3: The Dark Features of Trumpism

TRUMPISM WAS LAUNCHED anonymously, and defined unmistakably, by a group of erudite writers who flash-published a blog on “radical Trumpism” in February 2016. The blog’s title was grand – Journal of American Greatness (JAG) – and the blog posts took critical aim at the Republican, not the Democratic Party. The authors hid behind mainly Roman pseudonyms, such as “Plautus” and “Cato the Elder,” but also “Macaulay,” because Trump and Trumpism were still considered preposterous at the time. JAG revealed the dark features of Trumpism.

“Radical Trumpism” was a concerted attack on “conservatism’s self-imposed intellectual stagnation.” It surpassed the earlier Tea Party critique of mainstream Republicanism with politico-theoretical sophistication and steered democratic conservatism sharply to the Right, toward an anti-democratic, nationalistic program. The masked authors declared:

We support Trumpism, defined as secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy, and above all judging every government action through a single lens: does this help or harm Americans? For now, the principal vehicle of Trumpism is Trump.1

When asked – “Who are you?” – the group responded: “We are American patriots aghast at the stupidity and corruption of American politics, particularly in the Republican Party, and above all in what passes for the ‘conservative’ intellectual movement.” When asked again – “Literally, who are you guys?” – the answer was: “None of your damned business.” Of course, all these questions and answers were rhetorical. The JAGsters thumbed their noses at the establishment of the Republican Party by simply responding “Yes” to the question: “Is this journal pro-Trump or anti-conservative?”

In June 2016, after publishing 130 articles,2 the online journal called it a day with a thank-you notice from its anonymous authors to their readers (“we never expected so many of you”) and the promise to return “in a different way” should another market for their ideas open up.3 No further explanation given; exploratory mission accomplished. JAG had drawn a blueprint for the education of Donald Trump, the vehicle of Trumpism; and it had set the goal posts for the American populist movement of the twenty-first century: first, what needs to be done; second, what has to be defended; and third, what must be erased from the national interest (nothing less than the mission to spread democracy).

First on JAG’s agenda was the required doing. The candidate had to be taught the proper job of government: none other than “to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property.” No doubt was left about the correct beneficiaries of this objective. With the emphasis on “its” citizens, JAG flagged American citizens as the only legitimate recipients of US government protection. In addition, radical Trumpism demanded an aggressive posture in favor of anti-globalization and America First.

The expansion of globalism (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, with some reservations, on the nationalist side.4

No reservations were specified, but US nationalism was asserted. Three weeks after winning the presidency, Trump toed JAG’s line on the issue of globalism.

There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag. From now on, it’s going to be America first. OK? America first. We’re going to put ourselves first.5

Second on JAG’s agenda was the item to be defended. The cloaked presidential educators illuminated the world-historical moment and articulated their preference for a conservative Christian, if not retro-Catholic, world order.

The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order… On this point we are, with some reservations, on the conservative side.6

Again, the reservations remained unstated. Trump does not have to have the capacity to address the Manichaean battle between the “disciples of Truth” and the evil cohorts of social engineers, but he can tear everything down JAG disdains, including science.7 For example: “Global warming is based on faulty science and manipulated data which is proven by the emails that were leaked.”8 Trump’s strength are his dark tweets to millions of followers. Little does it matter that thousands of scientists in the US and all over the world protested and staged marches for science on Earth Day 2017.9 Science bashing is justified in JAG’s religious worldview, which features “Truth” (with capital “T”) in opposition to “scientific utopias.”

Third on JAG’s syllabus was the ban of irrelevant things. It included first and foremost the stern prohibition to promote democracy.

The century’s most blatant force of Wilsonian utopianism10 is the indiscriminate democracy agenda. We consider “promotion” of “democracy” neither desirable nor possible in all circumstances, nor honorable. We find ourselves irrevocably at war with both parties’ refusal to acknowledge the disasters wrought by the Freedom Agenda and the Right to Protect.11

A prime target of this a double-barreled attack was the legacy of Republican President George W. Bush, who, in 2005, after his reelection had announced the global “Freedom Agenda” that tied US foreign policy “to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world.”12

The other bipartisan “disaster” in the crosshairs of JAG was an understanding that all member states of the UN had reached between 2005 and 2009, namely: “each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”13 This UN obligation – incidentally not termed Right to Protect but Responsibility to Protect – drew the ire of JAG, because it curtailed the absolute right of nation states to reject and block foreign interventions.

