Here in the Great Southern Free Zone, a tectonic shift in political, financial, and cultural power has become palpable over the past year. As our nation’s once bustling northern cities faded into bleak and hostile dystopias foundering upon a swamp that could not be drained, the pandemic presented Americans aspiring to something better with a bold new opportunity: to leave the swamp for the sunnier skies of Palm Beach.
My own arrival here, before the pandemic but after a decade of higher education in Washington and a 15-year international academic career that proved a cross between an expensive hobby and a hopeless waste of time, has confirmed the almost daily barrage of news about how chic and desirable this oasis of pleasure and power now truly is.
No longer captive to brick-and-mortar office towers or insipid corporate headquarters, the likeminded have been congregating in this newest outpost of freedom, where they need not fear assault, harassment, or any form of “cancellation” because of something they said or wrote, because of who they worked or voted for, or because they failed to parrot whatever shibboleth the nation’s obnoxious administrative-managerial caste attempts to foist upon them.
It sweetens the pot that they can enjoy these freedoms in bright sunshine and without state or local income taxes, New York crime rates, and Washington gasoline shortages, while their former neighbors languish under dire and unenviable burdens in the forlorn hope that happy days will come again.
To borrow one of the woke left’s more infantilizing terms, Palm Beach is a “safe zone.” Historically a discreet island community marked by a ruthlessly exclusive social life, it literally has bridges that can be raised to protect it.
As of last week, it is Donald Trump’s undisputed place of legal residence.
Since the former president left office earlier this year, Washington politicos have been flying down by the planeload to seek his counsel, endorsement, or favor.
A whole community of financial leaders, creative professionals, journalists, pundits, and business titans now calls it home, often having brought their companies, assets, networks, and employees with them.
As the marvelous socialite Evelyn Prebesen Harrison described it after a storied international career, “In Palm Beach there are always new people to meet and new friends to make … The most extraordinary people in the world gather and find each other here!”
Palm Beach’s new prominence presents a unique opportunity.
It calls for organized intellectual activity on the world-class scale to which its residents are accustomed in every other area.
But in the current conditions, the newly founded Palm Beach Freedom Institute is capable of so much more.
Politics lies downstream from culture, and by founding the Institute, I hope to offer a platform to influence policy supporting the principles of the American founding and our Constitutional rights and liberties on a national and even international level.
It is meant to be a kind of anti-think tank, one that can subvert the nebulous purposes and interests of the swamp precisely because it exists far outside the cringing agendas that make so much of Conservative, Inc. feckless and irrelevant.
Here we need not suffer the neutered urban norms that govern our queasy counterparts in Washington or New York, who must make all manner of compromises to coexist with blue-state neighbors who might otherwise banish them from their cocktail parties and food co-ops, or just judge them more harshly than their delicacy can bear.
In Palm Beach, no one need fasten a bowtie to signal his tweedy willingness to lose graciously on every important issue in hope of being tolerated as a harmless outlier in a field of condescending wonkery.
Instead, we can be ourselves, plainspoken and unintimidated, with no obfuscation by the Orwellian duck speak that resounds over the fetid Potomac.
Our Institute’s potency is already firmly in evidence.
Even in the absence of any formal announcement or publicity, curious calls and e-mails have poured in from up north, from people and organizations with names that readers might recognize with well merited distaste.
Our soft launch, which was deliberately closed to working media, even found its way into Politico’s “Playbook” column, the first-thing-in-the-morning scroll that is de rigueur for every Washington operative.
Usually, our interlocutors are not interested in helping our new venture or learning about our mission. They want, rather, to probe what we, in our South Florida paradise, can do for them, in the putative capitals of our country or, more likely these days, over Zoom in whatever featureless suburbs they inhabit.
At least one, a prominent newspaper editor who could not be bothered to RSVP properly for our soft launch, expressed concern that our unapologetic departure from the urban “elite” conservative movement’s guileless idiom might not “come across well” to people whose opinions apparently matter to him.
Frankly, I hope it doesn’t.
There is no other way to start a counterrevolution, and our frenzied activity over the past few weeks has proved that the counterrevolution will start in Palm Beach.
Paul du Quenoy is President of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University.
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