New Yorker: “Intellectuals For Trump”

In The New Yorker today, we have “Intellectuals for Trump”, which is largely a profile of Publius Decius Mus, who’s “secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy” platform fueled the most talked about political essay of 2016.

The New Yorker piece begins:

The most cogent argument for electing Donald Trump was made not by Trump, or by his campaign, but by a writer who, unlike Trump, betrayed no eagerness to attach his name to his creations. He called himself Publius Decius Mus, after the Roman consul known for sacrificing himself in battle, although the author used a pseudonym precisely because he hoped not to suffer any repercussions. In September, on the Web site of the Claremont Review of Books, Decius published “The Flight 93 Election,” which likened the country to a hijacked airplane, and argued that voting for Trump was like charging the cockpit: the consequences were possibly dire, but the consequences of inaction were surely so. Decius sought to be clear-eyed about the candidate he was endorsing. “Only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise,” he wrote. But he argued that this corruption was also evidence of a national crisis, one that could be addressed only by a politician untethered to political piety. The author hailed Trump for his willingness to defend American workers and America’s borders. “Trump,” he wrote, “alone among candidates for high office in this or in the last seven (at least) cycles, has stood up to say: I want to live. I want my party to live. I want my country to live.” By holding the line on unauthorized immigration and rethinking free trade, Decius argued, Trump could help foster “solidarity among the working, lower-middle, and middle classes of all races and ethnicities.” Decius identified himself as a conservative, but he saved much of his criticism for “house-broken conservatives,” who warned of the perils of progressivism while doing nothing in particular to stop it. Electing Trump was a way to take a stand against both ambitious liberalism and insufficiently ambitious conservatism.

Later in the piece:

Decius, the faceless blogger, is hoping instead that Trump’s Presidency will mark the dawn of a new kind of conservative movement. He is one of a handful of pro-Trump intellectuals who have been laboring to establish an ideological foundation for the political tendency sometimes known as Trumpism…

 Charles Kesler, a political-science professor at Claremont McKenna and the editor of the Claremont Review of Books, calls Trump’s election “a liberating moment for conservatism,” an overdue repudiation of conservative élites and orthodoxy. The irony is that the modern conservative movement cohered, in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, as a rebellion against a Republican establishment that it considered out of touch. Now, according to a small but possibly prescient band of pro-Trump intellectuals, it is happening again. They suspect that Trump, despite his self-evident indiscipline, may prove to be a popular and consequential President, defying his critics—many of them conservative. They think that Trumpism exists, and that it could endure as something more substantive than a political slur.

On the central issue of immigration:

Populist-minded commentators like Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and Laura Ingraham were among the early adopters, mainly because Trump gave voice to their belief that unauthorized immigration was one of the country’s biggest problems.

Then onto a discrete meeting with Decius:

The hidden identities of Decius and the other Journal contributors may have made the essays more seductive, by making their authors seem like fugitives, desperate to stay one step ahead of the ideological authorities. Their facelessness also conveyed a faint sense of menace, as if these were the distant, Plato-quoting cousins of the balaclava-wearing hooligans who are a regular presence at nationalist marches throughout Europe…

[Decius] agreed to meet, a few weeks after Trump’s election, on the condition that his pseudonymity be maintained. He chose a private club in midtown, where he had been attending a lecture. (He hastened to point out that he was not a member himself.) Then he strolled over to a suitably anonymous location: the tatty food court in the basement of Grand Central Terminal, where he endeavored to fold his long legs beneath a small table. The man known as Decius was tall and fit, a youthful middle-aged professional dressed in a well-tailored gray suit and a pink shirt. He has worked in the finance world, but he talked about political philosophy with the enthusiasm of someone who would do it for fun, which is essentially what he does. Before he began to speak, he held out an iPhone showing a picture of his family: if he was unmasked, he said, his family would suffer, because he works for a company that might not want to be connected to an apostle of Trumpism.

It is not necessarily absurd for Decius to suggest that he might suffer a fate like that which befell Brendan Eich, who resigned under pressure from Mozilla Corporation, the tech company he co-founded, after he was discovered to have donated to an anti-same-sex-marriage initiative. By obscuring his real name, Decius is also claiming a new kind of civil right, one often claimed by political activists in the era of social media: the right not to be doxed—that is, not to have one’s online activity linked to one’s offline identity.

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