Anti-Constitution insurrectionists have seized the American cockpit, and they must be stopped even if that requires electing a polarized Donald Trump, wrote social critic Michael Anton in 2016 under a pseudonym.
“The Flight 93 Election” set off an internet storm. The late, great Rush Limbaugh read almost all of it to his audience of Republican base voters soon after it came out, giving them assurance that not everyone on the right hated their candidate after an ugly primary battle in which no less than National Review published a cover essay collection titled “Against Trump.”
Anton was as reviled as he predicted in the essay. But now, six years later, Trump’s four years of governance and the Biden administration’s willfully malicious reign have vindicated the overall accuracy of Anton’s analysis.
Anton said the U.S. administrative state’s gradual replacement of constitutional self-government has metastasized into a national emergency, an argument American conservatives have been developing for more than 100 years. The essay justified a vote for Trump based on his platform against open borders, endless foreign war, and trading our economic advantages to China.
It was these, Anton argued, that really triggered the opposition to Trump, not his public moral failings, since people who divorce their spouses, commit adultery, say mean things about their own political team, publicly glory in fetishes that involve sexual violence, proposition much younger sexual partners, and destroy their own families are funded through “conservative” institutions and celebrated by “conservative” politicians. They are accepted in public discourse and “vaunted institutions” even though such behaviors drive America’s decline.
Yes, America Is in as Much Trouble as We Say
It was the extent of America’s decay that Anton was rhetorically tarred and feathered for noticing. The ruling class has destroyed our culture, economy, traditions, norms, and law, he observed. He argued that we are in a political crisis metaphorically comparable to the situation the Flight 93 passengers faced as they flew toward our capital city.
Standard operating procedures such as cooperating on a “bipartisan basis” and foolishly assuming the communist left acts in good faith have not arrested America’s descent, he argued. More courageous actions were required; ones that recognized we’re facing a cultural and political emergency.
Trump was a wild card, Anton noted, but every other Republican candidate had no idea what time it is, so we’ll have to play the wild and see what happens. The alternative was certain political suicide.
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 one: 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.
He was right. Nothing backs that truth so much as the Biden presidency. It is, as Clinton’s would have been, a third term for Barack Obama, which is to say another four years of planned national demolition and the astonishing expansion of unlimited government, which is to say tyranny. The evidence is more visible now than it was in 2016, and those who tried to un-person Anton over his arguments owe him, and the country, an apology.
The Predictions for Clinton Are True of Biden
In 2016, Anton predicted this, and it’s come entirely true in Biden’s presidency:
A Hillary presidency will be pedal-to-the-metal on the entire Progressive-left agenda, plus items few of us have yet imagined in our darkest moments. Nor is even that the worst. It will be coupled with a level of vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent hitherto seen in the supposedly liberal West only in the most ‘advanced’ Scandinavian countries and the most leftist corners of Germany and England. We see this already in the censorship practiced by the Davoisie’s social media enablers; in the shameless propaganda tidal wave of the mainstream media; and in the personal destruction campaigns — operated through the former and aided by the latter — of the Social Justice Warriors. We see it in Obama’s flagrant use of the IRS to torment political opponents, the gaslighting denial by the media, and the collective shrug by everyone else.
It’s absurd to assume that any of this would stop or slow — would do anything other than massively intensify — in a Hillary administration.
This accurately predicts:
- unprecedented lockdowns aided and abetted by most “conservative” politicians and many “conservative” pundits based on false data projections from communist and socialist countries, mass censorship, population manipulation, and panic;
- the revelations that the FBI and Department of Justice manufactured disinformation, possibly with a real Russian spy, to frame a Republican president as a traitorous Russian spy and got away with it;
- the revelations that the Biden administration used social media monopolies as a cover for wildly illegal government censorship operations;
- the unhinged FBI raiding the homes of pro-lifers peacefully objecting to legalized mass murder and the opposition party’s previous president, and nabbing his supporters for apparent thought crimes while the Supreme Court looks by;
- the only Supreme Court justice who wanted to hear these concerns watching his wife brought in for questioning before a legally illegitimate tribunal that imprisons people who don’t obey its lawless and unprecedented demands;
- the suspicious expansion of the corrupt Internal Revenue Service that was proven to have illegally suppressed conservative speech and was rewarded instead of congressionally flogged;
- the increased risk of a major global economic crisis due to disqualifying financial mismanagement;
- the amplification rather than resolution of a foreign war that has become a proxy war between the United States and a fellow nuclear power over a nation of non-strategic U.S. interest;
- and the lawless and unconstitutional refusal to enforce U.S. national security law to the point that the United States’ southern border is run by transnational criminal cartels in league with our top foreign adversary, China.
If we can’t make Americans out of Afghans in their native country, how can we pretend we can make Americans out of Afghans, Somalis, and Guatemalans flooding the failing institutions of a wildly polarized United States? We can’t even make Americans out of most of the people who are born here. Trump was the only person willing to even talk about this supremely important public concern.
