Saturday, June 4, 2016

Charles Murray: Another Establishmentarian Flaunts His Never Trump Derangement

Establishmentarian is his term.

But it's notable that this one-time quasi-pariah is now the establishment.

Wait. Did we win?

Let me begin by stating that I like Charles Murray. I own many of his books and have, if I may say so, learned a lot from them.

And I generally have been inclined to defend him and his alleged quasi-elitism, which I would formally have described as clear-eyed, albeit extremely politically incorrect.

But I'm now beginning to understand how the other side feels.    

A few days ago, the 73-year old W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, published an anti-Trump piece in National Review, "Why 'Hillary is even Worse' Doesn't Cut It." Or at least it was published in the online version. I haven't subscribed to the rag for a few years.

Murray starts on an annoying note, explicitly claiming that he is writing for
the tiny fraction of the population that deals professionally in public policy from the right. . . .We have been dubbed the “Republican Establishment” during this campaign season — bemusing to those like me who have trivial influence and are not even Republicans — but I’ll use Establishmentarians as a convenient label for who we are. This note is addressed to my fellow Establishmentarians, from the Hannities and Ryans to my fellow ink-stained wretches.
What an odd way to start a piece. He's not writing for say, normal human beings or Republican voters or even National Review subscribers or whatever, but rather, a "tiny fraction of the population."I know he's sort of trying to be funny and self-deprecatory about it, but it's still obnoxious.

On the other hand, giving up on the masses, so to speak, is sort of consistent with what he has said elsewhere about the "Trump phenomenon":
Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has taken, and its appearance was predictable. It is the endgame of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity.
Oh, man. I hate being part of an endgame of a process. But maybe if I read more stuff from the Establishmentarians I could pull myself out of the crowd by my own bootstraps.

That is, if I can even understand words anymore due to my legitimate anger.

In his recent Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 (2012), Murray partially describes an increasingly class-stratified country by analyzing the fictional towns of Belmont and Fishtown.

I assume he thinks Trumpism is the final hurrah of the Fishtowners.

How distasteful.  

I stopped taking Murray's piece seriously when I came to this:
In my view, Donald Trump is unfit to be president in ways that apply to no other candidate of the two major political parties throughout American history.
If you know anything about American history (no other candidate? ever?), then you know that that claim is out and out bonking insane.

And to this non-Establishmentarian, it discredits anything that could possibly follow, especially as the writer claims to be (at least partly) an historian.

That Murray has made many eminently sane claims over the years is irrelevant.

He's like your great-great-uncle who after giving you a fluent and profound twenty-minute life lesson suddenly proclaims he's the Czar of Russia.  

Trump Derangement Syndrome is an expression of the legitimate anger that many establishment conservatives have at feeling that not as many people are paying attention to them as they used to. It's part of a process that's been going on for at least twenty years.

And it's a debilitating condition that requires sympathy and understanding.

You too can help.

Nod kindly when he speaks. 

And praise him for one of his books--the most important of them written before the turn of the century.* He'll probably remember. At least in some sense. It's good to make a personal connection.

Murray has written more interesting social analysis and commentary than all but a tiny fraction of authors.

But his time is in the past.

*For example, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950–1980 (1984) or In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government (1989) or What It Means to Be a Libertarian (1997). Or for a really fascinating and politically incorrect read, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994), co-authored with the late Richard J. Hernnstein.


  1. I haven't read Coming Apart. The Bell Curve is insanely great, so much so that it pretty much leads the list of Books You Are Not Supposed To Read, according to our betters.

    But you're dead on about Murray with the Trump thing.

    1. Yeah. I didn't want to seem too unfair. He has obviously done great work.

    2. Thanks Oakes. Good analysis. The Donald has the ability to drive certain conservatives completely mad, e.g., Bill Kristol. I wonder why it is that so many 'smart' folks can get things so totally wrong. Perhaps it is because they live in a universe of ideal concepts and not reality,i.e., Platonism.

  2. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has taken, and its appearance was predictable. It is the endgame of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity.

    No reason to disagree with that.

