Willock and Hitchcock: How the Golden State Became the Intellectual Capital of Trump’s GOP – The American Interest

In the northern half of the state, there’s Victor Davis Hanson, the celebrated Hoover Institution classicist who has favorably described Trump as a “D-11 bulldozer blade” against a bankrupt Acela establishment, and Ron Unz, an idiosyncratic Bay Area political activist and entrepreneur who publishes the Unz Review, a Trump-friendly, highbrow online journal with a devoted following.

Curtis Yarvin, the software developer and founding blogger of “neoreactionary” thought—an anti-democratic ideology popular among a slice of Silicon Valley engineers—also lives in the Bay Area. Though Yarvin’s writings are more philosophical than political and he has never explicitly given Trump his stamp of approval, he is widely cited on the pro-Trump alt-right. In particular, he has been associated with Peter Thiel, the billionaire San Francisco author, entrepreneur, and lapsed libertarian granted a prime-time speaking slot at the GOP convention in Cleveland.

Venturing hundreds of miles down the Pacific Coast, past the Monterey Bay and across the San Gabriel Mountains, there’s Steve Sailer, a controversial, widely read right-wing blogger based in Los Angeles known for pioneering the concept of “human biodiversity”—another pillar of the alt-right—and Mickey Kaus, the former New Republic writer and author-turned-anti-immigration wonk who started boosting the eventual nominee on his data-heavy blog early in the primaries.

Finally, the Claremont Institute—a conservative think tank also headquartered in Los Angeles County—brings the most brainpower and organizational heft to the pro-Trump intellectual project. “Publius Decius Mus,” a pseudonymous writer for the Claremont Review of Books, made waves last month with a scorched-earth screed (“The Flight 93 Election”) in defense of the candidate and against the alleged impotence of New York-Washington conservative thought leaders in the face of the country’s relentless leftward march. The California publication followed up on this lengthy treatise with another piece, “After the Republic,” in which international relations scholar Angelo Codevilla pronounces the American democratic experiment dead and identifies the selection of a post-republican emperor as the sole remaining task for principled conservatives in 2016. A recently published list of pro-Trump intellectuals disproportionately consisted of signatories who were either Claremont scholars or alumni of Claremont Graduate University.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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