Brennan_01-2019
Society & Culture

Trump’s Razor

Blame everything on Trump.  Your car won’t start?  It’s Trump’s fault.  Your dog threw up in the living room?  It’s Trump’s fault.  The media have lost their collective mind.  That’s definitely Trump’s fault.  And the blame game seems to get worse by the day.  Every politician who won office this past November won only because of Trump.  Likewise, every politician who lost this past November lost only because of Trump.  Trump has turned Occam’s Razor—the idea that the explanation that requires the least speculation works best—into America’s favorite philosophical principle.  Medical schools once taught students to zero in on the simplest diagnosis via the adage, “When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.”  Today in Trump World one can only imagine the bizarre diagnoses doctors dream up when, confronted with the hoof beats of illness, they think Trumpitis, and not the common cold.

My October issue of The American Historical Review felt lighter than usual when I lifted it out of my mailbox recently.  I joked to myself that perhaps Trump had torn out some of the pages.  The roughly 300-page quarterly journal published by the American Historical Association arguably ranks as the premier venue for research articles and book reviews by academic historians.  The...

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