Trump & Our Late Roman Moment

Source: The American Conservative

Hello from Limassol, a city on the south coast of Cyprus. I came here to do some research for my next book. I boarded the plane for Cyprus in Vienna as the Trump raid news was breaking. The monastery where I stayed the past day and a half did not have wi-fi, which was actually a blessing, because it compelled me to wait until more information emerged before commenting. You’re welcome.

On the journey up to the mountain monastery, my jovial Cypriot driver gave me an earful about America. He’s a conservative, and admires Trump. He explained that Trump was a president who understood how badly the United States screwed up in the Arab world with its wars, and was eager to draw back America’s warmaking. The driver also talked about how scandalized and angry he is that his young daughter’s school is introducing gender ideology to the kids. He blamed the EU for this, saying that Brussels forces this stuff onto Cypriots by threatening to take away their money for roads if they don’t accept pro-LGBT liberalism. He talked further about American culture as the driver of all this, saying, “we think you are all like Rome before the fall.”

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He said a couple of times that he hopes he wasn’t offending me, but he felt that he needed to be honest about how conservative Christians like him have turned against America. “What happened to you?” he asked. He is somewhat pro-Russian, not (he says) because he admires Vladimir Putin, but because he likes to see somebody stand up to what he regards as an arrogant America.

It was hard to argue with most of what he had to say. I asked him if he had heard about the Boston Children’s Hospital, which brags about performing hysterectomies on little girls with gender dysphoria. I told him about this happy-clappy promotional video from the prominent children’s hospital:

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He had not. “Oh my God,” he said. “It’s sickening.”

It is. But this is what America stands for now to a lot of people around the world — and to many of our own people. I bring this up because it conditions the way I see the Trump raid. I will explain later.

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So, the Trump raid. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a jaw-dropping escalation, but I also was not willing to jump on the right-wing bandwagon defending Trump, until I learned what, exactly, was in the federal search warrant. Surely the feds wouldn’t take this extraordinary move without having something radioactive in mind.

Well, at this point, it appears that they really were just looking for documents Trump was supposed to have turned over, but allegedly did not. I thought this couldn’t be real. I mean, look, if Trump really does have these documents, it’s outrageous that he hasn’t turned them over. But surely the FBI wouldn’t conduct a raid on a former president’s house unless something truly spectacular was at stake — and especially not the house of Donald Trump, not in this political environment. Right? I was secretly glad that I would have a day and a half at the monastery without wi-fi, so things could clear up.

Well, it seems that the feds did just that: raided Trump’s house looking for documents that they believed Trump had on premises illegally.

On one hand, this could be seen as a vindication of the principle that no man, not even a former president, is above the law.

On the other hand — who are you kidding?!

I think Donald Trump is capable of doing just about anything … but I do not trust the FBI or the Department of Justice, which was highly politicized under Obama’s AG Eric Holder. I don’t trust Washington authority at all. I am surprised to realize this, but it took the Trump raid to clarify it for me.

Because you cannot understand the Trump raid out of context of the past few years. There was Russiagate, which turned out to be nothing, but consumed a massive amount of time and resources, and damaged the Trump administration. There was the Hunter Biden laptop story, which the entire Regime insisted was Russian disinformation designed to hurt Joe Biden’s election chances … but which they now admit was real. As Ross Douthat tweeted the other day in response to the Mar-a-Lago raid:

Trump might be guilty as hell in this matter, but I still wouldn’t trust the Department of Justice when it comes to Trump matters. In fact — and this is important as a political matter — I find it hard to trust any institutional authority. Remember the Summer Of Floyd, when we had race riots and looting, but were told it was legitimate rebellion? Remember when doctors and others said that it was okay to suspend Covid rules as long as you were out protesting for a Regime-approved cause? Remember Covid, and how Dr. Fauci lied strategically? For that matter, notice monkeypox, a horrible communicable disease that (for now) is passed almost exclusively among gay men, through intimate contact: we couldn’t send our kids to school, go to church, do normal community activities, or anything like that for a couple of years … but the public health authorities refuse to call off gay orgies and close sex clubs and kink events, because gays are privileged in Regime culture.

Remember Jeffrey Epstein? Oh look, the judge who signed off on the Trump raid used to work for Epstein. Imagine that.

The Regime tells us that this is a woman, and if you disagree, you are a bigot who might find yourself cancelled:

Levine and the administration he represents advocate for full-spectrum mutilation of gender-dysphoric minors. The Biden Administration and the rest of the Regime want to give hysterectomies to children who ask for them. Let that sink in. This is the level of depravity we are dealing with in our ruling class.

They have also queered the military, while at the same time are presiding over a recruitment crisis. Funny how that works. And while ordinary Americans are struggling to pay bills in these inflationary times, the Regime — including Congressional Republicans — continue to throw billions upon billions at Ukraine, to fight this proxy war with Russia. For what?

