The Bankruptcy of Conservative Intellectuals


Writing—no matter how many times you say the same thing, no matter how often—inevitably entails being misunderstood. In general, the causes are, first, obscurity from the writer and, second, ignorance, sloppiness, laziness, or willfulness in the reader. I like to think my writing is reasonably clear, but I leave that to others to judge. In any case, whether it’s my fault or his, Carl Eric Scott’s comment on my latest shows that he did not understand what I said. And certain of his remarks lead me to believe that no small measure of willfulness was involved.

A warning to the reader: Scott wrote a mere 1,200 words in response to a prior piece of mine, and I have responded with … well, a lot more. I offer two justifications. First, Scott’s comment is extraordinary for the number and density of its errors, misrepresentations, and straw-men. It really does take a lot of words to unpack all he got wrong. Second, Scott’s points may be taken as representative of the state of thinking on the “Right.” So in responding to Scott, I am really talking about the whole sorry enterprise.

The Art of Careful Reading

If I were to read Scott the way he reads me, I would put a willfully ungenerous spin on his opening chirp about the “fog of [my] Trumpism.” From the beginning, I have defined Trumpism as secure borders, economic nationalism, and an America-first foreign policy. Or if that two-word phrase distresses him, replace it with “interests-based” or “American interests-based.” What, specifically, in that short summary does Scott find “foggy”? To what does he object? Plenty of other “conservatives” object to all of it. They want more immigration, more trade, and more war. Does Scott? If he doesn’t, then what is so “foggy” about my Trumpism? Or, for that matter, Trump’s?

Then the flat-out errors begin. Scott writes:

In earlier pieces, [Decius] suggested that the “Whose Caesar (if Caesarism)?” question justified and partly explained a vote for Trump. i.e, he was willing to imply that Trump might serve as “our” Caesar.

This is just dead wrong. I have repeatedly said that I think Trump is not Caesar. I justified a vote for Trump in part as a way to avoid Caesar. The way—or one way—to avoid Caesar is to reassert popular control of the government, i.e., the consent of the governed. Which I think a Trump administration might do. I place “might” in italics for the exoteric purpose of stressing that this caveat is really important to my meaning. There’s no reason an Internet writer should expect to be read as carefully as (say) a major intellectual, much less a genuine political philosopher. But is basic accuracy too much to ask for?

Scott then lays on the snark: “That made hash of his seriousness regarding Caesarism.” No, it makes a hash of Scott’s reading comprehension. More:

(I say that earlier, what he argued for, without ever spelling it out as such, was the merely metaphorical application of the term “Caesarism” to Trumpism, in that Trump was likely to be bad-ass—and thus Caesar-like—in terms of certain executive power abuses, and in terms of unprecedented presidential employment of gutter rhetoric. Neither of these come close to amounting to real Caesarism, of course. The whole thing was to set-up a rhetorical choice of “our Caesar” v. “theirs.” I.e., our rules-abuser, or theirs.)

I am sorry to quote so much, but to avoid doing to Scott what he did to me, I want to make my case as methodically as possible.

As I wrote in the piece on which Scott comments:

But to [discuss Caesarism] is not merely to invite, it is to guarantee that one will be charged with calling for and even welcoming—wishing for—Caesarism. The dishonesty and vacuity of the modern intelligentsia is now absolute.

Right on cue, here comes Scott to say … that I am calling for Caesarism! I challenge Scott—I dare him, I double-dare him, I triple-dog-dare him—to show how I have equated “Caesarism” with Trumpism, or praised Trump as “our bad-ass” or welcomed executive abuse from his White House or praised his “gutter rhetoric.”

To make his case even the least bit plausible, Scott will have to quote me at least as extensively as I am quoting him. He can try to say that I made my supposed case between the lines. But had I been making an esoteric argument, I above all would know it, and I here (again) exoterically deny it. Scott’s  paragraph is—there’s no other way to say this—a lie. This is how one knows that the misunderstanding has a more troubling cause than mere laziness. Scott descends below the level of the Left: the character assassination begins in the second paragraph. Jeet Heer and Conor Friedersdorf waited longer than that.

Trumpism is Not Caesarism

Regarding Caesarism, what I have said—and here repeat, as clearly as possible, in language I believe Scott is intelligent enough to understand but fear he will continue to choose not to—is that I think the republic is in a bad way. I have identified the three principal causes as mass immigration, radical late modernity, and the cycle of regimes. The first two are entirely the product of human choice. The latter two undermine the virtue of the people that is necessary to sustain republican government. All three are corrosive to unity.

All republics eventually fall. They will fail with or without mankind’s misguided help in making them fail faster. The U.S.A.’s republican regime would have failed eventually, but bad philosophy and very stupid policies are making it fail sooner than it otherwise would have from inexorable necessity.

When republics fail, they either fall outright, are conquered, or become something else—i.e., not republics. One way that republics become something else is by falling under the rule of one man. That can take the form of tyranny or Caesarism. While the two appear similar, they are distinguishable. Tyranny, strictly speaking, is illegitimate usurpation. The secondary meaning—arbitrary, cruel, self-interested misrule—derives from the first, fundamental meaning. A legitimate ruler—whether monarch, aristocracy, or republican people—rules in the interests of the common good. There’s admittedly a bit of a chicken-egg problem here: if and to the extent that such governments begin to rule in the interest of some private good, does that make them tyrannical? But we don’t have to settle that question now to understand the reason for the classical identification of usurpation with misrule: no tyrant usurps for the common good. He usurps for his own (perceived) private good. (I add “perceived” in due acknowledgement of the argument of the Gorgias.) It is very difficult, if not impossible, to convince a tyrant to rule for the common good, or even to move in that direction. This is one meaning of Xenophon’s Hiero.

A Caesar may or may not be a usurper. But even if he is, he does so to become the caretaker of a republic that can no longer govern itself. In such a circumstance, One-man rule is necessary and thus at least partly legitimized by that necessity. Caesars may also rule in their personal interest. But many rule in the interest of the common good in ways that no tyrant ever does. The litany of Roman emperors contains as many, if not more, “good” Caesars than bad. Plus, over time Caesarism can morph into legitimate monarchy, mitigating some of the initial defects. There are no guarantees: you can still get crazy Caesars, as history shows. But Caesarism is preferable to tyranny, except when and where it tends toward tyranny.

