[T]oday, three generations after Buckley and Burnham, the academy and the mass media are arguably more hostile to conservative ideas than ever, and the courts and the bureaucracy are trending in a similar direction.
Reflecting on this harsh reality has confirmed some conservatives in their belief that the managerial order is inherently left wing, and that the goal of a conservative politics should be to sweep the managerial class away entirely. This is part of the appeal of Trump to a small cohort within the right’s intelligentsia, who imagine that his strongman approach can unweave the administrative state and strip the overclass of all its powers.
This idea strikes me as fatuous and fantastical at once. But is there an alternative? Continetti’s essay hints at one: to make intellectual conservatism a more elite-focused project, to seek “a conservative tinged Establishment capable of permeating the managerial society and gradually directing it in a prudential, reflective, virtuous manner respectful of both freedom and tradition.”
This path seems considerably more appealing (and more republican) than the dream of a Trump-led Thermidor. But is it any more plausible? To begin anew, at such steep disadvantages, what amounts to missionary work?
Or, as another alternative, conservative elites might simply try to build a more intellectually serious populism out of the Trumpian wreckage and wait for a less toxic backlash against liberal overreach to ride back into power. But can the populist right actually be de-Hannitized, de-Trumpified, rendered 100 percent Breitbart-free? Or would building on populism once again just repeat the process that led conservatism to its present end?
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