If you haven’t heard, a fellow (I assume) named Publius Decius Mus penned an anonymous, 10-page essay at the Claremont College website, entitled the “Flight 93 Election“ It’s a near-masterpiece, even historic. While I have argued virtually every point raised by PDM for several years, his presentation is immaculate, chalkboard perfect in connecting dots with metaphors I could never match. This is a keeper, so print it, even highlight or diagram it.
It’s also long, but not above anyone’s head, even millennials, if they only put their whole minds to it. It’s what you might call a 4-dotter, where the author connects paragraphs with logic, one to the other, completing a nearly complete picture of the Trump candidacy and what it means to the nation and conservatism. (Then finally, with William F Buckley’s assistance, I add the constitutional position of the average American citizen.)
The essay is an explanation, more than an attack, on the position held by the #NeverTrump crowd, politely chastising the logic of their arguments more as a parish priest might a wayward soul than a fire-breathing Billy Sunday pounding on the pulpit.
But as you can imagine, many took offense anyway.
Clearly, Publius Decius Mus’ logic isn’t shared universally.
Nor was it complete, to my conservative tastes. As a unified theory, it missed a point, which I have raised below, but only after I’ve dispensed with the teat-fittery, for you see, whether intentional or nor, Publius Decius Mus’ arguments are largely generationally-resisted, between a group that has largely been around a long time, and have the benefit of experiences, and insights gathered by those experiences, that millennials and far too many Gen Xers, can’t claim…yet. Though clearly not as smart, we are much wiser…
…if for no other reason, we know to seek it.
So, when Rush Limbaugh brought this essay to the general public’s attention last week, it caused a firestorm of controversy, while also possibly producing an irreversible sea-change in the election itself, in that it depicted the reality of a Hillary Clinton victory in November in stark, even harsher terms than anyone has portrayed to them.
That PDM’s Flight 93 metaphor might cause so many anti-Trumpsters to edge closer to voting for Trump (this is already occurring) may in part explain the vitriol that has been employed to counter its impact. The January 2016 “National Review” issue was dedicated to prevent just this very thing. Publius Decius Mus has proved that it didn’t work.
But I have this curious interest with millennials, especially its brightest, knowing that some day (sooner than I’d hoped), we’re going to have to bequeath the whole conservative shooting match to them, one way or another. So even if we win in 2016 their conservatism may well face its own Flight 93 moment say 15-20 years from now, unless the fixing begins now. Or a new conservatism rises in their place. Their arrogance, vanity, and me-me-me’ism is so great they may never be able to grasp the finer we-we-we’isms of conservatism that may well have passed with William F Buckley in 2008. (Note: That’s how I measure conservatism-time, before- and after-WFB.)
Which brings me to Ben Shapiro, who I still think is the cream of the millennial lot, even though he attended Harvard, which Buckley warns us about (below). My son, (48) who follows Ben more closely than I do, and, being closer to that generation in age, tells me Ben had led him to think that he will hold his nose (God, how many times have we been asked to do that since 1992?) and vote for Trump anyway. But I didn’t get any hint of that in reading Ben’s screed-riposte at DailyWire, so you be the judge. I see some cause to believe that Ben Shapiro may actually retrench in the other direction, against Trump, which is teat-fittery writ large, since he may be arguing against his own original logic.
I still believe Ben Shapiro to be the best of his generation, but unless he can look into his future and see himself as a big duck on a big pond some day in the future, after gaining experience, maturity, and heaps more knowledge than he currently possesses, not to mention just a dash of humility, and will compare it to his current estate as just a big pissant in a shallow pool of warm pee today, where he truly is swimming at the top of his class, and quite profitably, I hold out little hope for him when he’s 45-50.
I’ve tried to save Ben in the past in this regard, but because of the urgency of the current election, I can only offer him my best wishes going into the final few weeks, for if things go as they seem to be, Ben, like that unlucky president of William and Mary, who went from first-to-worst in 1776 by choosing the wrong side, going from the Great American Colonials list to the Forgotten American Tories list in six short years, may find himself as one of the forgettables. But we simply have no time to wet-nurse him. By 2017, should Trump win, all that will remain to be seen will be how many of these never-Trumpsters will become Great American Wreckers, as Ben Howe at RedState, and his duller-witted colleagues there have promised to assist Mrs Clinton in every way they can. (I’ve tried to save that other Ben, too, as I know him, and personally believe he could never have gotten through PDM’s essay without a cheat sheet anyway.)
