The New Yorker on the “Greatness Agenda”

The January 9, 2017 edition of The New Yorker features a story titled “Intellectuals for Trump,” which highlights the work of Publius Decius Mus and American Greatness. Here’s a short excerpt:

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.

The essay was meant to provoke conservatives, and it succeeded. Ross Douthat, of the Times, responded that Decius had underestimated the likelihood that a Trump Presidency would damage both the country and the movement. On Twitter, Douthat wrote, “I’d rather risk defeat at my enemies’ hands than turn my own cause over to a incompetent tyrant.” The Web site of National Review, the eminent conservative magazine, published a series of critiques, including one by Jonah Goldberg, who called Decius’s central metaphor “grotesquely irresponsible.” No doubt Goldberg expected that, before long, he would be able to reminisce about that strange week, near the end of an endless campaign, when a blogger using a pen name was the most talked-about conservative columnist in America.

But for conservative intellectuals, as for so many others, November 8th did not mark a return to normalcy.

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

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10 responses to “The New Yorker on the “Greatness Agenda””

  1. “Only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise”

    That’s a bit hysterical. People act as if Trump is an aberration in both his style and his specific policy preferences. In fact he’s solidly in what would have been considered “normal” for the bulk of American history. It’s only in the last two or three decades that we have seen “The Rise of The Lawyers” and the acceptance that all politicians should speak and behave like lawyers.

    Politicians used to commonly speak to, and at least on occasion for, ordinary people. Trump is a politician in the tradition of a Teddy Roosevelt or an FDR, a JFK or a Reagan. The fact that he does not behave like a Ivy League law school graduate is a plus, not a minus. The corruption in our republic comes precisely from the class of people who think that their own behavior can never be considered corrupt – because after all, they make the law.

    • Decius wrote that quote in ‘The Flight 93 Election” not as a disparagement of Trump but rather in answer to the question (quoting from TF93E, again) “…how bad are things really?”. He was speaking about the state of the Republic, calling it “dying”, “corrupt”, as well the Times being “corrupt”. Only in such a Republic and in such Times could such a figure find a strong following. If the citizens were assured that things were just fine, then there would be no need. Either the Progs would be found satisfactory, or “Conservative, Inc” would, But the primaries showed neither were.
      In chiding “Conservative, Inc” for opposing Trump (therefore exposing that it finds that the status quo is just fine [for THEM, it is/was]), he wrote:
      “Conservatism, Inc.’s, answer [to the question ‘how bad are things really’] … may, at this point, simply be dismissed. If the conservatives wish to have a serious debate,I for one am game—more than game; eager. The problem of “subjective certainty” can only be overcome by going into the agora. But my attempt to do so—the blog that Kesler mentions—was met largely with incredulity.How can they say that?! How can anyone apparently of our caste (conservative intellectuals) not merely support Trump (however lukewarmly) but offer reasons for doing do?

      One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying. That possibility, apparently, seems to them so preposterous that no refutation is necessary”.

  2. I was only able to read about half of this article in the New Yawkeh. The intemperate and anti-intellectual language and bias are obvious, which in my mind only raises Decius’s value. I printed his original essay to give to my son.

  3. There are so many benefits from the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election victory, one loses count.

    For a start, all the so-called Elites are revealed as the fifth-rate mediocrities they are.

    They react to what has happened not by listening to the views of the people who voted the ‘wrong’ way on each of those occasions – and Listening is a part of Communication – but by doubling down on the bullying they have been doing all along.

    They denounce us rubes and schlubs as ignorant, racist, sexist, fascist, old, deplorable; they invest more than ever in their preposterous identity politics and fake stories.

    They make the French royal family during the French Revolution look mature, considerate, prudent, in comparison. Really.

    They find themselves in a deep hole – of authority, credibility, prospects – and keep on digging with the vigour of men burrowing to save their lives.

    What can they do but confirm everyone’s worst suspicions about them; look more than ever unworthy of support; and go flying off into a small niche of generally perceived Political Loonydom?

    It is no less splendid than funny.

  4. Just learned about you from the New Yorker article via Real Clear Politics, and so glad I did. You’re book marked and I’ll be back often. The “mainstream” conservative media alienated a lot of us during the election, and we’ll never trust them again. Time for new voices. Thanks!

    • Which is why ANY exposure by MSM is a positive for AG.
      Welcome, you will enjoy it here at AG. Be sure to read all of Decius’ works here – and click the links inside his pieces for even more good stuff.

      • Thank you! You know, as I look back on it, I think I have to be grateful to the NeverTrumpers, sort of, for opening my mind to a different way of looking at conservatism. Edmund Burke, and his heir Russell Kirk, were famously not fans of ideology, and what conservatism had become showed me why that could be the case with a ideology I totally agreed with. I will look forward to see how this all works out in “the movement” and in my own thinking in the years to come.

  5. Just heard of you all from Jonah Goldberg’s snarky and snotty column. At least it alerted me to something more enlightening than today’s NR! I’ll be a reader