“Strauss-a-Lago”: Branding Trumpism as a Conservative Alternative

In: Comparative Political Theory
Claudia Franziska Brühwiler Professor Dr., Senior Lecturer in American Political Thought and Culture, University of St.Gallen, School of Humanities and Social Sciences/Office of the President, Dufourstrasse 48, 9000 St.Gallen, Switzerland

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When Donald J. Trump announced his presidential candidacy, it seemed as if conservative intellectuals formed a united front against his ideas and persona. Michael Anton challenged this perception in his essay “The Flight 93 Election” (2016) in which he framed Trumpism as the only viable alternative to a sclerotic conservatism. As Anton received support from a prominent West Coast Straussian, Charles Kesler, a debate ensued as to what extent Trumpism reflected Straussian ideas. References to philosopher Leo Strauss and the contextualization of Anton’s quest within a Straussian intellectual space served in part the intellectual branding of a populist strand of conservatism and its differentiation from liberalism. By suggesting a proximity between Straussianism and Trump’s political views, Anton and Kesler tried to provide the Trump candidacy and, eventually, the presidency with a narrative of intellectual legitimacy and continuity, while they could simultaneously build on the Straussian critique of liberalism.

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