The populist nationalist on Trump's National Security Council

Anton’s writing became more topical as the campaign progressed. Fearful of losing his corporate job, with the financial-services firm BlackRock, he chose a pseudonym: Publius Decius Mus, after the Roman consul who sacrificed his life at the Battle of Vesuvius. Under the Decius byline, Anton offered forceful defenses of Trump and aggressive broadsides against those on the right who opposed him.

Anton gave me a long explanation for his nom de plume, including a point-by-point rundown of the battle of Vesuvius as described by Roman historian Livy, as well as an exegesis of the showdown between Hannibal and Fabius Maximus Cunctator at the Battle of Cannae. But it boils down to this: Anton sees in Decius the embodiment of the ideals of Machiavelli, the thinker who has been his lodestar.

“There was no way to break authority’s hold over philosophy without shock therapy,” Anton said of Machiavelli. “He delivered the shock therapy by all the pungent, obnoxious, outrageous things he says in his books, which makes him forever after known as an evil schemer, the devil incarnate, and so on. He knew that would be his fate. He knew that would be what most people would think of him for all of eternity. He did it anyway. He accepted upon himself the opprobrium of the world, in order to assess what he thought was necessary in the liberation of thought from under the thumb of authority. In that sense, he is decent. He didn’t sacrifice his body, his wealth, his life; but he sacrificed his reputation.”

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