A feature article ran yesterday at Politico Magazine on Hillsdale College, the small liberal arts college in southern Michigan that’s one of the last best hopes on earth for making citizens. The article details how Hillsdale is increasing its reach and influence during the Trump presidency.
It’s not a bad piece, but it could have been better. Its opening sentence is an eye-roller (“Trump University never died.”), and contrary to the piece’s overarching argument, Hillsdale President Larry Arnn did not “accommodate” Trump or cast aside his principles to worship at the president’s feet. He saw clearly the manifest problems with conservatism and, alternatively, the hope that Trump offered to our nation in promising to stop the gears of the administrative state and return consent back to the people.
The DC Establishment still cannot comprehend the idea that supporting and voting for Trump was not a capitulation of principles or some kind of Freudian neurosis. Instead, it was a rational realization that he was the only one standing on the right principles and who could actually appeal to enough Americans to be elected to national office.
As the piece notes over and over, there has been some backlash among certain cliques on campus about inviting Vice President Pence to speak at commencement and Hillsdale’s general openness to acknowledging the importance of politics. But this is misguided.
The regime is in danger. Creating little platoons won’t help when the Left is coming with bulldozers and tanks and grenades. You may not be interested in the Left, but the Left is interested in you. Without a stable regime, good luck trying to live the contemplative life.
Further, the anti-political argument mistakes the contemplative life for the highest life as such. While it is the highest life for obtaining theoretical wisdom, for those interested in practical enterprises, it is not adequate to the task. Practical wisdom (phronesis) concerns itself fundamentally with doing rather than knowing. As Winston Churchill once said, “After all, a man’s Life must be nailed to a cross either of Thought or Action.” Even though Churchill poured over Aristotle, Plutarch, and Gibbon, we know which cross he chose.