In his spirited talk on the current political climate, National Review editor Rich Lowry took time out to say good things and bad things about Amherst College.
He praised Amherst for its commitment to bringing in a diverse lineup of speakers—including conservatives like him. But, tongue firmly in cheek, he condemned the College for not admitting him as a freshman. (Lowry ended up at the University of Virginia). Therefore, he cracked, the admission process must be rigged. This brought a big laugh to the crowd of students, faculty and community members.
Lowry spent the next 40 minutes analyzing the nascent Trump presidency and exploring possible scenarios for the next four years—though he admitted that no one knows what will happen, given Trump’s unpredictability and how the Republican Party responds to him.
He did offer a conceptual historical handhold, though, by comparing President Trump to President Andrew Jackson: both are populists, non-traditionalists and natural fighters. (Lowry often includes historical allusions in his writing, whether it’s his political commentary for Time and Politico or his 2013 New York Times bestseller Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—and How We Can Do It Again).
How, then, will history see Trump? Lowry speculated that, unless the president tacks to the center and becomes more traditional, he may not be able to actually govern and get things done. But if he does move to the center, Lowry added, Trump could lose his base.
Lowry also spoke about how Trump has upended business as usual in manifold ways. His administration, for instance, has three competing senior staffers, one from traditional circles (Reince Priebus), one from his inner circle (Jared Kushner) and one who is an ideologue (Steve Bannon).
Lowry is not alarmist about a Trump presidency. But he has not been a supporter; in February 2016, National Review produced a special “Against Trump” issue. Now that Trump is in the White House, though, only a really significant move on Trump’s part—like nominating a second Supreme Court justice, should an opening arise, who leans liberal—could sufficiently alienate Republicans, said Lowry. He added that the biggest danger to conservatism is if the alt-right becomes mainstreamed in the Republican party.
Lowry took questions for 20 minutes after his talk and lingered afterwards for one-on-one conversations with students and members of the public. Notably, he gave out his personal email address to a number of students, offering to look at their written work or discuss their after-graduation plans. And earlier that day, Lowry held a Q&A with 21 students in Alumni House.
“I’ve watched Mr. Lowry for years on TV and he’s always very amiable, and he was very kind here, too,” said Maximos Nikitas ’17, vice president of the Amherst College Republicans. “He’s anecdotal and loves policy, and I walked away, from hearing him talk, with a much better understanding of conservatism and national politics. My friends all said, ‘He is such an intellectual and accessible conservative, and it’s refreshing to hear someone like that.’”