Scott then continues that one of my earlier arguments was a “set-up” for a distinction I later made, namely that between “our” and “their” Caesar. But he gets even this wrong. He characterizes the argument as “our rules-abuser, or theirs,” indicating that he still doesn’t understand what Caesarism is. Caesarism is possible only when there are no longer any rules to abuse, when the rules have finally broken down irretrievably. Hence “our rules-abuser, or theirs” is a false dichotomy. Though our Caeser versus theirs is not.  Scott feigns shock at the introduction of this consideration, but of course it’s inherent in the very concept of Caesarism. All politics involves partisan conflict. What does Scott think would happen? A republic that could no longer govern itself in a republican manner would somehow coalesce around a consensus Caesar?

Nor was my argument in any way a “set-up,” except in the mundane sense that certain points logically follow from others and that it’s a widely accepted rhetorical practice to state premises before conclusions. If the state is to become ungovernable as a republic, then Caesarism is one potential outcome, and one of the more important considerations of that outcome will be: who is Caesar?

It’s really that simple. I thought I said it clearly the last time. Why Scott is treating this as some major, inadvertent revelation of my nefarious intent, I can only speculate. Perhaps, should things come to it, he finds the choice of fighting for his Caesar or laying down for their Caesar so distasteful that he would rather ridicule anyone for suggesting he may someday face that choice. I could understand that. Since Scott can’t even bring himself to vote for Trump, there’s no reason whatsoever to expect him to take his own side should a much graver crisis arise.

Violent Mis-charaterizations

And it keeps getting worse.

In earlier pieces, [Decius] suggested that we have solid reason to believe that the election of Trump would be our last (non-violent?) chance to revive republicanism and save the Constitution.

I was about to call this the last (only?) honest sentence in his comment, but the parenthetical makes that impossible. When did I suggest that violence could save the Constitution? At the very end of his comment, Scott interprets me (accurately, for once) as saying that Sulla could not save the Roman constitution through violence. But here he suggests that I am hinting at the desirability of violence. I can’t tell if Scott is being malicious or just dumb.

I assume, by “violent,” Scott means my speculation that, if the Left consolidates power, they won’t be able to hold it forever, and one eventual possibility would be the rise of a secessionist movement. Does Scott dispute that such is even possible? If not, does he think it grossly irresponsible even to discuss that possibility? Or does he equate such a discussion with advocacy, as he did with my discussion of Caesarism? At least in this case, Scott leaves off at merely insinuating that I am calling for revolutionary violence and I thank him for this small bit of moderation.

For the record, I do not think that violence could today restore the American Constitution any more than it could restore the Roman in Sulla’s time. It seems to me that a good half the country, or close to it, does not want to live under constitutional norms as I understand them. Some are actively hostile to the Constitution, others merely indifferent, but would become hostile once they perceive that a serious attempt to restore constitutional norms were underway. If the restoration is to occur, it will have to occur politically. Any attempt to use violence, it seems to me, would simply widen the already enormous divisions in the country and hasten dissolution.

Scott continues by asserting that I have somehow walked back the “Flight 93” thesis. I deny doing so. I still expect that a Democratic victory in 2016 would lead to A) mass amnesty; B) higher net immigration; and C) massive refugee inflows, all of which will be carefully steered to purple states to tip them blue and further cement the Democrats’ overwhelming electoral advantage. And that’s to say nothing about all the other ways I expect the Democrats to expand and harden Progressivism and undermine what’s left of constitutional norms. I’ve explained all that elsewhere.

I further maintain that if the Dems win now, they’ll win next time, and very likely the time after that, and in a very short time so transform the electoral map that the only “Republican” with any chance will be one who swallows whole the advice of the post-2012 defeat Republican “autopsy”: move left and compete with the Dems for “minority” votes. I put “minority” in quotes because if present trends continue, there won’t be a majority for long! The country will be a blue state and the “Republican” Party will just be the New York or California GOP on a national scale: able to “win” occasionally, perhaps, but unable to accomplish anything remotely conservative. America will be in effect a one-party state, governed by the Left, with leftist means, for leftist ends. Neither Scott nor anyone else has attempted to refute this thesis beyond a curt “Nah.”

But by all means, if Scott thinks a Hillary victory will not consummate the fundamental transformation of the electorate, let him say so, preferably with an accompanying argument. Or if he admits that it will, but is insouciant about that outcome because he thinks he has found some way to convince blacks, Hispanics and immigrants to give half their votes (or close) to Republicans; if he thinks he’s found a way to do that without simply turning the Republican Party into Dem-Lite (to the extent that it isn’t already), then let him explain how. Karl Rove, Marco Rubio, and the editors of Commentary would be delighted! Even I would have to tip my hat: here would be an achievement on the order of inventing a perpetual motion machine.

Scott says that the “tone”—though not the actual words—of what I wrote indicates that I believe “that other chances might exist later.” He cites as “evidence” of that “new tone” my claim that what I identified as “possibility 1” might be able to hang on for quite some time. But let’s recall how I defined “possibility 1”: “the indefinite continuance of the bipartisan/uniparty Davoisie managerial oligarchy.” This is what Scott allows to get his hopes up. Whereas to me that will mean that we’ve already lost. Scott and I see the world so differently that it’s no wonder his misinterpretations compound with every fresh sentence.

The Threat to Freedom of Thought

Scott scoffs at my concern about freedom of thought after first misstating what it is. Actually, Scott does not mention “freedom of thought,” which is what I wrote. He instead refers to “persecution,” a word I did not use. Though, again for the record, I do expect the Left to be emboldened by victory and to intensify such persecution as they already employ, e.g., ginning up phony controversies to get dissenters fired and make them unemployable. Scott’s casual denial that future persecution is any threat whatsoever suggests that he denies the persecution going on now. Does he recognize as persecution any measure short of a gulag?

