The Corner

Politics & Policy

If I Could Take a Moment

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The other day, Jack Butler criticized a new group for young conservatives called American Moment. Jack’s critique struck me as hasty and uncharitable.

The first sentence of the group’s mission statement, as Jack acknowledged only late in his piece, is “to identify, educate, and credential young Americans who will implement public policy that supports strong families, a sovereign nation, and prosperity for all.” This is literally the reason for the organization. Jack deprecates this goal of cultivating young cadres to staff the offices of populist conservative congressmen (and, hopefully, a future Republican administration) as based on “the dehumanizing logic of administrative bureaucracy” and a sign that the principals of American Moment merely want to get a piece of the Swamp action.

But personnel problems were a serious handicap for the prior administration, arguably the flaw that limited its impact and contributed to President Trump’s defeat. Someone, after all, has to man the bowels of government, and this challenge is greater for conservatives since bureaucracies tend to the left, conservatives being more likely to gravitate to the private sector. Rachel Bovard (a member of American Moment’s advisory board) examined the personnel problem at length as part of American Compass’s post-mortem for the Trump administration. The paragraph in her piece that’s most relevant here is this:

External forces will plague all future White House staffs, with those seeking the most direct challenge to the status quo facing the strongest pressure. The best immunization is a community and institutions that build cohesion and loyalty, both internally and to the shared policy agenda. Bad personnel choices are always a risk, but good ones will never be better than the pool from which they are drawn.

Maybe American Moment will fail at its goal of contributing to such a community and cultivating such a pool of talent, but it’s clearly an urgent task, and the young organizational entrepreneurs who started the group think they can help meet that need. More power to them.

Part of that function is American Moment’s goal of serving as a “credentialing” organization, essentially seeking to develop a brand so that potential employers would know what they were getting when hiring someone with the group’s imprimatur. 

One sign of the failure of the current mechanisms for educating and credentialing young conservative foot soldiers, and thus the need for something like American Moment, is the success of people such as Nick Fuentes. It’s not that young people are attracted to his noisome Jew jokes and obsession with the USS Liberty; it’s that they see no one else their age calling for reduced immigration, a less-interventionist foreign policy, and an end to free-trade fundamentalism. We’d better hope American Moment or something like it captures significant market share, because there’s a lot worse than Fuentes out there.

Jack also seems to suggest that American Moment is insufficiently appreciative of Donald Trump’s shortcomings and his contribution to his administration’s problems. It’s true that the group doesn’t specifically call out Trump, which is probably a prudent move. But I can think of no way to telegraph your fealty to principle over personality — to “sort out Trump’s vices from his virtues”, as Jack put it — than to feature Jeff Sessions as your marquee endorser at your launch party. Sessions is the last person in the world — literally the last person, including even Kim Jong-un — that a Trump-cultist group would embrace.

The point is not that any of us here has an obligation to toe a party line; NR is no one’s PR shop. But when writing a critique — especially of a group whose board includes several people, such as J. D. Vance, who have written for this magazine — to do our best to be fair.

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