Magazine article The Spectator

Brains for Trump

Magazine article The Spectator

Brains for Trump

Article excerpt

Why conservative intellectuals are backing the Donald

Last week more than 130 right-wing thinkers put their names to a defiant document -- a list of 'Scholars and Writers for America' in support of Donald Trump. It includes the editors of five of the country's leading conservative journals of ideas: R.R. Reno of the Christian conservative First Things ; Roger Kimball of the New Criterion , the right's leading journal of the arts; Charles Kesler of the Claremont Review of Books ; the American Spectator 's R. Emmett Tyrrell; and me, the editor of the American Conservative . (Notably lacking are names from America's oldest conservative magazine, National Review , which has been as hostile to Trump as the columnists of the New York Times and Washington Post . NR , representing what now seems like the establishment wing of the right, published a ludicrously ineffective cover story in February demanding that Republicans not nominate Trump.)

The list of scholars and writers for Trump includes high-profile thinkers who have also succeeded in business and politics -- such as Peter Thiel, Conrad Black and Newt Gingrich -- as well as academics who are at the top of their fields, such as the philosophers Scott Soames, Robert Koons, Daniel N. Robinson and Daniel Bonevac. Predictably, the list elicited outraged and snarky social-network comments suggesting comparisons with a few other philosophers, notably the Nazis Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt. As a Twitter or Facebook remark, that may be merely in bad taste, but in the hard-left climate of opinion on many American -university campuses, it could be taken seriously. The risks that conservative scholars take in openly supporting Trump are real. Before the release of the list, there was much debate among its signatories about whether to include a statement about scholars who wanted to sign but feared for their careers.

The list was the brainchild of F.H. Buckley, a law professor at George Mason University near Washington DC. Buckley -- no relation to William F. Buckley, the late founder of National Review -- has occasionally written speeches for Trump, but the list was compiled and promoted without input from the campaign, a necessity given US election law. Given the official Trump campaign's shambolic nature, the informal approach was best anyway.

What becomes obvious from comparing Buckley's list with the roll call of 'Never Trump' journalists writing in the New York Times , Washington Post and magazines such as National Review and the Weekly Standard is how broad the intellectual support for Trump is compared with the narrow social and ideological range of the anti-Trump right. Buckley's list includes nationalist conservatives, libertarian conservatives, neoconservatives and Christian right intellectuals from around the country, including deeply conservative states like Texas and unshakably liberal-Democratic ones like California. Hillsdale College in Michigan contributes several signers, including the president of the college, Larry Arnn. The anti-Trump right, by contrast, occupies what's called the 'Acela corridor' served by the US passenger rail system's fastest train, the Acela, which runs between Washington and New York.

But the divide among America's right-leaning minds is not so much geographic as cultural -- a divide between those who affirm the nation state and see liberal Republicanism (as much as the liberal Democratic party) as a threat to it and those who find Trump simply too brash and obnoxious to be presidential material. …

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