Allowing the international community to hold states “accountable for the welfare of their people” was an achievement for the UN. It meant “sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference.”14 For oppressed people, this was not a guarantee of protection, but an assertion of their inalienable human rights. Yet for hypernationalists, such as the ideologues of JAG, this was an utterly unacceptable assault on rightful US power. For them, it meant the UN and global society could occasionally overrule the US, i.e. somebody else could come first and the US second – no way!

The curriculum of Trump’s virtual teachers went further. Not only did it include education about “blatant” utopian overreaches – promoting democracy, seeking to end tyranny, and entitling the UN to tell sovereign nations how to handle themselves humanely – but also instruction about the foolishness of accommodating the transnational interests of multinational corporations.

Asserting the duty of the national leader to put the combined economic interests of the nation above the self-interests of individual market players, JAG warned about the “pressure of oligopolies (especially financial oligopolies)” and slammed unidentified “multinational conglomerates [that] have clearly identified themselves with doctrinaire multiculturalist and globalist objectives.” Yielding to a societal reform program like multiculturalism was herewith verboten. JAG ended this course with a history lesson:

No superstition has more effectively bewitched America’s elite than the fashionable concepts of world government, the United Nations, internationalism, interconnected economies, etc. Perhaps the most important and readily demonstrable lesson of history is that remote government is irresponsible government. It would make greater sense to grant independence to each of our 50 states than to surrender U.S. sovereignty to a world organization.15

Defying JAG on an all-negative verdict about “surrendering” sacred national power to “remote” organizations, President-elect Trump tweeted about the “great potential,” yet “sad” performance of the UN on December 26, 2016 (Figure 1). His pick of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for American ambassador to the UN was a sensible choice. Even though endorsed for governor by Sarah Palin, Governor Haley had ordered the Confederate flag removed from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. She had gained some international experience visiting India and a couple of other countries (Germany and Sweden).16

Born Nimrata Randhawa in the US to an Indian American Sikh family from Amritsar district in Punjab, India, she was featured with banners all over Amritsar after becoming governor of South Carolina. Yet Haley started her first day at the UN by ominously warning critics of the US, “we’re taking names.”17 There is certainly more to come from her and the Trump administration about global affairs and I would be very astonished if it were positive about global organizations.

Figure 1: Donald Trump, UN Tweet, 26 Dec. 2016 | Source @realDonaldTrump

WHEN THE BLOG on radical Trumpism went offline in June 2016, one of the anonymous writers for JAG kept publishing under his pen name, which was Publius Decius Mus. The historic Decius Mus was a Roman consul who had sacrificed himself in battle. The Trumpian Decius was a public enigma for one year, until February 2, 2017. That day, his identity and workplace were uncovered. I will come to this revelation later. Now, I would like to continue with Decius and discuss his strong Trumpism under the Rawlsian “veil of ignorance,” that is, the pretension to know nothing about the actual person behind the cover.

Decius entered the election-year arena of conservative political debates with the essay “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism.”18 It was published by The Unz Review, an “alternative” blogging platform for unsavory political perspectives, and quickly re-published by JAG, where an Editors’ Note disclosed a bit of background, namely that the article had been rejected by a conservative think-tank, for which it had been written in the first place. The reported concerns (“some readers would see it as an endorsement of Trump;” the immigration part shows “thymos but not enough logos”19) indicated how unlikely the success of Trump and Trumpism appeared in March 2016.