    The "nevertrump" group includes a lot of folks (like me) who have absolutely NO regard for NeoCons and their Roman Empire dreams and who also despise the Left Project whether HRC- or Bern-flavored.

    It is significant that Trump cannot tell the same story from one day to the next. Which Trump will govern?

    1. I wonder too. But I'm not sure Trump is any more inconsistent than the average politician or the average moderate Republican trying to sound conservative or whatever. I think in some ways he's more consistent but when he is consistent, people don't like what he is consistent about.

      There's also no question that in many ways he's not your typical politician, which some people like and some people don't. But in any case, what I object to is classifying him in this completely separate, so to speak, moral category. More unfit (or unfit in a different way) than anyone, ever?

      I don't think there's anything wrong with voting third party. I've done it a few times myself. But there's something strange going on when ideological conservatives (such as Bill Kristol) are discussing running a not very ideological moderate Republican (Mitt Romney) as a third party candidate.

    2. In the case of Trump, the rule applies that the closer to truth you come the more you drive people into insane rages . Maybe this is out of fear of change - some of them you never suspected of being the enemy.

      From your account, Murray is complaining that real Americans won't get into the warm bath; slit their wrists and go quietly. They actually want to govern themselves and preserve their country - if it's not too late already.

      I support Trump and will vote for him not because he lays out an impeccably logical view as presented in some seminar but because I hope he will do a lot of damage to people like Murray and the more powerful leftist institutions.

      Real Americans don't want to be ruled by the technocrats, bureaucrats and self-appointed intelligentsia - that Murray thinks he is a member of.

      We would rather follow those dummies like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin etc.

  3. Trump is over 45 and a natural born citizen so he's fit. Does he have good taste? No, so what? jFK had taste and blundered into Vietnam. Has he committed adultery? yes. So have most of the Prez's from FDR on.the Trump hate is mostly s snobbery and the rage that happens when a fantasy dies. A lot of people want the president to be their father or dream lover instead of our chief executive.

    1. I love your blog, but that comment is very unhelpful. It crystallizes what I detest about Trump. My opposition to him as a leader of the Free World is reduced by your comment to the following things:

      1: Snobbery
      2: Rage because my fantasy died
      3: Dissatisfaction with Trump as my Father or lover.
      4: (Granted I know that is a simplification of your full list, and not entirely fair to summarize like that).

      Here are my reasons:

      1: I see Trump as the most divisive man in politics in my lifetime with fascist tendencies.

      2: He has demonstrable ambivalence, neglect and ignorance of the Constitution he will be sworn to uphold as its Chief Executive.

      3: I have seen him present no governing program or vision for America, beyond a troubling preference for uniting the power of the State with private business to make "America Great Again". Sorry, but that is the definition of Fascism, (look it up; it's true).

      4: He is an angry, angry, aggressive, foul mouthed man who seems to me patently unfit for the highest, most powerful Office on earth with the keys to our nuclear arsenal; who will send our boys and girls into combat, ("they will obey my illegal order, believe me").

      I am convinced our nation is making a massive mistake. I will not participate in it. Playing the "Trump Card" by insulting those of us who will never vote for this man does not convince me. It only confirms my judgement. This internal conservative division and anger towards each OTHER is abnormal. It is not normal for conservatives, Catholic conservatives no less, to speak to each other this way. I attribute it all to the times we live in and MOST ESPECIALLY the man raised up by God in judgement for our Nation's terrible sins.

    2. America is ruled by identity politics and Trump has awakened that truth in the minds of many who never considered such a thing before.

      ABS think that whatever he does, he is quite likely to win - perhaps win in a landslide if he stops listening to his professional handlers.

      Many whites think he is their last stand and they are not about to be swayed by the establishment which hates their living guts.

      As for former POTUS, which was the last one whose fealty to the Constitution was observable?

      This haughty - leader of the free world claim is not only insane it is risible. Imagine a sane man from say, Australia, thinking that Barack, Bush, clinton, or Carter was such a thing.

      In fact, everything you cited as reasons for not voting for Trump are unsustainable claims.

      Besides, we vote for men not programs. As for fascism, Orwell pointed out that description merely means we don't like the guy we apply that label to.