But as noted, my point was about freedom of thought, which I believe today to be constrained by leftist orthodoxy and political correctness. Am I to take it that, for Scott, this is just another of those overblown concerns that silly people to his right worry about? I did not, contra Scott’s indication, say that this danger threatens only NeverTrumpers and East Coast Straussians. I believe it threatens to chill, constrain and suppress all forms of dissent, particularly but not exclusively on the Right. I believe it is already doing so and will intensify with a Hillary victory and leftist ascendancy. The point about the East Coast Straussians was that their absolute prioritization of philosophy over politics combined with their strident NeverTrumpism enables, however unwittingly, a grave threat to the one thing they claim to care most about. Which is—to be redundant but clear, so that Scott doesn’t lose the thread—freedom of thought, not persecution. While the two are not unrelated, it’s possible to curtail freedom of thought without resorting to persecution, though (as noted) I believe both are in play today, with persecution admittedly being (for now) the junior partner.


Apparently, despite what the rhetorician Decius once said, this election is NOT like a plane diving toward the ground … If Trump loses, there remain non-Caesarist and non-secessionist options in real play, and for a period of time that may—no-one can say for certain—be a fairly “long term” one.

I don’t know how I could have been more clear. If the “plane” is multi-party constitutionalism in the United States, then yes, if Trump loses, I expect it to crash. Note also that in the passage of mine here under discussion, I did not refer to “options.” The word I used was “possibility.” Possibilities precede, and to some extent determine, options. There are indeed possibilities other than Caesarism or secession should the republic fail. But there aren’t that many other options—eventualities men could work toward or try to steer. The one option that I did discuss is relevant more on an individual or familial rather than the political level: go underground and wait it out. Another option—the one Scott advocates—is to keep trying to work within the system for renewal and reform. I don’t expect this to work, except to the extent that Scott and all the other “conservatives” “adapt” to the new circumstances by going left and taking credit for leftist victories that would have happened anyway. That’s an “option” but a pointless one, in my view. If and when I know I’ve lost, I’m going to Tatooine.

Scott raises another option: a “Constitution-restoring dictatorship.” He doesn’t say he’s for it; in fact, he hints that he isn’t. He brings it up only to chide me for not bringing it up. But isn’t that what he insinuated I was calling for when he interpreted me as saying that Trump was our last chance to save the Constitution without violence? Did he forget that in the course of writing his comment, or did he count on others forgetting what he had said only two paragraphs prior? Whichever, I see no reasons to amend my prior remarks on this subject.

Scott repeats his claim that I am calling for Trump to utilize “anti-constitutional measures.” I once again defy him to quote any words of mine in support of this false assertion. Deepening the slander, Scott assumes that if I were to assert that Trump supports “anti-constitutional measures,” I would mean that as praise. When all along, I have been arguing—and here repeat for the eleventy-first time—that I hope we can restore constitutionalism by the supremely constitutional act of voting. To be as clear as I can on this point, I urge Trump, if elected, to take no un- or anti-constitutional action. I also hope, that if Trump were to try, Congress would rouse itself to use its enumerated powers—up to and including impeachment—to stop him. A Congress that reasserted its fundamental role in constitutional government, including full exercise of the power of the purse and its oversight powers, to check the executive would in my view be a fundamentally good thing for the constitutional order. That will not happen if Hillary is president but could well if Trump is.

The Demos or the Davos

Scott next refers to the “demos,” as if the American people were still one people with a few and a many, a rich and a poor. Allow me to quote myself once again, from the very piece on which Scott comments:

If we recall the historical example from which Caesarism takes its name, this question [of whose side Caesar is on] animated a century of conflict, from the Gracchi to Augustus. There were then, as today, two parties. And, as today, one party broadly aligned with the elites and one with the people. The parallel is not exact, however, in that our optimati ally with the lower orders and press a left-wing agenda, whereas our “conservative” party has negligible elite or hoi polloi support. In our situation, the populare are the broad middle, which is more conservative than the elites.

In other words, strictly speaking, there is no demos. There are two parties, but also three “strata” of society: the high, the low and the middle. The high and the low team up against the middle. If there is anything like a demos, it is that neglected middle. Except of course that a demos proper would encompass the economically disadvantaged en masse. But our economically disadvantaged are sharply divided along partisan lines. To the extent that the demos is the historic American nation minus the blue city managerial class, then Trump has already won them to his side. To the extent that the demos also includes working-class blacks, Hispanics and immigrants, we’ll see. I don’t expect a landslide for Trump among these demographic groups. But Trump could still outperform the Republicans’ typically dismal showing. Much more to the point, if he wins, even without their support, his policies could materially improve their lives, building a basis for future support.

This is what conservatives like Scott have always said they wanted: a Republican Party that appeals to more than a negligible share of the non-white electorate. But the only ways they try to achieve that are to underbid Democrats on immigration and identity politics while promoting policies that enrich plutocrats and gut the working class. Non-citizen guest workers and tax cuts for the rich! Soft left on style, rapacious-right on substance. I wonder why that hasn’t worked! Trump is flipping that script. He’s offering policies that have a real chance to put money in the working class’s pockets while he refuses to sing from the left-wing hymnal and mercilessly mocks leftist pieties. Center-left on substance, proud-right on style. And the conservatives faint. Mass immigration and free trade are just too important to sacrifice for a Republican Party that might actually do something for the working class.

Scott brings up ethics. Does he really think that’s a winning point? That Trump’s vices—even if everything alleged is true, which I do not grant—come close to what’s been proved about the Clintons? Is this yet another area in which we see the world so differently that we may as well not be contemplating the same object?

Scott makes repeated reference to Trump’s “demagoguery” without giving examples or even trying to define what that slur means today. This, I fear, is explainable by simple laziness. It’s what everyone who doesn’t like Trump is saying; what’s more, Scott is a high-minded type and Trump appears to him low, so “demagogue” sounds about right. But what does it mean? It used to mean someone who appeals to the base or low or uninformed impulses of the demos (them again!) to secure power, which he intends to use for his own ends. Is that Trump? Because it seems to me that he’s appealing to the perfectly rational and justifiable interests of those (perhaps a majority; we’ll see!) who don’t want more mass immigration, more trade giveaways, or more war. I understand why those on the Left slander Trump as a demagogue: they want more of all these things—and more!—and they will say anything to keep getting them. I don’t understand why “conservatives” aid and abet them.