The denizens of the right-wing blogosphere around Unz Review, JAG, and Breitbart News were ready to accept Decius’s verdicts, “mainstream conservative intellectuals” are “wholly useless” and “Donald Trump is in a commanding position to win the Republican presidential nomination.”20 They saw a path to Trump’s nomination, but they were still unsure about his prospects of becoming President. Only a neutral political scientist went that far in March 2016 and predicted: “Trump is in a commanding position to defeat Clinton in November.”21

A smart move of Decius was the bold proposition that Trump’s “scattershot” approach, “inchoate and incomplete” as it was, could be fashioned into “a coherent body of thought.” In early 2016, when mainstream Republicans were taking cover from the daily Trumpian shower of dark words, Decius’s article announced: This “unformed and instinct-driven” candidate, who is “no man of ideas,” has nevertheless the right ideas, furthermore, those ideas can and must be assembled into a sensible and coherent political philosophy of Trumpism, “something Trump himself cannot provide.”

The world wondered, what gave Trump the electoral edge? According to Decius, two words above all: “America First.” Skipping the history of the America First Committee (“unfairly maligned”), Decius declared, “politics is by nature particular,” and, “our elites have forgotten or smugly deny” this deep understanding of politics, which the ancients, Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon, still had and used to their advantage.

Decius offered the insight, “here on the ground, the distinctions between citizen and foreigner, compatriot and outsider, friend and enemy [will] never go away.” Trump’s incitement to “Take Our Country Back!” resonated so well with many Americans, Decius argued, because the American people “always felt in their bones their particularity, their uniqueness, their status as a people distinct from other peoples.” For Decius, this gut feeling and the shouts “America First” pointed “to the heart of Trumpism,” which, I would add, is full of darkness.

Trumpism works with the assumption of rightful owners and illegitimate transgressors who steal a possession or take advantage of a property (“our country”) that is not theirs. Otherwise, any “taking back” would be an inexcusable wrongdoing.

Who, then, are the rightful owners of America? And who are the thieves and illegal occupants of the country? Decius tackled both questions in one answer: “The Constitution and the social impact it enshrines are for us – the American people – and not for foreigners, immigrants (except those we choose to welcome), or anyone else.”

Decius’s message was clear. The rightful owners of America are we. America is for us and not for them, that is, immigrants and resident aliens. Yet if America needs to be taken back from the non-us, they must have taken our country from us, the rightful owners. But how did that happen?

Decius had the answer. “Mass Third World immigration” has “overwhelmed, eroded, and de-Americanized formerly American communities.” The “unrelenting onslaught” of “incompatible people” (think Muslims) is taking America away from us and “poses an existential threat … to the nation.” Yet this was not primarily the immigrants’ fault, but rather “the spectacular failure of our elites,” who are helping “globalized elites” instead of the people “they ostensibly lead.”

Decius’s answer called for corrective action against the American establishment without explicitly identifying its members or specifying the measures to be taken. Severe measures seemed appropriate, because the argument that America’s leaders had become her internal enemies, subservient to “the Davos overclass,” was an accusation of treason. Clearly, America had to be repossessed from treacherous politicians, Republican and Democratic.

Let the full enormity of the crisis we face finally be realized. The left supports mass immigration and the Davos economy – top plus bottom against the middle – for obvious [electoral] reasons. Republicans support it in fealty to their true masters (their donor class) and in the vain hope that they will get credit from the left for not being “racist.”

Determined to face the overdramatized national crisis and unafraid of the racism epithet, Decius topped his all-out critique with a principal denial of mass immigration. Liberally riffing on Abraham Lincoln’s point that the authors of the Declaration of Independence “intended to include all men, but did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects,” he turned Lincoln’s reference to differences “in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity” into a “crucial caveat.” This, however, is Decius’s, not Lincoln’s caveat.

Lincoln refuted the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court (the ruling that blacks have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect”22) and upheld “that the language of the Declaration is broad enough to include the whole human family.”23 What was crucial for Decius and radical Trumpism is not what Lincoln said, but rather what Trump can say and we should think, namely that all humans are unequal in politically important respects. Decius’s uncompromising view of “the immigration issue” is built on predictable, substantial, and “irreconcilable” differences spelled out with aplomb.

