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Julius Krein: 'I Voted For Trump. And I Sorely Regret It'


It wasn't long ago - just this spring - that Julius Krein founded a new policy journal called American Affairs. It took on, in part, the task of explaining and exploring the new American politics - aka Trump-ism - in a sympathetic way. Krein, a Harvard political philosophy grad who spent some time working in finance, had become a blogger and an early supporter of candidate Trump. But since Charlottesville, he has changed his mind about the president. Julius Krein joins me now from our studio in New York. Thank you very much for being with us.

JULIUS KREIN: Thank you for having me.

CHANG: I want to start with a line from the opinion piece you wrote recently for The New York Times. In that, you wrote, quote, "I can't stand by this disgraceful administration any longer, and I would urge anyone who once supported him, as I did, to stop defending the 45th president." How did you go from being one of Trump's most hopeful supporters to writing a sentence like that?

KREIN: Yes, well, I've always been very interested in his critique of the prevailing policy consensus that he raised during the campaign. And even though I thought he was always an imperfect vehicle for that, I thought he might be a sort of adequate one. But after Charlottesville, his just refusal to state the facts and condemn the groups responsible - and in this case, you know, there was no claiming that it was a faulty earpiece or a misstatement or anything because he just kept re-emphasizing the same comments - it became clear that what he really cared about all along, exactly as his critics said, was the sort of worse parts of his campaign and clearly has no interest in or ability to execute the better agenda that he faintly gestured at. And so I felt it was time to state my opposition to this president.

CHANG: Yeah, you had said in that piece that you realize now you were deluded in defending Trump against accusations - he panders to racists. What convinced you about that?

KREIN: Like I just said, his reaction to Charlottesville, it wasn't a mistake. It wasn't a misstatement. It wasn't a faulty earpiece. It wasn't just...

CHANG: Yeah.

KREIN: ...Distasteful comments about other celebrities to get media attention. This clearly is what he wants to stand for more than anything else.

CHANG: That is the moment that you will judge him on. I mean, you also wrote in the blog called "The Journal of American Greatness." And some of the people you worked with there, such as Michael Anton, who's now a National Security Council adviser - some of them are pretty close to Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist. Do you think it's actually good to have Bannon working outside the White House now - that he's in a better position to help propel some of the ideas that you may share with him?

KREIN: Well, Bannon has always been completely incompetent at propelling any ideas. And he's actually been totally confused about the ideas themselves in terms of policies and the sort of larger intellectual picture. So I think it's better to have him out of the White House. But I don't think he'll be anything but counterproductive anywhere.

CHANG: Do you feel that it'll actually allow for some calm and some orderliness in the White House, for Bannon to be outside of the administration?

KREIN: And I think it's a positive step. I think it can't hurt. But at the same time, the problem in the White House was not just Steve Bannon. It goes all the way to the president. So I don't think it's enough. And I don't see how this White House can really dig itself out of the hole that it's gotten itself into.

CHANG: So what happens now with your policy journal, American Affairs? Where does it go from here?

KREIN: It's exactly the same. The journal was always interested in the policy and the ideas. I, for a time, thought that Trump might be a semi-adequate vehicle for that. I've clearly changed my mind on that. But the larger ideas in policy remain the same, and they remain, actually, popular. That's how Trump got elected in the first place. And I think the fact that no more serious candidate was able to recognize the deep problems facing the country...

CHANG: All right.

KREIN: ...Which go back long before Trump...


KREIN: ...Is how Trump got elected.

CHANG: That's Julius Krein, editor of American Affairs. Thank you for joining us.

KREIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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