These are the people we are supposed to trust to fight the Trump menace?

We are also dealing with a Regime that supports open borders:

Additionally, the Regime — not just the government, but the ruling class and its institutions — fully supports anti-white racism, and the ideological takeover of higher education by mandating loyalty tests:

Ideological litmus tests are becoming the norm in American academia. Already, many universities require faculty job candidates to submit “diversity statements” — 19% of the faculty job listings in one recent survey. Now, similar requirements increasingly apply to sitting faculty members, as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements and criteria have become standard components of the promotion and tenure process.

To give one example: last year, the highly-ranked Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine released its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Strategic Action Plan, listing dozens of “tactics” for advancing social justice. Here is an example:

“Include a section in promotion packages where faculty members report on the ways they are contributing to improving DEI, anti-racism and social justice. Reinforce the importance of these efforts by establishing clear consequences and influences on promotion packages.

The reference to “consequences” reads like a warning to dissenters, especially given that concepts such as “equity”, “anti-racism”, and “social justice” often simply connote adherence to progressive political views. Thanks to the ubiquity of Ibram X. Kendi’s work, many American professionals are primed to point out that anti-racism, far from merely being “not racist”, entails embracing “race conscious” policies, coupled with the belief that any disparity is by definition racism.

With official DEI requirements for promotion and tenure on the rise, Kendian “anti-racism” has come closer to a formal requirement for many in academia. In its 2022 survey of tenure practices, the American Association of University Professors found that 21.5% of the institutions it surveyed had DEI criteria in their tenure standards. For larger institutions, it was 45.6%.As diversity officers increase, so too will their preferred policies.

And they are training the Great and the Good not to buy from white vendors.

This is a Regime that is destroying people professionally simply for repeating magic words, no matter what the context:

And oh, let us not forget this. Notice who voted down this bill: every single Democratic senator. This is why the claims by angry Trumpers that the FBI is going after Trump today, but ordinary people tomorrow, land with Trump supporters:

By now you are thinking: good grief, Dreher is throwing in the entire kitchen sink! You would be right. But I don’t care. As Trump-hating Damon Linker writes in his essay cautioning about the effects of a raid he considers to have been politically unwise:

To this, many Democrats and anti-Trump conservatives respond: All the more reason why we need toprosecute him, to vindicate the rule of law and show that justice can still be done.

And hey, I get it. In theory, that sounds exactly right. I’d love to see Trump punished for any acts that broke the law, both for the sake of justice and in order to deter future acts of political treachery. The problem is that this is a polity, not a graduate seminar in Kantian ethics. If only one of the country’s two major parties accepts the legitimacy of prosecuting a former (and possibly future) president, then the rule of law will not be vindicated, only Democrats will think that justice has been done, and no future bad actors will be deterred. Rather than healing the country’s civic wounds, the effort to punish Trump will only deepen them.

This is a polity, not a graduate seminar in Kantian ethics. He’s right, you know. Y’all know that I am not a Trump fan, but in this case, I can’t separate the raid on his house from the rest of the rottenness of our ruling class. I am reminded of something I’ve repeated in this space a lot since I heard it last summer in Budapest. I was talking in a taxi with a younger voter who told me she planned to vote for Viktor Orban’s party in the spring election. I asked her why, and she spoke at length about how fed up she was with what she believed was Orban’s tolerance for financial corruption among his supporters. So why do you stick with Orban? I asked. She talked about culture — specifically, about gender ideology that the European Union was trying to push onto Hungarians, but which Orban was fighting tooth and nail. She put it something like this (I paraphrase): “All corruption is bad, but not all corruption is equally bad. Financial corruption is normal. The moral evil of gender ideology is on a totally different level. If we accept that spiritual and moral corruption, we are finished.”

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but she’s right. To the extent that Donald Trump or Viktor Orban is corrupt, it’s Mayor Daley’s Chicago corruption, or Huey Long’s Louisiana corruption. To the extent that the Ruling Class is corrupt, it’s Fall of Rome stuff, or Weimar Germany level rot. I would prefer that the champion against the Regime would be a man (or woman) of unimpeachable character. I don’t see him or her; I’ll take what we have, reminding myself that the faultless man lauded by his contemporaries as “The Incorruptible” was Maximilien Robespierre, a social justice warrior who turned into one of modernity’s great political monsters.

My Cypriot driver laughed as we motored up mountain roads: “Who’s next for you Americans? Caligula? Nero?” He was kidding, but this came at the end of a discourse in which he talked about how much he used to admire America, but no more. We start wars that ruin people’s countries (Cyprus, by virtue of its geography, has lots of ties to the Arab world), and now we have generated a sick way of thinking that is requiring his daughter to learn in school that she might be a boy. He’s right about that. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to give a pass to the people who believe all that is fine, but the real crime — a crime so great that it requires an unprecedented federal law enforcement intervention — is Donald Trump taking documents he shouldn’t have out of the White House? Really?