Stephen VodkaPundit Green writing at Instapundit links this morning to Roger Kimball at PJ Media:
ROGER KIMBALL: The Bumpy Ride of Our Flight 93.
Back in June, Donald Rumsfeld summed up the position that, in subsequent weeks, many (not all) anti-Trump conservatives have come to adopt. Reprising his famous epistemological mot that distinguished between “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns,” Rumsfeld said that, of course he was voting for Trump. Trump was an “unknown known,” perhaps dubious in some ways, but all the world knew exactly what Hillary Clinton represented.
This was the essential point made in a more colorful way in the most remarkable essay I have read in some time, “The Flight 93 Election,” which appeared a few days back in that indispensable journal, the Claremont Review of Books. I have no idea who “Publius Decius Mus”—the putative author—really is, though I speculate on stylistic and philological grounds that he is not unacquainted with the works of Leo Strauss. The historical Decius Mus was a Roman consul during the first Samnite and Latin wars. In 340BC, he sacrificed himself at the Battle of Vesuvius in order to secure a great victory for the Romans. That story, for those who are interested in such things, is told in Book 8 of Livy’s The History of Rome.
Presumably, Claremont’s Publius adopted the name of that self-sacrificing Roman in order to remind his readers of the existential stakes in this election (as well as, of course, concealing his real identity from the wrath of NeverTrump vigilantes). Publius reworks Donald Rumsfeld’s point with a metaphor—with two, in fact: “2016,” he begins, “is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die.”
Read the whole thing.
Roger’s piece is indeed worth reading in it’s entirety. More interesting is the article from which Roger was working:
By: Publius Decius Mus, CRB [the Clairmont Review of Books]
2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.
Except [for] one [guarantee]: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.
I link to this article not because it reflects my views, it does not. I link to and quote from it because it does a far better job of making a case than the candidate or his public supporters do. Publius continues:
To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals? Cruz in 2024!
I can’t know if I am what Publius considers an “ordinary conservative.” I certainly find the claim exceptional bordering on the histrionic (especially when less artfully formed, as we see in our own comment section).
…One of the paradoxes—there are so many—of conservative thought over the last decade at least is the unwillingness even to entertain the possibility that America and the West are on a trajectory toward something very bad. On the one hand, conservatives routinely present a litany of ills plaguing the body politic. Illegitimacy. Crime. Massive, expensive, intrusive, out-of-control government. Politically correct McCarthyism. Ever-higher taxes and ever-deteriorating services and infrastructure. Inability to win wars against tribal, sub-Third-World foes. A disastrously awful educational system that churns out kids who don’t know anything and, at the primary and secondary levels, can’t (or won’t) discipline disruptive punks, and at the higher levels saddles students with six figure debts for the privilege. And so on and drearily on. Like that portion of the mass where the priest asks for your private intentions, fill in any dismal fact about American decline that you want and I’ll stipulate it.
Not much to argue with there (though our progtard commenters do doubt shall). Nor is there much I could argue with in the following:
If conservatives are right about the importance of virtue, morality, religious faith, stability, character and so on in the individual; if they are right about sexual morality or what came to be termed “family values”; if they are right about the importance of education to inculcate good character and to teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia; if they are right about societal norms and public order; if they are right about the centrality of initiative, enterprise, industry, and thrift to a sound economy and a healthy society; if they are right about the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions; if they are right about the necessity of a strong defense and prudent statesmanship in the international sphere—if they are right about the importance of all this to national health and even survival, then they must believe—mustn’t they?—that we are headed off a cliff.
The electorate at large certainly seems to be. Regardless of the outcome, we as an electorate, will get the government we deserve. For myself, living as I do in a deep blue state, there is virtually no doubt as to how the electors shall cast California’s votes. While this does not relieve me of my civic duty, it does make any protest vote on my part something other than a vote for the eventual victor, and the down ballot candidates and issues will certainly matter far more in practical terms.
Presented for your consideration, because I may be mistaken.
Publius has a follow on:
By: Publius Decius Mus, CRB [the Clairmont Review of Books]
ell, that was unexpected.
Everything I said in “The Flight 93 Election” was derivative of things I had already said, with (I thought) more vim and vigor, in a now-defunct blog. I assumed the new piece would interest a handful of that blog’s remaining fans and no one else. My predictive powers proved imperfect.
Which should cheer everyone who hated what I said: if I was wrong about the one thing, maybe I’m wrong about the others. But let me take the various objections in ascending order of importance.
A point from the earlier essay is worth repeating. Conservatives have shouted since the beginning of Trump’s improbable rise: He’s not one of us! He is not conservative! And, indeed, in many ways, Trump is downright liberal. You might think that would make him more acceptable to the Left. But no. As “compassionate conservatism” did nothing to blunt leftist hatred of George W. Bush, neither do Trump’s quasi-liberal economic positions. In fact, they hate Trump much more. Trump is not conservative enough for the conservatives but way too conservative for the Left, yet somehow they find common cause. Earlier I posited that the reason is Trump’s position on immigration. Let me add two others.
The first is simply that Trump might win. He is not playing his assigned role of gentlemanly loser the way McCain and Romney did, and may well have tapped into some previously untapped sentiment that he can ride to victory. This is a problem for both the Right and the Left. The professional Right (correctly) fears that a Trump victory will finally make their irrelevance undeniable. The Left knows that so long as Republicans kept playing by the same rules and appealing to the same dwindling base of voters, there was no danger. Even if one of the old breed had won, nothing much would have changed, since their positions on the most decisive issues were effectively the same as the Democrats and because they posed no serious challenge to the administrative state.
Most definately worth a read.