Opinion

Intellectualizing Trumpism

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June of 2015, I remember chuckling as I listened to a radio broadcast of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign announcement. His speech didn’t seem like the kind that motivated enthusiastic supporters, and when the news broke that he had paid people to attend the announcement I recall thinking that his campaign would fade away shortly. After all, he couldn’t possibly be serious presidential candidate, could he?

Fast forward to December…Trump couldn’t possibly win the Republican nomination, could he?

Fast forward to November…Trump couldn’t seriously win, could he?

In an attempt to be non-biased, I created my own Electoral map one night before the election and predicted that Hillary would (unfortunately) win. And immediately felt the weight of my own ignorance as Donald Trump proceeded to blow that prediction away and capture one hundred and thirty more delegates than I had predicted.

The reasoning behind Trump’s popular appeal and the ability to motivate millions of voters to the polls continues to evade academics who study politics. Everything in the history of U.S. politics suggests that Trump should have gone down in flames mere weeks after his campaign announcement – and yet, we are just over two weeks away from Donald J. Trump taking the oath of office as the 45th President.

President-Elect Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign

One Ivy Leaguer has set out to bridge the gap between the populist Trumpism movement and academic discussions. Harvard-educated millennial Julius Krein announced the launch of a new scholarly journal, titled American Affairs.

“It attempts to understand the ideological and political transitions, of which Trump is the most prominent one,” Krein (who will serve as chief editor of the journal) said in an interview, adding later, “Our goal is to provide a forum for people who believe that the conventional ideological categories and policy prescriptions of recent decades are no longer relevant to the most pressing problems and debates facing our country.”

Krein wryly notes that despite being just 30, he is coincidentally the same age as William F. Buckley when Buckley launched the National Review six decades ago. Like the National Review, the American Affairs intends to take aim at conservative establishment and shape the development of Trump’s radical new brand of politics into the conservatism of the future. “We hope not only to encourage a rethinking of the theoretical foundations of ‘conservatism’ but also to promote a broader realignment of American politics,” Krein said in an interview.

Krein penned an article in the Standard defending his reasoning calling for the academic shift (read the entire article here). At one point, he writes,

“Conservative pundits have complained for years about the base and its desire for “ideological purity.” Trump shows that what is most in demand, however, is not ideological purity but patriotic zeal. Only a fool would believe that the fate of the Export-Import Bank could motivate millions of voters. It is not a minor and complicated organ of trade promotion that motivates but whether the ruling elite is seen to care more about actual national interests or campaign dollars and textbook abstractions like free trade…Trump, however, is eros and thumos incarnate, and his very candidacy represents the suggestion that these human qualities should have a role in our political life beyond quivering sentimentalism. Trump alone appears to understand that politics is more than policy and ideology. Beneath the bluster, he offers an image of Machiavellian virtù long absent from American politics.”

Krein has not ruled out the possibility of taking a position in the Trump Administration, but indicates that his first priority is establishing the new journal so it can shape conservative policy and thought moving forward. American Affairs will be coedited by Dr. Gladden Pappin (professor of political science at Notre Dame) and will run quarterly issues beginning in February.

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