An advocate of limited government and the free market, Dr. Richard J. Bishirjian has been one of the leading conservative intellectuals in the public square in recent decades.
A scholar, businessman and education leader, Bishirjian was the founder and served as president of Yorktown University and Yorktown University of the Americas, which was based in Gainesville. He has studied under conservative intellectuals like Eric Voegelin, Gerhart Niemeyer and Michael Oakeshott and has taught at colleges in Indiana, New York and Texas.
Bishirjian has written several books and scores of articles on politics, philosophy, political theory and education. Now he has turned his hand to writing a novel. In Coda, Bishirjian tells the story of Bob Hill, a Republican serving in the U.S. Senate, who finds redemption after being ordered into a substance abuse treatment program following being sentenced for involuntary manslaughter after a car accident in which he was driving under the influence.
Florida Daily spoke with Bishirjian about his new book and other topics.
FD: You have written a great deal over the years on government, politics, education, conservatism and other topics–but never ventured into fiction until now. What prompted you to write a novel?
RJB: Great question! Quite by accident, I visited the CODA Gallery in Palm Desert and a statue of a woman dressed in a ball gown reminded me that, in January 1981, conservatives working on the Reagan “transition” organized our own “Inaugural Ball” which we continued every year afterward.
FD: Conservative thinkers like William F. Buckley, Eric Voegelin, Gerhart Niemeyes and Russell Kirk helped shape your thoughts over the years. What do you see as some of the conservative themes included in Coda?
RJB: Another great question, but they were responsible for directing me to read widely–I read every book mentioned in National Review, the last being Voegelin’s New Science about five weeks before sitting in his classes at Notre Dame.
FD: The Coda Gallery in Palm Springs where a key scene in the book happens. What is your connection to the gallery?
RJB: My wife’s brothers and sisters meet at Rancho Mirage in Palm Springs at Christmas. They all play golf (which I do not) so I would visit Palm Desert where high-end shops offer expensive “stuff” that I can’t afford.
FD: There are plenty of political themes in the book. Where would you see Senator Bob Hill, the main character of the novel, fitting in on Capitol Hill or with today’s GOP?
RJB: Jim Jordan, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz would be friends and he’d loathe John Kasich and Rob Portman. I met with Kasich just before he left Congress to ask him to support Yorktown University. Nada.
FD: Is there any possibility of a sequel to Coda?
RJB: Bob Hill starts to plan a run for president on November 4, 2020. I’m commissioning a script for a film to sell to streaming media and will organize a film production effort for $2 million.
FD: You have two other books in the pipeline on empire and Western civilization. When can we look forward to those books and what will you examine in them?
RJB: In Fall 2021. En Route Books has indicated it will publish both.
FD: As a longtime conservative leader, how do you see the presidential and Senate elections coming up in a few weeks?
RJB: Timely question. Biden demonstrated in the first debate that he isn’t senile. I’ve had reservations about Trump since 2016, though I voted for him (reluctantly). He has a limited appreciation of the limits placed by the Constitution on executive power.
His family company is “dirty” and he fears prosecution by New York and federal district courts after leaving office. That explains his acceptance of gun-toting vigilantes. Trump is dangerous.
FD: Where does the conservative movement go after November?
RJB: The movement became a “business” in 1981 and has ceased to be an effective social force. As a “movement” it no longer exists.
We’re in for ten years of radical reorganization of politics leading to another civil war
FD: You have been a leading educator and have led the charge to reform higher education. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted higher ed? Where does higher ed go from here?
RJB: I did an interview on these topics. I don’t expect a vaccine until after the 2023 academic year and, by Fall 2023, 1,000 colleges will close. I have started American Academy Online to assist in moving courses and degree programs online.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.