People from different nations with different circumstances, histories, beliefs and traditions will – by definition – hold very different conceptions of good government, some irreconcilably opposed to our own. It has been said that a principal cause of Rome’s fall was that “many men who never knew republican life and did not care for it … became Roman citizens.” Why then do we Americans continue to import millions upon millions who have never known republican life and do not care for it? In doing so, we do not uphold our Founding creed; we hasten and enable its oblivion.24

Decius likes to pepper his texts with quotes from ancient philosophy and Roman history. Yet that does not make him a scholar in the vein of the Ciceronian art of learning from history – historia magistra vitae est (Cicero, De Oratore, II, 36) – but merely a raider of the classical canon for political ends. (Marcus Tullius Cicero would have made a great pen name for Decius, too, hadn’t Cicero ended up an enemy of the authoritarian state with his severed head and hands displayed on the Rostra.) Anyway, who was it that supposedly said the naturalization of too many foreigners was “a principal cause” for the fall of Rome? Well, the unnamed author was Leo Strauss and the original passage reads as follows:

Apart from her excessive virtue, the second reason for Rome’s greatness was her liberal admission of foreigners to citizenship. But such a policy exposes a state to great dangers, as the Athenians and especially the Spartans knew who feared that the admixture of new inhabitants would corrupt the ancient customs. Owing to the Roman policy, many men who never knew republican life and did not care for it, that is, many orientals, became Roman citizens.25

Let’s note an important difference between Decius and Strauss. Strauss argued that the “liberal admission of foreigners to citizenship” was a cause for Rome’s rise. Decius turned Strauss’s qualified argument upside down to say exactly the opposite, and, using the obfuscating weasel words “it has been said,” insinuate that Rome’s liberal immigration policy was “a principal cause” for the fall of Rome. Wow!

Decius employs “counterfeit logic” (the term Lincoln used to criticize Judge Douglas) to fit his sources to his views. This would be unacceptable in any scholarly context. But Decius cares more about the design of radical politics than proper hermeneutics. So, backed by Strauss and Roman history or not, the principal framer of Trumpism condemns the “ceaseless importation of people unaccustomed to liberty,” because radical Trumpism warrants a highly restrictive immigration policy.

To support radical Trumpism with another strong populist leg, Decius sounded a loud warning about both the unhealthiness of exorbitant private wealth and the doctrine of “free market über alles!” (German in the original). Fully aware of the irony that “it took a dissident billionaire to wake us up to the fact that America has decayed into an oligarchy,” he questioned the overall direction of the American economy:

Is it to produce pretty numbers in Labor Department and Heritage Foundation reports? Or is it to serve human welfare? More specifically, what is the American economy for? Is it to raise standards of living for the Third World poor while enriching transnational billionaires at the expense of the American middle and working classes? Or to serve the interests of the American people?26

Decius went further and identified Bill Gates as un-American:

Is it necessary – or healthy – for our richest citizen to hold literally one million times the wealth, not of our poorest citizen, but of the median income? A fortune he is spending, I need hardly add, not on magnificent bequeaths to his own country or civilization, but on social engineering the Third World.

Decius ended blasting the .01 percenters and above:

Conservative politicians and intellectuals alike have helped create, and continue to help maintain, a new class of tax-exempt aristocrats, well beyond ducally rich, who are not loyal to the American people, American interests, or America itself.

According to Decius, Trumpism must complement the prohibition of mass immigration with a muscular implementation of economic nationalism. Doing that in the beginning of Trump’s presidency will allow Trump to deliver on popular campaign promises and set the stage for his reelection and a long-term revival of the nation. Decius made no bones about his long-term view of Trumpism beyond Trump: “Trumpism is too important to be left to Trump.” Radical Trumpism beyond Trump is the panacea for all of America’s illnesses; it must be taken over the long haul.

