In September 2016, just two months prior to Donald Trump’s unlikely-but-historic election to the presidency, Michael Anton, writing under the pseudonym “Publius Decius Mus,” penned a groundbreaking essay, one that sounded like a thunderclap through the Right, and which doubtlessly swayed a number of independents. The now-famous essay was “The Flight 93 Election,” and it spelled out the high stakes of the then-pending election. If you haven’t read it, do so now.
(If my proposed History of Conservative Thought summer course makes, it will be one of the readings for the final week of class, which will cover the 2016 election and the various branches of conservative and Dissident Right thought surrounding the election.)
Anton has a new piece now, “What We Still Have to Lose” (thanks to photog at Orion’s Cold Fire for linking to this piece on his excellent blog), which serves as a follow-up of sorts to his original essay. The piece serves as reminder of what is still at stake for the United States, and to promote, somewhat mildly, Anton’s new book, After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote that Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose.
According to Anton, critics of the original essay argued that he had no positive view for America, and merely argued that electing Trump was a desperation play—gamble on the dark horse, because the known evil of Hillary Clinton is too great—to prevent further disaster. Anton concedes that even he underestimated candidate Trump, and that President Trump has exceeded his expectations.
As such, Anton sets out in this essay (an excerpt from the book) that he does, indeed, possess a positive vision for how America and conservatism can advance. This essay doesn’t get much into that vision, but it does highlight that there is still much to lose.
To prove that point—and to defend against claims of “apocalypticism” in his analysis of the 2016 election—Anton points to the infamous Kavanaugh confirmation hearings:
What the Kavanaugh affair has made clearer to me than ever is that the Left will not stop until all opposition is totally destroyed. The harm they do to people, institutions, mores, and traditions is, in their view, not regrettable though unavoidable collateral damage; it is rather an essential element of the project. It’s a bit rich to be accused by nihilists of lacking a positive vision. But such is life in 2018. To stand up for truth, morality, the good, the West, America, constitutionalism, and decency is to summon the furies.
America cannot long go on like this. Something’s gotta give, and something will. What that “something” will be depends in no small part on the actions of men and women of good character, good judgment, and goodwill. Among the most heartening things I’ve seen in my lifetime was the way the president, the Republican establishment, and most of the conservative movement stood together in the face of what a few took to calling “the Flight 93 Confirmation.” In that instance, justice was done. Many more tests are coming. Victory will require not just spirit and spine but the right arguments that explicate the right principles.
I agree that “something’s gotta give.” I generally despise using the verb “to feel” in writing—it’s weak and transient—but I certainly feel as though we’re on the verge of some cataclysmic paradigm shift. The political and cultural atmosphere certainly seem different since the 2016 election, and the Left is showing its true colors—its penchant for violence, its destruction of the reputation of an innocent man, its dominance of Silicon Valley to deplatform rivals—as the levers of power slip away.
I’ll have to pick up Anton’s book to read more of his vision for America. If it’s as bold as his “The Flight 93 Election” essay, it could wake up many more Americans to the continued perils we face from a bitter, Cultural Marxist Left.