      You want what? A calm constitution-abiding, polite putatively moral man who SENDS WOMEN INTO COMBAT?

  4. Bill Kristol is NOT an 'ideological conservative.' In fact, the term "NeoCon" was invented to describe him and a few other Bushmen (GWB, not GHWB) who were Big Gummint Pubbies and warmongers of the first water. You have to go back further, to Bill Buckley, to find 'ideological Conservatives.'

    There are a few remaining, albeit not rock-stars. Gov. Abbott of Texas may be one; Mike Lee and Ted Cruz are others.

    Here's a convenient dividing line: those who actually respect the 9th and 10th Amendments are ideological C's; those who don't, aren't. (We could add the rest of the Bill of Rights for good measure.)

    1. Point taken. Maybe I should have said, "ideological neoconservative." :)

  5. Yikes...yet another 'I won't vote for Trump no matter what' confessional? Here's my response: Who cares? Really, I don't. I've stopped watching FOX since the first debate. I don't watch any news anymore, only little clips I choose to follow online. I can't take it! I don't listen to Mark Levin since the night he turned on Trump and canonized Cruz in a desperate meltdown. I'm onboard for Trump and have been from the start. I am incredulous at how many on the right, conservative, republican, etc have become so vocal and outraged at Trump, opposing him with all their might, in a way they never did Obama over 7+ long years of destroying and undermining our values, our economy, our reputation, our country! And he is not done. The damage is so deep and maybe irreversible. Why are they not setting their sights on the real enemy? We have no leadership. They folded at every turn. It's been defeat after defeat, even after winning the House & the Senate and most of the state governorships. CJ Roberts ruling for Obamacare. Obergefell. Look at Mike Pence & the Battle of Indiana. We took out Boehner and got Ryan who gave Obama a bigger budget than he asked for! the Iran 'deal'. ending the embargo on Cuba. the crazy 'guidance' on bathrooms for transvestites...
    And Murray & Co. are wasting ink trashing Trump.
    Obi-Wan Kenobi...He's our only hope.

    1. Yes. It's not distrust or even dislike of Trump that annoys but the apparent fixation. Thank you, Princess Leia. :)

    2. And you honestly think Trump is going to achieve ... what exactly for the conservative cause? With what evidence from his past or present?

      And Oakes, regarding the "fixation". He is, in fact, the nominee and likely President. He is "our guy", and I think he is a fraud. I guess I am puzzled by the trust and confidence conservatives place in a man to do things at this crucial moment, a crossroads, for which there is no evidence he will do. And disdain for people like me who call b.s. Why so confident?

      I see nothing in his life or career to support your contention that he will act as you hope. His past is against it in a very public and consistent way, and his present positions are obscure, confusing and contradictory, though he does speak with verve and audacity.

      So good luck. I hope you are right. I want to be wrong.

    3. I don't honestly think that, and I'm not particularly confident. And the evidence is decidedly mixed, or rather, since Trump has never held political office, there isn't a lot of evidence either way. All I'm saying is the reaction of many Never Trumpers (not you) seems way out of proportion. It's not unusual to have someone who promises things his record or past statements don't completely back up. It's also not unusual to have someone who people claim is "dumb" or "rude" or "shoots from the hip," allegedly makes sexist remarks, etc. American elections are filled with candidates whose opponents charge them with those things. Sometimes these candidates turn out to be great leaders. Reagan is the obvious example.

      My worry is not that Trump will be a bullying fascist but rather a moderate Republican accommodationist. I'm worried he'll be more like that other Austrian (not Hitler but Schwarzenegger).

  6. Reagan was the first President I voted for. The obvious difference between Reagan and Trump was that the excitement was palpable and universal from conservatives for Reagan. All of the negative opinions and emotions were generated from liberals. None at all came from conservatives. We knew who he was and we loved him for it. After the long, dark years of malaise going back to Nixon and his R version of liberalism, Ford's waffling and Carter's socialistic malaise, Reagan lit a fire under conservatives. It was a happy time, (I was in college and very idealistic myself), and part of the happiness was the way liberal opposition crumbled before the conservative onslaught.

