The Idiocracy Has Overthrown Us
The Republican Establishment cannot help but err because its intellectual foundations are flawed. There is broad conservative intellectual consensus which harks back to T.S. Eliot and Matthew Arnold (via thinkers as diverse as Russell Kirk and Lionel Trilling). Arnold’s passion for the Greek classics overlaps with Leo Strauss’ predilection for the “ancients.” I have argued for the past fifteen years that parsing the rationalism of the past is useless at best and misleading at worst. The great question is, rather, what makes people act beyond reason, for good or for ill. My lodestars have been Kierkegaard and Rosenzweig, and more recently Soloveitchik. We have spent fifty years creating an intellectual elite with undergraduate courses, PhD programs, publications, think-tanks, internships, foundations, and we have failed miserably. There are points of light here and there, to be sure, but they don’t add up to a great deal of candlepower. Because of our failure the idiocracy has overthrown us, and we have to live with the likes of Donald Trump. We no longer have time to revise our intellectual foundations. Even if we wished to, we could not find the teachers, and if we had the teachers, we could not find the students. We are at the end of an era; the barbarians are inside the citadel. I feel like Saruman telling Gandalf that there is no choice but to back Sauron–but Trump isn’t Sauron, just a maddening vulgarian who knows how to tap all the popular resentment that we are guilty of provoking. The people have vomited us out, and we have to make the best of bad circumstances.
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