Scott’s concern about appealing to “the majority” seems to skip over the fact that the country is divided as it never has been. Yes, I include the Civil War in that calculus, on the following ground (which I have covered before): ultimately, only one issue divided the American people in 1861, and it was an issue, not a matter of tribalism or patriotism for a homeland left behind. The insanely destructive mass immigration that “conservatives” have excused, encouraged and celebrated has done more to disunify this country that anything in our history.

There is no longer one people. There are two, or perhaps three. There is the core American nation. There are the various tribal groups—immigrants current and recent, mostly—who at best are more stirred by nostalgia for ancestral home than by any patriotic stirrings for America. And then there are the blue city left-wingers who either disdain patriotism altogether (“Hitler was patriotic!!!”) or who can only muster a weak facsimile when they contemplate what America might become given a few more decades of progressive “fundamental transformation.” To these latter two groups, the actual country as it actually exists is still hopelessly “racist” and its past positively evil.

There are only three ways to build a “majority” in this morass. The first is to do it the way the Democrats do it: stoke the resentments of the latter two groups against the first. That’s not a real majority the way Scott wants to define it, but experience shows that it can produce more than enough votes to win elections. Is that good enough for Scott?

It’s good enough for the entire left and most “conservatives.” As I’ve pointed out several times in recent months, “conservatism” has degenerated into simple majoritarianism. Except when it comes to the second way of building a majority, which is to boost turnout among the first group, still a numeric majority in the country. Oh, no, you can’t do that! That’s racist! Elections won on the strength of the white vote are ipso facto illegitimate! Sure, one man, one vote and all that—but, but … we just know that non-white votes have more moral value than white votes. Because Rawls. Or something,

What if We Were One People Again?

That leaves the third way, which is to appeal to the entire citizenry as one people, on the basis of shared interests. Which is what Trump is trying to do. Scott would no doubt say, along with the Left, that this claim is preposterous given what Trump has said about immigration. We could litigate every word Trump has spoken on this issue—I’m sure I find much more of it defensible than Scott does—but let’s instead move to the core point. Talking about immigration restriction will inevitably offend majorities of groups two and three. The third will in fact seize on any restrictionist comment and use it to whip up resentments among the second, even those in the working classes who know that more immigration is bad for their wages, communities, kids’ schools, etc. The tribal tug of ancestry is strong, though, and can easily override considerations of near- and even long-term interest. The left understands that. Despite at least 50 years of being lashed with this tactic, and losing pints of blood with every stroke, “conservatives” still don’t.

Scott opposes Trump. I presume he would say that he does not oppose appealing to the citizenry as a whole, however. He just thinks Trump is a uniquely awful vehicle for doing so. I find Trump flawed myself. However, I recognize—which Scott cannot—that Trump and Trump alone in the last generation of candidates has broken through on the most important issues.

I don’t know Scott’s position on immigration—he doesn’t say—but if, as is the case with so many “conservatives,” it’s basically no different than Rubio’s or Jeb Bush’s, no wonder Scott hates Trump! Every “conservative” who’s for open borders, the Gang of Eight, and “comprehensive reform” hates Trump! If so, Scott should join the side he’s on—the uniparty. Meanwhile, the rest of us who still identify as conservative, in the sense of wishing to conserve the actual America, should recognize Scott as just another false flag operator, a concern troll, little different than Russell Moore, with a slightly better grasp of political philosophy but without (presumably) Soros’ money. Keep those borders open or minorities will hate you and you’ll never win again!

Is that what we’re dealing with here? If so, I tip my hat to Scott’s goading me into wasting two days writing 7,100 words in response to a troll. Fool me once!

But let’s assume that Scott’s position is closer to Trump’s—that Scott recognizes that continued mass immigration is bad not just for the Republican Party and conservatism, but also for the existing citizenry. Presumably, then, what Scott wants to see is some well-spoken, morally pure candidate come along who can talk sensibly about immigration and stir the electorate even more than Trump has. The fact that those few who have tried have all been pilloried as “racist” and slunk away defeated, their reputations destroyed, does not factor into Scott’s analysis. He seems to think that opposition to Trump can be attributed solely to the man’s vulgarity, political inexperience, ignorance of detail, and (real and alleged) past immorality. I find that risible.

The furious assault on Trump is, I contend, at least 90 percent owing to his message. He opposes everything the uniparty—including its “conservative” wing—favors. I don’t doubt that the attacks on Trump’s character are in part genuine, but also believe that they serve as a convenient mask for the real source of opposition. We want nothing important to change. This man threatens to bring real change in a way that no candidate has in more than 30 years. He must be destroyed. The idea that some stolid solon could run on the same issues, but stated in stentorian tones that Scott could admire, and not be subject to the same furious attacks, and energize the electorate as well as or better than Trump, strikes me as preposterous. Does Scott believe otherwise? If so, here is yet more evidence that we have nothing in common.

Obstacles to Unity

In the most recent cover story in National Review, the magazine for which Scott writes, Tim Alberta contemplates how to accommodate the coming blue demographic wave that’s sweeping over the nation. What, you mean the wave that many in the conservative movement—including many in National Review—began warning about 30 years ago? And who were cruelly purged from the magazine and the movement for their troubles? In many cases, destroying their careers, and in some cases even their lives? Without even the slightest attempt to, you know, rebut them, I might add. You mean that wave?

The piece is actually a powerful support to my main argument, which Scott rejects: demographic change is inexorably dragging the country left and will doom conservatism and the Republican Party—or at least the Republican Party as it is now (more on that in a moment). When I say this, Scott snarks at me. I await a similar treatment of Alberta.

But that won’t be coming, because Alberta is on the correct side. He carefully sidesteps making any recommendations, instead positing a Harry Potter vs. Voldermort death struggle for the party between Trump and Paul Ryan. Guess whose side Alberta takes?