So, in yet another way, this election could indeed be many NeverTrumpsters own Flight 93, and they know it. This election is about their celebrity, their status, and their bank accounts. They’ve given less thought to true American conservatism than Milo has about kissing a girl.
About PDM’s Flight 93 metaphor
Now, I’m an historian and analyst, and my paying gigs for nearly 20 years were in using historical models to assess the possible and likely outcomes of certain kinds of political regimes coming to power in the United States. I learned my craft in the then-Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, 1991-2010.
It has long been my position, considering the clear intentions of the Left in this country, made manifest in the past 7 1/2 years under Obama, but even back to the Clinton years 1992-2000, that the Left is moving headlong toward some type of authoritarian government which will leave roughly 80% of the citizenry powerless in all the important things in our lives. There is at least 500 years of history, including recent history, which proves how these experiments work out.
And PDM is likely correct, with a 75% reliability, that once the Left reaches a comfortable failsafe point, they will be able to remove the velvet glove and replace it with the iron fist. I wrote several articles in the early Obama years about how life will change once socialism, fascism, Marxism, call it what you may, gets into their comfort zone.
It’s part of their playbook, which means that Ben Shapiro’s argument and defense that conservatives can still work toward Cruz in 2024 if Hillary wins, isn’t really possible…unless it won’t make a difference. Nor will his kind necessarily be allowed to hang around if they kick up too much of a dust. After the 1918 Bolshevik Revolution, the civil war went on in Russian for four long years. But by 1919 all the intellectuals who had helped position the Bolsheviks for their takeover had been shuttled into cattle cars and shipped to the new gulag in Siberia…the fate of almost all useful idiots of the Left. You see, we old timers have a memory of these things, while Ben’s generation, not so much.
So, while possible, it would be very dangerous for any American to put all their apples in the “limitless number of tomorrows” to restore the rights of the people via the ballot box basket. Ben Shapiro explicitly rejects this, and he is flat out wrong. But he is young and can be excused. Going up the generational ladder, to Erick Erickson, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, Jeb Bush, and George Will, they are less excusable, although the hidden yearnings behind their reasoning may well be the same. Fat-and-sassy is a habit hard to give up. When the Mongols under Genghis and his sons stormed across Russia, giving weeks advance warning they were coming, they were amazed how many of the city dwellers, behind walls, (not so much the farmers) chose to stay in the hopes they could talk or bribe their way out of their predicaments. Just to hold onto their possessions. They chose poorly, and virtually none survived, but don’t worry, that isn’t likely to happen in the modern age. Still the impulse to hold onto fat-and-sassy runs deep, and is very ancient, Never-Trumps, so “a man ought to do what he thinks best.”(John Wayne)
I even have friends over 60, who are full on board with Trump, but still cannot allow themselves to believe that such a collapse into tyranny could occur, to “think the unthinkable” about a complete razing of American culture and institutions, even as they’ve watched it plucked like a goose, feather-by-feather, for over 20 years now. Ronald Reagan could never have convinced himself to see “communists” in the eyes of members of Congress when he gave a State of the Union address, yet they were there, we now know. GW Bush could never see in Congressmen a worse evil and threat to America than the one he was fighting in the Middle East. Reid and Pelosi were just harmless liberals, only Barack Obama has proved him wrong, possibly fatally, and 2017 may well be our last chance to rectify these miscalculations.
Probably speaking for all of the anti-Trumpsters, Shapiro rejects the Flight 93 metaphor out-of-hand. But he only examined the one hand. You see, their own doom was not the only consideration to the passengers on that aircraft. They knew that if they did nothing they would still die anyway, but that scores or hundreds more Americans would die if it hit its target. Saving those lives was paramount.
And I have yet to find a millennial who has considered this other hand.
