Welcome to University of Trump-Los Angeles

Claremont McKenna College
Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
October 19, 2021

In every White House, there’s always a publication that claims to embody the spirit of the sitting president. The New Republic was the in-flight magazine of Air Force One during the Clinton years; the Weekly Standard could be found on coffee tables in George W. Bush’s West Wing; and Barack Obama famously loved the explanatory journalism of Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman. There was no such publication during Donald Trump’s presidency, of course—Trump’s Twitter feed, in conversation with Fox News, was its own sort of sacred text. 

With Trump’s banishment from social media, it is tempting to think that his movement’s intellectual energy, such as it is, has retreated to the hinterlands of Victor Orban fanzines and right-wing blogs. But I’ve been in a contemplative mood in my travels lately, and polled a number of my sources: does a MAGA version of the Weekly Standard exist—something that embodies the thinking person’s argument for Trump’s nationalist-populist and nativist politics?  

The answer pertains not to one journal, to wit, but rather a series of publications in the orbit of Claremont McKenna, the libertarian liberal arts school on the border of L.A. County. There’s The Claremont Review of Books, its official journal, which  published Michael Anton’s infamous Flight 93 essay calling on Republicans to “rush the cockpit or die” by electing Trump over Hillary Clinton, thereby providing some intellectual cover for the Make America Great Again movement. (An elated Rush Limbaugh famously read the entire essay, start to finish, on his radio show.) There’s also the Claremont Institute, the think tank that has molded commentators like Dinesh D’Souza, Laura Ingraham, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin, Trump speechwriter Darren Beattie, Senator Tom Cotton, and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. It is perhaps best known, most recently, for employing John Eastman, the legal mind who provided Mike Pence with instructions for overturning the 2020 election result on January 6th.