Alberta makes the same assertion Scott does against me: some other (Scott actually says any other) Republican would have done better than Trump in this election. Neither tries to back this claim with an argument. Neither names names, but it’s clear where the logic of their position leads. The Republicans, says Alberta, would have done better with “a leader who could appeal to” the traditional Republican base, plus blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, and upscale whites; i.e., the Democratic coalition. How is our Harry to pull off that magic trick? Neither Alberta nor Scott say. No one in Conservatism, Inc. has ever been able to say, beyond enterprise zones and charter schools, a demonstrably failed approach that Alberta nonetheless implicitly endorses with his enthusiastic praise of Paul Ryan. Though in the context of the 2016 primary field, it’s clear that both have Rubio in mind. Their position on immigration is not so obscure after all!

Alberta continues—as if to leave no doubt that National Review is much more out-of-touch than even its harshest 2016 critics have alleged—that Trump “implicitly denies the demographic changes that make his candidacy such an electoral challenge.” What? WHAT?!? Could that possibly have been written seriously? Trump denies demographic change? His whole message is about the effects of demographic change! In return he’s called Hitler every day—by “conservatives.” Trump seeks to prevent further demographic change by pursuing immigration policies that National Review has long said it supports. But also long attacked its ostensible allies for supporting, you know, a little too enthusiastically. All this tight border stuff is a feint to mollify the base, people! Read more carefully! Now we have National Review charging Trump with denying the very issue that’s animating his campaign. Can the gaslighting get any more brazen?

Yes! Alberta continues that Trump “indulges the fantasy of returning to an America that no longer exists.” Let’s get this straight. National Review—and nearly all of Conservatism, Inc.—has been, throughout this cycle and well before, denouncing anyone who notices demographic change and brings it up for the wrong reason. If you’re on the left and you write a book called The Emerging Democratic Majority, that’s OK, because you’re saying the change is good. If you’re on the “right” and your book is called The New Americans, that’s OK, because—again—you’re saying that the change is good. But if you argue that the change is bad, at least for those already here, that’s unacceptable. And it’s not merely unacceptable to call the change bad. It’s unacceptable—for you—even to acknowledge the change at all. It proves you are racist. As such, you must lose your senior fellowship and contributing editorship and never be allowed to work in this town again. That’s the way it’s been in Conservatism, Inc. for at least 30 years.

Until now. Now we’re told that the thing we were forbidden from voicing public concern about—the thing that was never anything to worry about—has already happened. What’s more, the conservative happytalk about how it will all work out if we formulate the right “message,” Hispanics are “natural conservatives” and so on—well, that turns out to have been bunk too. “Demographic change” really does turn red states blue and it’s too late to do anything about it. You have to admire the way they turn on a dime, don’t you!

“Conservatives” in 1996: “Don’t worry, immigration is not going to change the country.  Only racists care and if you keep talking about it, you’re fired.”

“Conservatives” in 2016: Haven’t you noticed that immigration has fundamentally changed the country?  Time to get with the program, move left and pander!

It’s worth noting as well that recent Wikileaks revelations show clearly that the Left and the Dems have understood this all along and have explicitly worked for policies that demographically benefit their side. Meanwhile, they have demonized any on the right who’ve sounded warnings.

Dems: “Demographic transformation will tip America permanently left. Yay!”

Ambient culture: “You are so right, and it’s about time. Embrace the future!”

Dissident Right: “Hey, demographic change risks tipping the country permanently left.”

Left, Dems and ambient culture: “You are Hitler, how dare you say that!”

Dissident Right (to fellow “conservatives”): “Yeah, well, maybe we should get serious about border enforcement to avoid that.”

Conservatives: “How dare you, you are Hitler!”

Alberta, as noted, stops short of making any actual proposals for how to deal with this trend, but since he implicitly admits that traditional conservative appeals aren’t going to work, the logic of his position inevitably leads to: implement the “autopsy.” Which in practice amounts to: accept permanent minority status and endless defeat for conservative policies.

You may ask (those of you who are still with me): what does this have to do with Carl Eric Scott? A lot! Remember, Scott’s big criticism of Trump (and me) is that neither Trump nor his message appeals to a “majority.” There is no longer—I think we can now safely say, confirmed by National Review’s authority—any possibility of building an electoral majority around conservative ideas as National Review defines them. There used to be, but then the left came up with the idea of demographic transformation to win elections and the “right” foolishly went along. Actually, more than went along; it actively persecuted those ostensibly on its own side who pointed out that collaboration on this issue is folly.

So now the only way to achieve Scott’s majority is—by his own implicit admission, or at least the inherent logic of his position—to appeal to non-conservative voters with a non-conservative message and non-conservative policies. The Republicans have only been able to do this sporadically, and even when it “works” it doesn’t. They can (sometimes) win elections on this basis, but they never do anything conservative with those victories. So what’s the point? What the Republicans have never been able to do—anywhere—is appeal to non-conservatives with conservative policies, or convert non-conservatives into conservatives in sufficient numbers to win elections. Yet this is Scott’s strategy. Note that he doesn’t say that. Perhaps he understands how silly it sounds. Like Alberta—like all of today’s professional “conservatives”—Scott does not address any of the numerous, detailed objections that I and others have offered to this “plan.” He just asserts that a way must be found and declines even to sketch what that way might be.

  1. Pander to minorities
  2. ????
  3. Win!!

Here you have the state of conservative intellectualism today: a 1998 South Park joke.

Then Scott says something truly extraordinary: “four years of HRC’s awfulness may do us more good in the long-term than a prez Trump.” Oh, really. Really? Do I need to repeat, yet again, the entirely litany of evils that are sure to befall the country—and especially conservatism—in a Hillary administration? Don’t worry; I’m not going to. I and others—including a few National Review writers—have spelled it all out so many times that if Scott hasn’t understood it by now he never will. He certainly makes no attempt to refute any of it, nor any to support his own claim.