On September 5, 2016, Decius raised the stakes of his design for America with an article invoking United Airlines Flight 93. Americans remember September 11, 2001, when four Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked a domestic airplane with the intention to fly it into the White House or the Capitol, yet crew and passengers fought back and the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board, but missing the intended target. Using the heroic example of the passengers and flight attendants, the article opened with the sentence: “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway.”27

Since the 2016 election was only two months away, reactions quickly piled up in the online niche worlds of the Far Right, many of them below the horizon of mainstream media. Surprised by this sizable reception, Decius responded swiftly, “Everything I said … was derivative of things I had already said, with … more vim and vigor, in a now-defunct blog.” However, he was happy to restate his main points.28 And when pro-Trump radio-host Rush Limbaugh appreciated the essay as a “nuclear bomb”29 and New York Times columnist David Brooks honored it with a Sidney Award at the end of 2016,30 Decius had become the acknowledged mastermind of Trumpism.

“The Flight 93 Election” essay was a breakthrough performance. Its message was unequivocal:

  • Trump and radical Trumpism are the last chance to rescue the American people from suppression “by a transnational managerial class in conjunction with the administrative state.”
  • The American “governing arrangement” is enforced by a “bipartisan junta.”
  • Only “the colorful loudmouth with the sensible agenda” has the guts to reject that “experts must rule because various advances (the march of history) have made governing too complicated for public deliberation.”
  • Only Trump and radical Trumpism have the will and the ability to stop the oligarchs from exploiting America and its people.
  • Only the empowerment of Trump and radical Trumpism can save the country from becoming “a blue state on a national scale.”

Decius gave the 2016 election an existential either/or urgency: Either Trump and Trumpism will be authorized to reset US conservatism and recover the American “constitutional republic” or the junta will freeze American life “under perma-liberalism.”31

The price America will have to pay for enabling Trump plus radical Trumpism (call it T-Plus) was of course never enumerated. It is incalculable, but occasional asides, such as “billionaire enemy alien”32 for George Soros, historical precedence, cautionary evidence provided by populist leaders currently in power, and smart commentary, liberal as well as conservative, could and should be consulted. For example, a sympathetic observer of radical Trumpism foresaw in January 2017:

In the next four years, expect a continual war on intellectuals and academics (who, not surprisingly, are almost absent from the Trump cabinet), the media, the political establishment, and the progressive class, whose lavish lifestyle and preachy rhetoric are irreconcilable.”33

These groups had already been put on notice by Decius, but American research universities have reason to worry, too. Cato the Elder, one of JAG’s “great teachers,” wrote in March 2016:

If America were still properly a constitutional republic, we would not have to fear the will of the executive; the legislative branch could easily bring it to heel. The problem is that all of the establishment elites are defenders of the administrative state. The question is whether Trump will be able to begin the process of re-establishing the authority of the people. In appealing directly to them, he has bypassed the intellectual authority of the knowledge elite. … The real source of power in the modern state is the research university.34

T-PLUS IS A serious and militant ideology. It harks back to the Machiavellian and Hobbesian line of political thought crystalized in the work of Carl Schmitt, whom I have already mentioned as the Nazi theorist of the friend-enemy distinction. This dark tradition reached the US via Leo Strauss. After the election of Trump, disciples of this tradition gained outsize influence in American politics. Their voices are now heard in the Oval Office. How come?

The journey began in Weimar Germany in 1932. Strauss had reviewed Schmitt’s Concept of the Political in a leading German social science journal,35 and Schmitt wrote a letter of recommendation for Strauss (who was preparing an edition of Moses Mendelssohn’s works for the Academy of the Science of Judaism in Berlin, but had lost his research position due to financial difficulties of the Academy). Schmitt’s letter helped, and Strauss received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to work on Thomas Hobbes in Paris. The fellowship was renewed in 1933 and Strauss continued his research on Hobbes in London and Cambridge. In 1937, Columbia University invited Strauss to New York for a visiting lecturer position in history, and the following year, he moved across town to the New School for Social Research. Strauss stayed as a member of the Graduate Faculty of the New School for ten years before joining the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago in 1949 at age 50.36

Teaching at UChicago until 1967, Strauss and many of his students became influential, if not notorious, on the conservative side of American culture and politics. “Accused of being the intellectual godfather of the neo-conservative political movement” as well as other machinations, Strauss cast his intellectual shadow over both coasts of the United States. To quote an inside voice:

Straussians are generally identified with the GOP’s neoconservative intelligentsia. But not all Straussians are created equal. There are, very roughly, two major schools: The East Coast Straussians, most of whom were influenced by Allan Bloom and Harvey Mansfield; The West Coast Straussians, the focal point of which is the Claremont Graduate School where Harry Jaffa used to teach, and the Claremont Institute. Members of this latter school are often known as the Claremonsters, whether they studied at Claremont or not.37

Claremont historian Harry Jaffa was a doctoral student of Strauss at the New School; the master himself taught for one year at Claremont Men’s College after his retirement from Chicago. According to Hedley Wight from the white-supremacist and anti-Semitic VDARE (We Dare) Foundation, West Coast Straussians are largely Catholic oriented and US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and natural law focused, whereas East Coast Straussians tend to be secular Jews with universal values and a global outlook.

The Schmitt-Straussian connection is a live wire intertwined with reactionary American politics and culture – nationalist, populist, nativist, racist, militarist, protectionist, isolationist, and libertarian. And thanks to the appointment of Stephen Bannon of right-wing Breitbart News as “Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President,” an aggressive spokesman for radical Trumpism entered the West Wing of the White House on January 20, 2017.

FINALLY, WHO IS the man who hid behind “Decius,” where does he live, and what does he do for a living?

A staff writer for the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh, was probably the first journalist to interview Decius in the flesh. Sanneh had recognized that “a rogue group of conservative thinkers” was constructing “a governing ideology around a President-elect who disdains ideology” and found, “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.” After identifying Decius as the master mind of radical Trumpism, Sanneh made contact and agreed not to unmask Decius, who was afraid of jeopardizing his employment. The two met in midtown Manhattan, in the food court of Grand Central Terminal.

The man known as Decius was tall and fit, a youthful middle-aged professional dressed in a well-tailored gray suit and a pink shirt. He has worked in the finance world, but he talked about political philosophy with the enthusiasm of someone who would do it for fun, which is essentially what he does.38

Sanneh was right about the enthusiasm and wrong about the fun. The Trumpist “known as Decius” certainly enjoyed stirring up transnational Davos people and traditional conservatives, but to think Decius was presenting his political philosophy essentially for fun, was missing the point. Decius is dead serious about his project. Forget the agreeable person in the food court, who “endeavored to fold his long legs beneath a small table,” and consider the radical ideas man. As Decius said, “in the final analysis, there is going to be a line. Some will be on one side, some on the other.”39 This is the line between friends and enemies in the blood-soaked neighborhood of Schmitt.

On February 2, 2017, shortly after Sanneh’s interview and one year after JAG’s appearance in the blogosphere, the Weekly Standard broke the news about the actual person behind the veil of Decius. A prominent outlet for East Coast Straussians, the Standard took pleasure in “doxing” a rival West Coast Straussian who had become “the leading conservative intellectual to argue for the election of Donald Trump.”

Staff writer Michael Warren identified Decius as Michael Anton, “a fast-talking 47-year-old intellectual who, unlike most of his colleagues, can readily quote [and misquote] Roman histories and Renaissance thinkers.” This revelation was not a complete surprise since William Kristol, the Standard’s founding editor, had called the Flight 93 article “elegantly-written garden-variety sophistry” in early September 2016, “I presume the author is Mike Anton.”40 The totally unexpected information was Anton’s workplace: “The writer is a senior national-security official in the Trump White House.”41

Warren further disclosed that Anton had been a speechwriter and press secretary for former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, worked from 2001 to 2005 in the George W. Bush administration as an aide for the National Security Council (NSC), then as a speechwriter for Rupert Murdoch, communications director at Citigroup, and managing director at BlackRock, the world’s largest investment corporation and shadow bank. Warren expressed understanding for the cloaking of Anton’s identity:

With that résumé, it’s no wonder the man who referred to the “Davos class” as a “junta” and wrote that it would “be better for the nation to divide up more equitably a slightly smaller pie than to add one extra slice” chose to write under a pseudonym.