    That is not the case with Trump. There is considerable division within the conservative base and much evidence that he is not who he says he is. There is internal division over what the heck the guy even stands for or will do in Office. I have been disappointed by many Republican nominees over the years. I have NEVER, not once, been afraid of a Republcan nominee. And I am obviously not alone. This conversation here on your blog is a great example, where great conservatives like Murray are puzzled over and dismissed as irrational on this topic. Intellectual dissent is normally discussed appreciated and debated among conservatives within the movement, not dismissed as emotive fear mongering.

    Yocr blog on this topic fits with so many others in the conservative blogosphere I read. I find it highly unusual and it confirms my deep suspicions of the man at the center of this storm. I have never seen such internal division, anger and fear over an R candidate as this. It is unprecedented (in my experience). I think every conservative should pause and think about why this is so, and not so casually dismiss so many good people with labels.

    Trump has not earned the right to be trusted like this. This election is so crucial n this dangerous world and we Americans have pretty much blown it.

    1. I think we're going to have to agree to disagree, not because I don't think many of your points aren't valid but because this argument is obviously an incredibly divisive one among conservatives and Catholics. I've never seen a political issue that so divides people who are otherwise pretty much on the same ideological page. I'm not trying to get the last word. Just saying.

      I let my post sit for a few days before posting because I didn't want to be unfairly snarky to Murray. I do find the current Murray to be annoying for some other reasons and I suppose I might write about them at some point.

      This is simply my own personal story and is neither here nor there but a few months ago I was pretty much where you are on Trump, or at least close to it. But I've changed my mind somewhat. That doesn't mean I'm right. It might mean I'm being suckered.

      As I might have said before, I voted for Trump in Illinois. But you know what, for the first time in my life I actually didn't know who I was going to vote for when I walked into the polling place. And even in the booth my pen hovered over five candidates--three of whom weren't even in the race anymore. Whether that says more about me than it does about the current state of American politics, I don't know, but there it is. Strange times.

  7. I appreciate the response. I merely wished to set the record straight from the perspective of a #nevertrumper. It obviously makes no difference any more.

    Going forward, what matters most is the conservative principles at stake; not any one man or woman chosen to lead us and carry those principles forward. We cannot get distracted by the personalities and rhetoric. Me must always remain rooted in the underlying principles that unify us and advance them as solutions to current problems.

    Anyway, well said on your part. Fantastic blog. Really enjoy it on a regular basis.

  8. a ham sandwich sitting in the seat behind the Resolute desk is preferable to hillary.....I'd take Reagan--in his CURRENT state--over hillary.

    Yes...I will vote for Trump.

    1. You present an interesting group of candidates to stop Hillary: A ham sandwich, a corpse, or Trump.

      I'll take the ham sandwich please. The ham sandwich will not do nearly as much damage to the Republic. It will just sit there in the Oval Office looking tasty.

    2. plus it would be a salient statement on win!

  9. As you say, Murray is 73. But like a lot of the "conservative" idea-spinners, he seems stuck in the past. On a blog somewhere I read a comment that "We're not the Young Turks anymore." The trouble is, the neoconservatives don't seem to realize that. For them, it's STILL "Morning in America", with a full leisurely day stretching out before them. But me, I'm just realizing that 25 years - almost half my lifetime - have passed by, with nothing to show for it in terms of politics. I got so used to waiting for the inevitable triumph of conservatism under the brilliant captaincy of our intellectual leaders, that I didn't notice how an entire generation passed by.

    All these fellows: Murray, Kristol, Gingrich, Buckley - never got over the high of Reagan's election. They're like the surfer who caught the perfect wave that one time; he's been standing on the sand reliving the thrill of it for so long, he doesn't notice that the tide has gone out.

    1. And what is Trump's grand new idea?

    2. The triumph of sexual perversion over normality: that's new.

      Voluntarily replacing the home-grown population with a hostile alien one - that's new, too. Tyrants have done it to subjugate a supplant a conquered people, but rulers doing it to their own country is new.

      Rule by dog-in-the-manger - that's also pretty new.

      Maybe we've had enough of "grand new ideas". Maybe we'd like to go back to some old ideas that worked better than what we have now.