America’s Reactionary Intellectuals and the Future of American Conservatism
Laura K. Field
The attention that the media pays to MAGA rally-goers, Midwestern miners, and Proud Boy rioters might lead one to believe that the Republican Party’s embrace of Trumpism is all about noisy members of the grassroots. But many of the people organizing election law changes and book bans have spent their lives in the mainstream, hold JDs and PhDs, and have, heretofore, been the ones to put the brakes on the more extreme elements of the party. As writer and political scientist Laura Field argues in Untethered: America’s Reactionary Intellectuals and the Future of American Conservatism, it is these conservative intellectuals, who rallied behind Trump during—and after—his term in office, who are now wielding the most lasting influence on the future of the Republican party.
Untethered is the story of the new reactionary intellectual movement—a movement made up of people who are willing to deploy means that they know are highly dangerous in order to achieve their own ends, because they are convinced that the stakes are extraordinarily high. It follows the descent of a significant proportion of the leadership of the conservative intellectual community into vulgar and anti-American authoritarianism, especially in the aftermath of January 6th .
While the future may or may not involve Trump, it is essential that we understand that the movement he has inspired isn’t a fringe phenomenon. There is great risk in not acknowledging the influence of the reactionary intellectuals, and Untethered makes clear that they must be recognized, and then defended against, on the campaign trail and in the voting booth, as well as in the public debate.