Betraying the global financial elite, noted the Standard, was one thing, but tearing down Republican conservatism and becoming “a traitor to his class of conservative intellectuals” was unforgivable. According to Warren, Anton got the position of senior director of strategic communications after first choice Monica Crowley had backed out just before Trump was sworn in.42

Bannon, the most offensive fighter in the Trump administration, was expected to carry the ideas of radical Trumpism into the White House. Then the plot against America suddenly thickened. The veil of ignorance was lifted, and the news was stunning (Figure 2): the most sophisticated ideologue of American populism was reporting to work – in the West Wing!

Figure 2: “From Carl Schmitt to Mike Anton,” 3 Feb. 2017 | Source @BillKristol

The quip, history repeats itself “first as tragedy, then as farce,” is from Karl Marx (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, 1852). Kristol took it to belittle Anton, who is shown with notebook and glasses in the doorway of the White House Briefing Room along with K. T. McFarland and retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Anton’s boss and Trump’s National Security Advisor at the time.43 Kristol was right about the Schmitt connection, also about Anton as the country’s leading authoritarian and antidemocratic intellectual, but I wonder about the farce – America may be in for a tragedy.

  1. JAG Recovered, “Who Are We?
  2. See JAG List of Contents from February to June 2016 (with links to nowhere).
  3. JAG “Notice to Our Readers.” Journal of American Greatness, June 2016.
  4. JAG Recovered, “Our Mission Statement.”
  5. Vaughn Hillyard, “Trump Pledges ‘America First’ in Speech on Victory Tour.” NBC News, 1 Dec. 2016.
  6. See above, note 4.
  7. See “Trump’s Views on Science Are Shockingly Ignorant.” Scientific American, 1 Nov. 2016.
  8. See tweet @realDonaldTrump.
  9. Nicholas St Fleur, “Scientists, Feeling Under Siege, March Against Trump Policies.” The New York Times, 22 April 2017.
  10. A reference to President Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” from January 1918, which drew on progressive foreign policy ideas about democracy, national self-determination, open instead of secret agreements, and free trade.
  11. See above, note 4.
  12. George W. Bush, “Fact Sheet: President Bush’s Freedom Agenda.”
  13. UN General Assembly, “Implementing the responsibility to protect.” 12 Jan. 2009.
  14. Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, “The duty to prevent.” July 2010.
  15. See above, note 4.
  16. See Eli Watkins, “Who Is Nikki Haley, Trump’s UN Ambassador Pick?CNN, 14 Dec. 2016, and Eugene Scott, “Nikki Haley: Confederate flag ‘should have never been there’.” CNN, 10 July 2015.
  17. Somini Sengupta, “Nikki Haley Puts U.N. on Notice: U.S. Is ‘Taking Names’.” The New York Times, 27 Jan. 2017.
  18. Publius Decius Mus, “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism.” The Unz Review, 10 March 2016. Launched in November 2013 by Ron Keeva Unz, the Unz Review presents itself as “An Alternative Media Selection” with the subtitle: “A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media.”
  19. Publius Decius Mus, “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism.” Journal of American Greatness, March 2016 (recovered from the Internet Archive via the WayBackMachine). Thymos, or thumos, is Greek; it denotes a wide range of emotions, including spiritedness, aspiration, desire, courage, and passion.
  20. See “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism.”
  21. See Helmut Norpoth, “Primary Model Predicts Trump Victory.” On March 7, 2016, Norpoth wrote in The Huffington Post, “Trump will defeat Hillary Clinton with 87 percent certainty.” Based on presidential primaries and election cycles, Norpoth’s statistical model generated one of the very few correct forecasts. His prediction was widely noticed, but, unfortunately, also widely dismissed.
  22. Frank J. Williams, “Abraham Lincoln, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, and the Dred Scott Case.” OUPblog, 4 March 2015.
  23. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, “Speech at Springfield,” Illinois, 26 June 1857, vol. 2, p. 405. According to Lincoln, the authors of the Declaration “meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere” (ibid., p. 406).