I struggled to come with any plausible scenario in which Hillary would be better for conservatism than Trump and could think of only two. The first is that Hillary will enter office so wounded by scandal that she will be able to accomplish nothing. But I don’t find this credible. Every commanding institution of American life has revealed itself—to the extent that it hadn’t already—to be thoroughly corrupt. The FBI obviously does not want to interfere with Hillary’s ascendancy and so overlooks everything. If it finds something, it pretends it hasn’t. If forced to admit that it found something, it says it’s irrelevant. If it can’t do that, it says that “no reasonable prosecutor” would proceed. The Justice Department is even more corrupt and politicized. There is nothing that Hillary Clinton has done or could do that would cause any organ of the federal government to rise up and say “Too far!” The media will cover up and spin everything. She’s already skated on obvious crimes that have felled—and continue to fell—all manner of little people. That won’t change. Nothing to see here, move along, will be the mantra of the government and the media alike. And Scott’s sanctified “majority” will go along, conferring an ersatz legitimacy on the whole sordid spectacle.

Meanwhile, every organ of the bureaucracy—without central instruction, because they don’t need it—will press ahead, stronger than ever, with the whole progressive-left agenda, rightly confident that they have the backing of the home office.

The second scenario is the old Leninist saw: “worse is better.” She’ll screw things up so badly that people will be begging for our kind of change! Yet as one looks out over the proven failures—the wreckage—of leftism around the world, one does not see this dynamic at work anywhere, except perhaps in Eastern Europe (whose countries I note are still ethno-nationally homogenous and whose governments are vigorously resisting—in face of fierce demonization—the broader EU open borders orthodoxy). Is there a bigger failure on the planet today than Venezuela? The tragedy unfolded just as certain conservatives predicted it would. But where is the clamoring for conservatism? We are not Venezuela, Scott will say. But we become more like it every day, thanks to policies he favors. Even if we never sink quite that low, it surely is extraordinary for a “conservative” who bases so much of his objection to Trump on prudential and temperamental grounds to effectually support the election of an administration whose policies he knows will be destructive. We who support Trump are reckless, you see, but welcoming the damage from Hillary is the height of caution!

And that’s to say nothing of Scott’s casual reference to “four years.” We’ll win the next one! Really? After amnesty, refugee flows, and executive orders. But I’ve said all that, repeatedly. It’s inconvenient to Scott’s claim so he just ignores it. Just trust him, folks, it will only be four, the damage will be repairable and we can build a lasting majority around conservative ideas.

Of course, if Scott is wrong about this—as I think he plainly is—one effect will be to increase, significantly, the chances of Caesarism or secession (or something else). Has he reckoned with that possibility? In one of his myriad insults masked as a back-handed compliment, Scott “praises” my more recent tone and claims to find a contradiction between it and my prior “wild” rhetoric. He cites this as evidence of my “confusion.”

Once again, I find myself having to explain elementary things. The wild rhetoric to which Scott objects is the claim that if Hillary wins, a restoration of constitutional republicanism will almost certainly be impossible. The new “tone” is, he says, reflected by my circumspection about when Caesarism or a secessionary movement or some other possibility might emerge. I see no contradiction here at all. If Hillary wins, managerial liberalism might go on for a very long time. Yes, we will be past the point of no return to constitutionalism in the currently constituted United States, and I do not consider it “wild” to say so. But the country with its territory, government, economy, institutions, and so on might still continue for a very long time.

As bad as that might be for a lot of people—including, one would think, self-identified conservatives, though they don’t seem all that worried—it might be a great deal better than any alternative, at least for a while. “[A]ll experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” We—or those of us who can foresee a future together in common cause—will still have time to think through what might come next and what best to do. How much time, I could not say. This does not seem that complicated to me.

About Publius Decius Mus

Publius Decius Mus, or “Decius,” is the pen name of Michael Anton. He was a senior contributing editor of American Greatness from July 2016 until January 2017. He currently serves as deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications on the National Security Council.

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18 responses to “The Bankruptcy of Conservative Intellectuals”

  1. The Conservative Haute Intelligentsia is populated by folks so broad-minded that they refuse to take their own side in a fight. One frequently hears the argument from the #NeverTrump gallery that Hillary is “survivable.” What they don’t seem to grasp is that if Hillary wins the country must not simply survive one bad executive for four years, it must survive three consecutive bad executives for 24 years. From George W. Bush to two terms of Hillary (with the incumbency wind at her back who will stop her in 2020?) that’s 24 years of terrible policy, exponential increases in the power of the Federal government, the unabated importation of new Democrat voters, and thousands of statist foot-soldiers appointed to the judiciary and regulatory agencies.

    The Dems import about 500,00 new voters every year. Couple that with the amnesty that is sure to come if she wins and Democrat voter rolls will swell by 15 million in eight years, effectively turning America into a one-party state. And one does not need Darwin to recognize how quick the evolution is from one-party state to tyrant.

    I also find quite amusing the argument from the hysterics in the Democrat Party that Trump will be some orange-tinged Charles I. But between the two candidates who has the greater chance of becoming a despot? the hatred of Trump is truly a bi-partisan affair. He would be held in check by the Media, pop culture, Democrats, and Republicans who hate his guts. Who’s going to hold Hillary accountable? The Media? LOL. Democrats? LMAO. Republicans? ROTFLMAO.

    Oh and one other legacy of the #NeverTrump children that will live in infamy is the manner in which they have emboldened the Media to be more partisan and biased in their coverage of this election than they have ever dared before. “Why of course we’re trying to destroy Trump! Even his fellow Republicans think he’s a monster!” I thought 2012 was a historical low-point for objectivity in political journalism. What a sap I turned out to be.

  2. There is so much good here in this pre-general election autopsy of Conservatism, Inc. The long-moribund National Review may not be very relevant to contemporary politics but makes for a fine medical cadaver. I single out the following for special praise:

    If you’re on the left and you write a book called The Emerging Democratic Majority, that’s OK, because you’re saying the change is good. If you’re on the “right” and your book is called The New Americans, that’s OK, because—again—you’re saying that the change is good. But if you argue that the change is bad, at least for those already here, that’s unacceptable. And it’s not merely unacceptable to call the change bad. It’s unacceptable—for you—even to acknowledge the change at all. It proves you are racist. As such, you must lose your senior fellowship and contributing editorship and never be allowed to work in this town again. That’s the way it’s been in Conservatism, Inc. for at least thirty years.

