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Forward 50 2018

Max Boot

A Change of Heart

Max Boot is one of those rare public intellectuals with firmly held beliefs who is willing to admit that he was wrong. He’s done that a lot in the last year, and garnered enormous attention for it.

A Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union who was raised in California and once quipped that he was the only conservative student at Berkeley, Boot’s writings have upheld centrist Republican values: socially liberal, economically conservative, in favor of a strong military and American intervention overseas, but wary of “political correctness” and identity politics.

Trump’s nomination and election victory, though, seriously rattled Boot, 49, a columnist for the Washington Post and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Late last year, he realized how wrong he was to overlook the privilege he enjoyed as a white man. This year, he reversed his skepticism of the danger of climate change.

Then he went even further. Not only had he officially renounced the Republican party after Trump’s election, but in a widely-shared, damning column published just before the midterms, Boot exhorted his readers to vote for Democrats. “For every office. Regardless of who they are,” he urged.

Given his past, his platform and his political reputation, Boot’s battle cry resonated widely, bolstered by the publication of his timely book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.” In it, he noted that there were enough former Republican anti-Trumpers “for a dinner party” but “not for a political party.” The question before Boot is whether his will be a lonely cry, or the start of a genuine rebellion.

— Jane Eisner

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