Therefore PDM’s Washington General’s analogy also works. You may not know the General’s, but I did as a kid in the 50s, as one of my college heroes, Bill Spivey, played for them. It works because the circumstantial case for a Flight 93 doomsday scenario, and the motives behind it, is better made than the puny notion that modern, post-Buckley conservatives are in the conservative craft for “America and the other guy”, since clearly they are driven more by celebrity, status and money. I can’t imagine George Will conceiving of a world in which he doesn’t have a full membership to Washington society, which was created and established by the 1930s Roosevelt’s. How can anyone claim to be a soldier against the Left while all his success and access are based on the fact that he is a satellite in a planetary system in which the American Left is the sun. How can you honestly want to destroy that which illuminates you?
Again, let a jury decide. But first, submit this final point to the jury:
The Buckley-Factor: What Publius Decius Mus missed
I don’t know how my millennial betters do it now, but when I was in my 30s I was a practicing Army lawyer and spent more time learning than telling people what I knew. I worked for senior officers who are in the history books. I studied just to keep up with them. And when I found an idea that was new or challenging, I immediately retreated to my closet (a little New Testament lingo there) to evaluate it. It was an acquired habit, and over the years Pascal, CS Lewis, Chesterton have all sent me there. Lately Schweikart and Allen’s “Patriot’s History”, which I read nearly 10 years after it was published is found there too. But mostly I turned to “National Review” and William F Buckley, Jr.
One such comment of his is the basis for this essay.
I call it the Buckley-Factor, taken from his quote:
After I came back from the USSR in early ’92 I wrote WFB and asked him if he actually meant those words.
He replied, as always, in a brief 4-word note probably typed on that little typewriter always sitting in his lap in the back of his car, while being driven to the airport, “You bet I did.”
I asked that question because of an incident that occurred to me in Ukraine around Christmas, 1991, at the home of a law professor: (I retell this story at every opportunity, as it was my road-to-Damascus moment about the Constitution, first driven home to me by WFB with that quote. In Ukraine that true purpose was revealed to me by some socialist college professors.
I’ve told this story before, of the time in 1991 I attended a birthday party for a law professor at a university in USSR Ukraine. Around three tables pushed together, in a dimly lit room, in early-winter, there were twelve, mostly academicians, all standing, glasses held high, while the host’s son would go around and fill each glass with a home-brew vodka in a very traditional Russian round-robin series of toasts. When this parade finally ended at the head the table, the host asked me to speak on his behalf. Just a little in my cups, and having nothing un-foolish to say right off the top of my head, I steadied myself and reached into my inside pocket and pulled out my trusty Cato Institute edition of the Constitution, and read from it aloud, more specifically, Jefferson’s famous lines of the Declaration, one slow phrase at a time, so it could be translated. “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
At the time I didn’t know these words by heart, but I do now.
What happened next is why.
Common words to many Americans, I swear, I don’t think any of those Soviet professors had ever heard them before, for upon finishing, I looked up to see every person assembled crying, tears pouring down their cheeks. There wasn’t a single smug been-there-heard-that look in the crowd. I’m sure the vodka helped. Then after we had eaten, three of the professors, continuing a constitutional Q & A begun before the meal, rushed up to say “Mister, Mister, now we understand Amerika Constitution. Is simple…even Ivan Ivanovich (the Russian Homer Simpson) can pursue life, liberty, happiness without permission of state.” (Emphasis mine …and theirs.)
As Father Mulcahy of the old M.A.S.H. television series once said: “How can you experience something like that and not be changed?”
Only a day or two ago, Hillary Clinton called our collective Homer Simpsons “deplorable.” Last year, George W Bush called these same people, who elected him to office, “nativists” – and between the two Bens they have been called every name in the book, from hayseed, redneck, goober, hillbilly, illiterate, etc…
… and yet there is Bill Buckley saying he preferred being governed by them than Ben Shapiro’s faculty at Harvard.
I even published a book, “Famous Common People I have Known” (which is available at Amazon).
So, what does this highest of truths mean to our intellectual betters among the anti-Trumps?
Like our friend, Lady Penguin, who has said she will wear the name “deplorable” with honor, I think it is time we rededicate ourselves to the people about whom the country was created, its C-students, from whence all our A-students arose, lest these little ungrateful sonsabitches have forgotten the shoulders they stand on.
They cannot be conservatives if they do not understand the miracle of both our creation as a free people, and our success as a nation, from C- to A-student, because of it.
Evening Bells in Russian
Publications: Famous Common People I Have Known and Other Essays
(Both books in Kindle format only, Publishers and agents welcome, as both need to revised)
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