    Fratricide among “conservative intellectuals” has achieved a ritualistic quality. We all know the steps: (a) an opinion leader points out the obvious, for example, the Republican Party will have to offer policies to keep working class whites within its coalition; (b) the rather unremarkable observation results in discomfort for “conservative intellectuals” who live in Blue enclaves; (c) those “conservative intellectuals” deem the opinion leader “racist” for pointing out the apparent and expel him from the movement; and (d) the “conservative intellectuals, now shy of one more troublemaker, scoot a bit more leftward and enjoy the time before the next sacrifice is demanded from the liberals whose approval they crave (it must be awesome to have the power to demand such a ceremony when an uncomfortable truth gets spoken and the virgin has to be deposited in the volcano).

    All that was fun but an aside. Your original thesis, that this was the “Flight 93 Election,” causes discomfort on a more immediate basis, the need to eat. If your premise is accepted, as it undoubtedly must be unless your critics are prepared to show how it is wrong–something they won’t attempt even when the ad hominems are withheld until the third or fourth paragraph–then there isn’t much demand for professional conservatives. So those who want to rid their Blue enclaves of Trump stain and return to work at Conservative, Inc., know they are frauds and court jesters on borrowed time if their mission is successful.

    You also are to commended for recalling those who have gone here before:

    What, you mean the wave that many in the conservative movement—including many in National Review—began warning about 30 years ago? And who were cruelly purged from the magazine and the movement for their troubles? In many cases, destroying their careers, and in some cases even their lives? Without even the slightest attempt to, you know, rebut them, I might add. You mean that wave?

    He means precisely that wave, and it is why you are derided for anonymity. The gods have been cheated.

    Finally, is Scott is a Soros troll and got a 7,100-word response that took two days to perfect, that is epic trolling. It’s a damn shame National Review wasn’t that effective in bringing about actual political change.

    Although much of this campaign has been elegiac and poignant, there remains a reasonable chance Trump actually will prevail tomorrow. Either way, Decius, your presence has been much appreciated. If the plane doesn’t go down tomorrow, I hope you stick around.

  3. Were Donald Trump to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, as he suggested, he probably would not lose any votes. Hillary Clinton, however, would be completely safe from any form of prosecution.

  4. The only thing the National Review style conservatives wish to conserve is the status quo. The progressive, big government, open borders, globalist status quo. Hell, just look at the cover story of their latest issue.

  5. National Review—and nearly all of Conservatism, Inc.—has been, throughout this cycle and well before, denouncing anyone who notices demographic change and brings it up for the wrong reason.

    National Review is an arm of the open borders movement, and the open borders movement is explicitly racist to its core. It’s goal – and the open borders people are quite open about this, indeed they brag about it – is the transformation of America into a country where whites are a minority. They long for this, it’s their Holy Grail. It’s a stunningly racist and bigoted position, but then the Monolith has complete control over all mass media so who’s going to mention that?

  6. Once again Decius is entirely excellent and correct.

    The only thing missing from his analyses of the political and social situation to date (so far as I recall them in their excellence) is a full explanation of why people who affirm they are ‘conservatives’ are so perverse – such obtuse destroyers of conservatism.

    Here is my suggestion.

    ‘Conservatism Inc.’ sees itself as a body of élite thinkers. In fact, like a lot of today’s ‘élites’ its chief distinguishing characteristic is mediocrity. Most of the people writing for National Review or sounding off on TV – the Jonah Goldbergs, the George Wills, &c – are at bottom cowardly jobsworths.

    They deem (perhaps correctly) that they would not obtain as much money, privilege and self-importance in the world outside politics – which in their case means political commentary. Getting a six-figure income every year for holding forth in think-tanks and the media is more fun than cleaning bathrooms at $15,000 p.a. And perhaps above all they enjoy being at power cocktail parties, sitting at the dinner-tables of people who are seen as movers and shakers in Congress, fancifully supposing themselves kingmakers.

    They lack the courage to jeopardise all this by stating what is actually happening to the country and in the world; namely ruin of the American nation and its best traditions by the importing of tens of millions of people from Third-World countries, populaces which are indifferent or hostile to those traditions.
    At long last, after 30 devastating years of mass immigration, a candidate appears who challenges the ruling orthodoxies on the subject, and in the process therefore makes them – the members of ‘Conservatism Inc.’ – look like what they are: fundamentally illogical, anti-rational, irrelevant to the concerns of real conservatism, woefully inapt.

    No wonder they have disliked Trump; and would have hated no less anyone else (how dignified, respectable or finely articulate soever) who espoused his policies.

    In ranting and raving against him, they have also exposed themselves as not only perverse and obtuse but also bullying and mean.

    This is another of the useful services Trump has performed these past 16 months: that of revealing in their true character the sheer collusion and nastinesses of the Uniparty, the Mainstream Media and, for what little it is now so clearly seen to be worth, of ‘Conservatism Inc.’

    It leaves us all with a very clear image of who the enemies within ARE; and the level of their commitment to the destruction of the historical USA.

    The Norwegians only found out in the Spring of 1940 to what depths a modest minority of their number – people like Vidkun Quisling – were willing to sink. But by then it was too late. The Germans had invaded their country and taken it over. Quisling jumped at the role of satrap for the Nazi regime. All that patriotic Norwegians could do (the large majority) was contemplate him and his few colleagues with disgust (and work in/support their own underground Resistance Movement); but essentially the patriotic majority had to be rescued by foreign forces in the years which followed.

    Trump’s candidacy has shone a very bright light on the enemies within the United States. Like illuminating a room with cockroaches on the floor, this has revealed unmistakably their character as the quislings of the historical American nation, revealed it in its full moral ugliness; and just possibly BEFORE it is too late.

