

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