How the Golden State Became the Intellectual Capital of Trump’s GOPI try to follow the courtesy of using a pseudonym unless I’m sure the author wants his real name used.
JASON WILLICK & JAMES HITCHCOCK
California’s late 20th-century political history helps explain its outsized role in the pro-Trump intellectual right. Heresies tend to thrive on the periphery of a regime rather than in the halls of power. … Since William F. Buckley’s rise to prominence, the intellectual capital of the American right has lain along the Washington-New York axis, home to a sprawling complex of journals and think tanks that define and develop conservative orthodoxy. …
Unlike these earlier heresies, Trumpism has thoroughly laid waste to the establishment GOP’s defenses, and it has done so overwhelmingly through the force of populist media, like Twitter, Facebook, talk radio, Fox News, and lowbrow blogs. Support for the Republican nominee among the legions of credentialed writers and scholars in the capital of right-wing intelligentsia is sparse (though not nonexistent).
And Trumpism certainly has no institutional base in posh Washington think tanks or erudite New York City editorial boards.
Over the course of this tumultuous election year, however, a Trump-friendly intellectual base has come into focus—far from the Atlantic Coast, in a territory so thoroughly in the grips of liberal politics that it might be said to be seceding from the Washington-New York conservative empire altogether: the State of California.
Who are the Golden State thinkers who have helped build a sophisticated case for the proudly unsophisticated presidential candidate? 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.
[Mencius Moldbug], 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 [Moldbug'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.I’ll probably wind up with my tombstone reading:
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.
Here lies controversial Steve SailerThe American Interest goes on:
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.Trump got 75% of the vote in the California GOP primary, although Cruz had already conceded.
We don’t know how Trump would have performed in the Golden State primary; the nomination was his before June.
California may or may not have been unusual electorally, but its over-representation in the pro-Trump intellectual world is unmistakable. What explains the distinctive temptation of highbrow reaction along the deep-blue lower Pacific Coast?First, California has 38 million people and some of them are even kind of smart.
If we count a bunch of writers who haven’t even necessarily said they support Trump, but are concerned about the immigration issue, plus a number of other people, few of whom have more than sixth degree influence on Trump, it’s not hard to make a trend story up about California’s renegade intellectuals.
The one writer who clearly has strong influence on Trump is his speechwriter Stephen Miller, who grew up in Santa Monica, where he was a conservative opinion child prodigy of sorts. (He’s not mentioned in the article.)
Yet, Miller left California twelve years ago for Duke U. and has spent most of his time since in the East. I would imagine that the most formative event that helped make him a more independent-minded conservative thinker was getting plunged into the Duke Lacrosse Hoax when he was a columnist for the Duke school newspaper in 2006 and bravely took on the entire establishment who were trying to frame his fellow students. Talk about eye-opening …
The era of Republican dominance in California was finally broken in the 1990s and has since disappeared into the background at a breathtaking pace. … The single most visible cause of this shift was mass immigration—or, alternatively, the failure of California Republicans to adapt to immigration—which produced a demographic transformation of the Golden State without parallel in the rest of the country.As opposed to everywhere else where Republicans have adapted well to immigration … In Texas, by the way, the solution has been massive white solidarity, with Romney getting 76% of the white vote in 2012.
The California that elected Reagan its Governor was about 80 percent white and 12 percent Hispanic; today, those figures are 38 percent and 39 percent, respectively. In other words, California squeezed into forty years a transformation that is expected to take at least a century for America as a whole (if it takes place at all, given rates of assimilation and ethnic attrition) and which many Trump supporters clearly resent and fear. The only state with a comparable post-1970 experience is New York, which is historically more accustomed than the Golden State to absorbing large immigrant populations.But of course the nice New York Republicans have adapted so well to immigration that they dominate state politics. Oh, wait …
California turned bluer in the 1990s as immigration flows soared, but the explosion of ethnic diversity helped fuel spasms of populist reaction with a distinctively Trumpian hue.Yeah, that Pete Wilson … practically Hitler …
In 1992, in response to a perceived outbreak of political correctness on college campuses, the California State Legislature made national news by outlawing private colleges from banning constitutionally protected speech critical of minorities. In 1994, voters passed Proposition 187 by popular referendum, cutting access to welfare benefits and public schooling for unauthorized immigrants, and Proposition 184, imposing a draconian “three-strikes” criminal justice system. In 1996, in response to the perception that minorities were getting an unfair admissions advantage in the UC system, voters passed Proposition 209, banning affirmative action in public institutions. And in 1998, they passed Proposition 228, prohibiting Spanish-language instruction for immigrants at the state’s public schools.Instead, California Republicans should have just put illegal aliens on the Path to Citizenship and then their Natural Conservatism would have overwhelmingly manifested itself at the ballot box. If you don’t believe me, just ask Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). He’ll tell you.