  24. “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism.” See above, notes 18 and 19.
  25. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds., History of Political Philosophy. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, p. 309. Strauss contributed the chapters on Plato, Marsilius of Padua, and Niccolo Machiavelli. The quote appears in the chapter on Machiavelli.
  26. “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism.” See above, notes 18 and 19. The two following quotes are from this article as well.
  27. Publius Decius Mus, “The Flight 93 Election.” Claremont Review of Books, 5 Sept. 2016.
  28. Publius Decius Mus, “Restatement on Flight 93.” Claremont Review of Books, 13 Sept. 2016.
  29. Scott Morefield, “Rush Limbaugh praises ‘nuclear bomb’ article that puts ‘intellectual’ Never Trump movement to shame.” BizPac Review, 9 Sept. 2016.
  30. David Brooks, “The 2016 Sidney Awards, Part Deux.” The New York Times, 30 Dec. 2016.
  31. Publius Decius Mus, “Decius Responds to Critics of ‘The Flight 93 Election’.” American Greatness, 12 Sept. 2016. See also Publius Decius Mus, “Who Will Rule: The New Oligarchy – or the American People?American Greatness, 6 Oct. 2016: “If Hillary wins, … the minority population will shoot up by millions, at least. Then the Democrats, aided by administrative state social engineering … will work to steer those future Democratic voters into purple states which their presence will tip blue. No Republican would ever win the White House again, except maybe a Schwarzenegger-Bloomberg once a generation or so.”
  32. Publius Decius Mus, “Prudence: For Trump.” Claremont Review of Books, 24 Sept. 2016.
  33. Victor Davis Hanson, “What Exactly Is Trumpism?National Review, 10 Jan. 2017.
  34. Cato the Elder, “Trump v. the Ruling Class.” Journal of American Greatness, March 2016 (recovered from the Internet Archive via the WayBackMachine).
  35. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 67:6, Aug.-Sept. 1932, p. 732-49.
  36. See Leora Batnitzky, “Leo Strauss.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2016 Edition), ed. by Edward N. Zalta.
  37. Hedley Wight, “Patriot Leo-Cons Breaking with Conservatism Inc. Academe Over Donald Trump.” VDARE, 6 May 2016. Wight confirmed Decius’s position on Trump, writing “the Dissident Right is united by the knowledge that the Trump moment is a great deal bigger and more important than Trump the man.”
  38. See Kelefa Sanneh, “Intellectuals for Trump.” The New Yorker, 2 January 2017. Titled “Secret Admirers,” the article appeared also in the print edition of the magazine, 9 Jan. 2017, pp. 24-30.
  39. Publius Decius Mus, “Sanctimony as a Conservative Principle. The conservative movement as we have known it is dead.” Claremont Review of Books, 19 Sept. 2016
  40. Bill Kristol, Tweet @BillKristol, 8 Sept. 2016. Kristol added: “The only noteworthy aspect is the disgusting appropriation of the memory of the heroism of Flight 93 to make the case for Trump” as well as “Is any American more distant than Donald Trump from the spirit of heroic self-sacrifice that animated the passengers on Flight 93?”
  41. Michael Warren, “The Anonymous Pro-Trump ‘Decius’ Now Works Inside the White House.” Weekly Standard, 2 Feb. 2017.
  42. CNN and Politico had reported extensive plagiarism in Crowley’s last book and her Columbia University doctoral thesis. See Andrew Kaczynski, “Trump national security pick Monica Crowley plagiarized multiple sources in 2012 book.” CNNMoney, 7 Jan. 2017; Alex Caton and Grace Watkins, “Trump Pick Monica Crowley Plagiarized Parts of her Ph.D. Dissertation.” POLITICO Magazine, 9 Jan. 2017.
  43. The photo was taken February 1, 2017. Michael T. Flynn served just 24 days as National Security Advisor. He resigned February 13, 2017, having misled Vice President Mike Pence about his connections to Russia; see Mark Landler, “The Michael Flynn Resignation: What We Know, What We Don’t.” The New York Times, 14 Feb. 2017. On February 20, Trump announced his next national security advisor; see Peter Baker and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump Chooses H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser.” The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2017. McMaster asked K. T. (Kathleen Troia) McFarland in early April to step down as his Deputy Advisor.