Originally posted at The Unz Review, the Journal of American Greatness republished the following column written under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus, the Roman consul who sacrificed himself in battle to rally his troops:
At the time of this writing, Donald Trump is in a commanding position to win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Naturally, Trump’s legions of enemies in what used to be called the “conservative movement” are flailing and despondent. They should be. Trump has, for now, more than revived his momentarily flagging campaign. And even if he is eventually defeated at the polls, this win boosts the chances that his ideas—if we may use such a lofty term for Trump’s as-yet unformed and instinct-driven platform—will outlive his candidacy. Trump’s run has opened the way, for the first time in more than a generation, toward progress and return—progress beyond ossified ideologies, and return to a superior understanding of man, politics, America and the West itself.
Trump is, in the decisive sense, more conservative than the entire conservative establishment. Unlike them, he is actually trying to conserve something bigger than his job and status: namely, the American nation. Yet “Trumpism” needs something Trump himself cannot provide. John Derbyshire praises Trump’s “gut conservatism” as a welcome relief from the failures of the intellectual class. One can sympathize with his point without finding it altogether satisfying. “Gut conservatism” after all still depends on some definition of what conservatism is. Which requires thinking and writing, i.e., intellectualism, and perhaps even philosophy. The gut may be right more often than a broken clock, but—as Trump’s contradictory pronouncements over the years illustrate—it is unreliable and so must be ruled by the brain, which nature generously provides for the purpose. Derbyshire is thus too quick to dismiss conservative intellectualizing as irrelevant. Forging a fresh definition of conservatism, or of reinterpreting the old one to meet the necessities of the times, is not merely relevant but necessary.
Yet it is unquestionably true that to this task, our current crop of mainstream conservative intellectuals is not merely unsuited but wholly useless. National Review’santi-Trump symposium reads as if it were written to make the point undeniable. Trump supports ethanol! Burn the heretic! At least listing the “conservative” boxes that Trump fails to check can be considered substantive. The rest of the symposium—like nearly all other conservative anti-Trump broadsides—consists merely of personal attacks. Many of which, to be fair, Trump has coming. But all this hardly amounts to a conservative refutation of, or counterproposal to, Trump’s program. The most they could say on that score was to paraphrase, probably subconsciously, Lionel Trilling’s dismissal of 20th century conservatism as “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas” and apply it to Trump.