For America and much of the Western world, the 1990s were a period of end-of-history serenity. But if you focus on the Golden State, the decade offered a taste of the vituperative identity politics and nationalist resurgence now plainly visible across the West. It’s impossible to understand the intellectualized Trumpism of modern California sophisticates without reference to this tumultuous period.Well … okay!
Today, most of the Jacksonian measures of the 1990s have lost their force: Campus political correctness is back; courts struck down Proposition 187; voters have softened the criminal justice system; affirmative action, in another twist of demographic fate, is now the bête noire of Asians rather than whites; and a repeal of the 1998 bilingual education ban is on the ballot next month.
And the California GOP is all-but-extinct; a state once at the center of Republican politics is now finds itself on the fringes. The ideas developed by the official right’s Washington-New York brain trust seem to have little practical application. For the remaining pockets of reactionary true-believers with historical memories of the Golden State of Nixon and Reagan, one can start to see how Trumpism—a take-no-prisoners, rearguard attack on America’s democratic institutions in lieu of actual proposals for governing—might seem like the only way to restore the politically hospitable California of yore, or, if that’s not possible, prevent America at large from undergoing the same progressive evolution. Indeed, this is very close to the argument Decius makes. (It seems far more likely, for the record, that the reverse is true—that a President Trump would condemn the American right as we know it to long-term irrelevance with his racial antagonism and sheer incompetence).
How California’s diminished Republican Party and the conservative establishment at large should respond to these developments is a topic for another day. What is clear is that, like the bishops of the early Church of Rome, East Coast leaders of conservative thought are watching as heresies ferment and proliferate on the margins of their domain. In early Christendom, these challenges lasted centuries, and some heresies were never fully extinguished, but Roman Christians ultimately repositioned their church as the primary steward and author of the faith in Europe. Whether the embattled intellectuals in conservatism’s Northeastern capital can marginalize their own fringe and enjoy a similar period of renewal remains to be seen. As of 2016, the hinterland heretics are still very much on the march.
Jason Willick is a staff writer at The American Interest. James Hitchcock is an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics.
Anyway, I would say that political intellectuals who live in California tend to be not adequately careerist. To be somebody in 21st Century America’s opinion business, you pretty much have to live in Washington or New York, and socialize. For example, look at the hugely gifted Mark Steyn, who prefers to live in New Hampshire, at sizable cost to his career.
The ambitious in New York and Washington tend to develop-go-along-to-get-along opinions. This isn’t universally true — DC native Pat Buchanan is such a likable man that he’s managed to make a career despite the rage of the neocons against him. Beverly Hills HS, 1968: Student body president Mickey Kaus discusses the Velvet Underground’s music with two administrators while Lou Reed wonders how a high school kid cajoled him into playing this school assembly
The congenial SoCal immigration restrictionist Mickey Kaus is eminently clubbable — he was a popular insider of the talented generation of opinion journalists associated with Michael Kinsley.
But back East Mickey suffered from allergies. He’s from a distinguished Beverly Hills family (his father, a refugee from Vienna, was appointed to the state supreme court by Jerry Brown long ago), so presumably has a little bit of family money. That let him move home, which probably helped him become more heretical on immigration.
Mickey’s concern for balancing liberty and equality represents a sort of noblesse oblige. Being from California, that land of the future, has made him him more sophisticated about where the world is headed.