Book of the Month/January 2019

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Kurt Schlichter is an abrasive, profane, and very funny writer, and in this book he gives us a play-by-play breakdown of what (the hell) happened in the 2016 presidential election. If you want to understand how all the monkeys got out of all their respective cages, then this book, Militant Normals, will be a tremendous help to you.

If you are one of those who is in any way put off by the shenanigans of the president, then you need to read this book with the detached objectivity of an amateur anthropologist. Schlichter sees everything you see, and understands it (and was once in that place himself), but he spends a lot of time pointing to other significant factors that have been largely ignored in the received political analysis of this “weird thing” that has happened.

I am reminded of a comment made by Tucker Carlson in his recent book, which is that a happy people will not elect a Donald Trump. A desperate people will.

And at this, all our intellectual glitterati have a bemused look come over their faces. “Desperate? What’s to be desperate about? My pension is still intact, and I still have three upscale coffee joints in my neighborhood.”

Of particular interest to conservatives is his treatment of Conservative, Inc., what might be considered the intellectual (mild) right wing of the ruling elites. Their problem has been that, for decades, they have talked a great conservative game, raised a lot of money, and have conserved precious little. At the same time, Schlichter makes a careful distinction between those conservatives who didn’t support Trump because they didn’t believe him, didn’t believe he would be a disruptive force for conservatism, on the one hand, from those conservatives who didn’t support Trump because they did believe him. On the other hand.

One last thing. This book shows that those ideological conservatives who have come around to supporting Trump, to the dismay of old guard movement conservatives, have not necessarily “abandoned principle.” I say necessarily because some have abandoned principle — but no where near the levels that gents like Max Boot have abandoned principle in the other direction.

But there is a difference between abandoning principle and re-prioritizing your principles. There are things that Trump does and says that just don’t fit into any coherent conservative framework, like his views on tariffs. So what happens when a movement conservative continues to believe what he does about free trade, but moves it from his #3 priority to his #13 priority? This need not be an abandonment of anything. There are other factors in play, and Schlichter helps you see what they are.

All the personal deficiencies that Schlichter sees (and acknowledges) about the behavior of the president can be registered. But what happens if, when you have done all that, you still really like the appointments to the federal judiciary that are going on, and what is happening in the Department of Education, and the fact that we are getting out of Syria, and so on. Those genuine conservatives who are still conflicted by this gigantic practical joke that God is playing on us, and who honestly don’t know what they are going to do in two years when Trump is running against some communist, could get a great deal of insight from this book.

One last thing. This is not a populism that resents excellence. Schlichter believes firmly that ruling elites are a necessity. He also believes that they have two central jobs — to run things competently, and to leave the regular folks alone. What we are facing today is the result of the elites being really bad at what they do, and compensating for it by refusing to leave the regular folks alone.