One can’t travel too far in the American conservative world without encountering the “Straussians.” There are many words that could be used to describe this assortment of conservative intellectuals who take after the political philosophy of Leo Strauss—but “lowbrow” isn’t one of them. Michael Anton is not merely a Straussian; he is a former national security official in the Trump administration, speechwriter for Rudy Guiliani, and managing director at Blackrock. It would not be unusual for such a man to write a book review. It would be unusual for him to grant the time of day to something written by a pseudonymous author who calls himself the “Bronze Age Pervert”, alternatively “BAP.” Yet Anton did indeed review the book Bronze Age Mindset for the Claremont Institute, concluding his 5000 word piece: “conservatism is losing. BAP-ism is winning.”
If Anton’s remarkable closing statement is true, this book is worth paying attention to, however ridiculous. It’s not hard to see why conservatism might be “failing” for the next generation of American right-wingers. The economic libertarianism promoted since Reagan does little to excite a generation looking for opportunity in an economy squeezed by offshoring, exploding college prices, the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and now a nation-wide pandemic lockdown. Moreover, the right has been mercilessly crushed on every social issue, from abortion to gay marriage. As cities now descend into violent anarchy over a civil-rights revolution that never ended— all while many Americans cannot return to their job or church; it is hard for young voters not to see conservatism as a massive failure. The youth of the American middle class do not feel that the GOP will save them.
So what are they turning to, if not the conservative movement? If Anton, the Amazon sales rankings he cites, and Twitter engagement are to be believed, they are reading Bronze Age Mindset. For this reason alone, the book is worth reading. Fortunately, it is truly “not to be judged by its cover”, nor the “pidgin Nietzsche” style. Rather than being a run-of-the-mill screed on contemporary politics, it is a self-described “exhortation”, drawing on history, the philosophies of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, and depictions of Mitt Romney as Alcibiades to craft a fascinating read. BAP’s goal appears not to be directly political, but rather to encourage his readers to courage, high aspirations, and a life of vitality.
Some parts of this book are likely to offend; political correctness is not BAP’s strong suit. This should not dissuade; Anton correctly notes: “very little—if anything—BAP says is more outrageous than even the mid-level outrages of Machiavelli or Nietzsche, and most is quite a bit gentler than what one finds in Marx, Lenin, Mao, Sayyid Qutb, Guevara, Alinsky, Foucault, or any number of fanatics whose screeds are taught in elite universities.”
“Conservatism is losing, BAP-ism is winning.” This provocative statement is not only likely correct, but in many ways an encouraging sign. There is much one will find to disagree with in this book, but also much more of value than just about anything currently produced by the current conservative movement. It’s worth a read.