  7. The Republican party has a huge identity problem. Hopefully the Whigs are awaiting them in Hades. Whatever they purport to stand for, when given the means to accomplish those ends they have tended to run, hide and abandon their supporters. I personally can’t stand the Democrats, but despise the GOPe. They have shown themselves to be untrustworthy and cowardly. This election cycle has put the final nail in the NR coffin for me. I don’t give a hoot what they say or think anymore.
    NR and Conservatism, Inc. have lost touch with reality. They have no more of an idea how the poor shlubs working day in and day out who have to deal with this maze of a world created by our elites. What is truly lacking here is common sense in our intelligentsia. What Bill Buckley said about being ruled by the first number of names in the phone book than by any ivy league professor applies now to NR and Conservatism, Inc.

  8. Conservatism, Inc. together with the Republican congressional leadership promised that if we elected them, they would oppose and stop Obama and his leftist agenda. They did not keep their promise. The Congressional leadership appeared to do nothing. They spoke government and bureaucratic jargon instead of plain English. When faced with a possible confrontation over a political issue, they turned tail and ran away.

    Now, these “leaders” complain because the people who do not want the leftist agenda implemented have decided not to support them. And, they question their ideas. These “leaders” responded with a group hissy fit. Essentially, they have said, “If I cannot get exactly what I want and the candidate that I want, then you can’t have my support in the electronic media and in the voting booth.”

    This leads to the silliness written every day by these ex-trendsetters. They don’t like it that others see the situation as more dire than they see it. Instead of rebutting arguments, they engage in personal insult, clown photos in their Twitter feeds, and condescension towards anyone that dares to assert a different reality than their incestuous Ivy League-Beltway-DC groupthink.

    Decius proposed the Flight 93 hypothesis. It resonated with those of us whose most fruitful grad school classes occurred at HKU. When you create a citizenry of different classes, then it should come as no surprise that those classes who are ignored and looked down upon finally have had enough with the intellectual and political BS that comprised the last 28 years of presidential politics. That condescension is reinforced by pollsters who allege that Trumpism is comprised of mainly non-college educated whites or articles in NRO with snooty titles like “In Defense of Trump Voters.” (How comforting for me to know that YOU think there is a good reason to vote for Trump even though you won’t vote for Trump because of your own suicidal and self-centered hissy fit.)

    My only disagreement with Decius centers upon my belief that the republic was buried two years ago when Chief Justice Roberts, a Conservatism Inc recommendation, held that Congress can exercise an unconstitutional commerce clause power through its power to tax – even when it calls the alleged tax a penalty. For that reason, it should now come as no surprise that the FBI Director, instead of a grand jury, can make a determination that a suspect’s behavior constituted “extreme carelessness” instead of “gross negligence” or “intent.” So, when I read Scott’s comment a few days ago, I had a similar reaction as Decius. They still don’t comprehend the Flight 93 thesis or they are willfully misrepresenting it in order to defend their own losing position.

  9. Great stuff as always from Decius. My only quibble is his unfair comparison of Conservatism Inc.’s embrace of mass immigration to the scheme hatched by South Park’s Underpants Gnomes. The Underpants Gnomes’ plan at least had a chance of working.

  10. Publius: Thank you for calling out the Tim Alberta piece in National Review. This article (featured on their cover no less!) is a textbook illustration of the vacuity that passes as thought among the conservative
    intelligentsia these days.

    “Alberta,” you note correctly, “stops short of making any actual proposals for how to deal with [the demographic] trend, but since he implicitly admits that traditional conservative appeals aren’t going to
    work, the logic of his position inevitably leads to …” well, you used several words, but I’ll condense it
    to one: surrender.

    The Republican Party probably will continue to exist (for it would look bad for the leader of the world’s democracy project to be a one-party state) but it will be an emasculated party of the center-Left like most of the European “conservative” parties.

    Lately, reading NR (with a few notable exceptions like Dennis Prager and Victor Davis Hanson) is like walking into some kind of alternate universe completely divorced from reality. Kevin Williamson, one of the most ardent of the anti-Trumpers, recently penned a piece on NR’s Corner (“Do This, Don’t Do That”) that actually contained a sensible compromise proposal on immigration. He proposes pairing strong border and workplace enforcement with an overhaul of the legal immigration system that would replace family reunification with a merit based system favoring high income, high net worth immigrants. Of course, Mrs. Clinton would sooner cut off her legs than sign a bill that would deprive her party of an endless stream of new voters. Only the election of a President Trump could make such a reform possible, but that is, to Williamson, literally unthinkable.

    But then again he is one of those breezy optimists who thinks that all of this crisis talk is way over-tense anyway. “The United States of America is not a wreck,” he recently wrote. “Trumpkin rhetoric notwithstanding, we are not being overrun by Third World hordes … This is not the end. The people who are telling you that it is … are trying to sell you something. Don’t buy it.”

    Just chill! He’s talking to you, Publius (and me).

    If his attitude is at all representative of the NR crowd, then you can expect absolutely nothing from these people.

    • he is one of those breezy optimists who thinks that all of this crisis talk is way over-tense anyway.

      I’m sure that all the wealthy people the NR writers meet on their post election cruise agree that everything in the country is going just fine. They’re the audience NR plays to.

  11. November 9, 2016.

    What a relief!

    I consider Mr Trump’s election as president no less significant for the continuation of the principle of the freedom of the human individual under law, and what as a Christian I shall have to term – for want of a better word – ‘civilization’ here on Earth, than victory in the Battle of Britain 1940; or indeed the Greeks’ defeat of the Persians much longer ago.

    In one aspect (I do not say others) Decius’ and American Greatness’s mission is accomplished.

    Henceforth the NeverTrumpers of ‘Conservatism Inc.’ will be considered in the same light as the Appeasers of the 1920s and ’30s seen from the perspective of 1940. When thought of at all (they are now, mercifully, entirely irrelevant) they will be considered with contempt.

  12. Last night, as I was watching the election returns, it occurred to me, “I wonder what Decius is doing right now? Probably rolling around on the floor in the throes of spontaneous, earth-shattering orgasms.” Can’t wait to see your response to this, D.