We’re on the edge not only of losing the last vestiges of constitutional government but hurtling warp speed toward becoming a collapsed, authoritarian state like Canada and California, which can shut people up but can’t keep the lights on or the criminals out, as we previewed during Covid. Do you want a reprise of lockdowns because of “global warming”? Do you doubt our rulers would do it? All the underlying arguments for Covid lockdowns also apply to climate lockdowns. So what would stop them?
If you say “the courts,” where were you the last three years? “The courts” authorized not only the banana-republic spying and home raids on an opposition president and his supporters based on ridiculous pretexts but also raids on peaceful pro-lifers that appear nowhere close to ending, the totalitarian-esque political prosecution of any non-leftist near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the entirety of the lockdown monstrosity.
Anton was excoriated for daring to say that a wild man like Donald Trump was a fitting president for a country as far gone as ours: “One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying. That possibility, apparently, seems to them so preposterous that no refutation is necessary. As does, presumably, the argument that the stakes in 2016 are — everything.”
An End to the Phony Contests
We also seem, crucially, to have lost the ability to verify that all our elections are trustworthy and accurate. Anton also predicted this.
Among the many things the ‘Right’ still doesn’t understand is that the Left has concluded that this particular show need no longer go on. They don’t think they need a foil anymore and would rather dispense with the whole bother of staging these phony contests in which each side ostensibly has a shot.
If you haven’t noticed, our side has been losing consistently since 1988. We can win midterms, but we do nothing with them. … And, aside from 2004’s lackluster 50.7%, we can’t win the big ones at all. Because the deck is stacked overwhelmingly against us.
After 2016 and 2020, who can argue with this? Trump won in 2016 with even less than the 2004 national percentage, and his win was undermined by the Spygate scandal.
In 2020, Democrats beat him by pulling out all the stops, which got sloppy. That had the advantage of bringing their trickery out into the open, but the left’s big election-softening measures such as mass mail-in balloting and turning voting days into voting seasons still haven’t been even close to remedied. As usual, most Republicans have accepted this additional election rigging as the new standard operating procedure.
Blue State on a National Scale
In his 2016 follow-up, “Restatement on Flight 93,” Anton elucidated: “if we can’t win in 2016 or 2020, what reason is there to hope for 2024? Will the electorate be more Republican? More conservative? Will constitutional norms be stronger? The country will go on, but it will not be a constitutional republic. It will be a blue state on a national scale.”
“Blue state on a national scale” is exactly what Biden has brought to the White House. We are witnessing in real-time the Californication of our country: The blackouts, the purposely fomented racial divisions, the mass illegal entrance of unknown foreigners and resulting erasure of the middle class, the dramatic rise in the cost of everything, the expansion of every kind of dependency, the streets full of violent vagrants, and the increasing struggles of people who play by the rules to get their kids a decent shot at life.
Oh, yes, and the institutional political corruption and use of government resources for private power. The Biden family is every bit as corrupt as the Clintons, and apparently even more above the law.
What Anton did wrong was believe conservatism’s precepts for real. He believed the right’s decades of arguments that the administrative state is illegitimate because it’s completely unconstitutional. Yet much of the alleged right keeps pretending the administrative state that eliminates the separation of powers and consent of the governed is a legitimate “norm.” Anton called pants-on-fire on this quiescence, and that’s why the people he criticized hate him.
Unfortunately for their personal vendettas, however, recent history is doing more to vindicate Anton than to shame him. The unconstitutional administrative state under Trump revealed its true colors in its rabid and increasing efforts to deny the people their constitutional rights to self-government.
Trump Did Change the Equation — But How Much?
Anton was also right that Trump’s top issues — border security, international trade, and endless foreign wars — were broadly popular and could form the basis of a national renewal. The Biden administration’s gross and dangerous mismanagement of all these issues has vindicated this analysis as well. We’re just two years into Biden’s divisive, lawless, scorched-earth reign, and one already wonders if there will be anything left of our country after two more.
On the flip side, Trump’s platform and four years in office transformed and united the Republican Party. The only people who haven’t figured that out are the people who misread the nation and their own constituents and refused to man up and admit it, forfeiting their credibility to lead. Their cowardice and softness have revealed themselves as more dangerous than Trump’s rudeness and intimidation, and voters are over it.
Riding the center of the maelstrom, Trump’s presidency did change the political winds, in ways Anton couldn’t predict. For one, Trump cracked the right’s tolerance for political correctness, a major victory. We are now free to say, yes, we do want our border secured, and to call that racist is simply unserious and callous to all the women and children trafficked and raped by the cartels. We can say that anti-white racism is also racism, and it’s the right that maintains the strictest zero-tolerance policy on racism.
Trump’s moderate appeal and bull-in-the-China-shop bashing of the racist stigma barrier set the GOP toward becoming a truly multiracial working-class and middle-class coalition party. The amplified media propaganda machine and woke incest between big business and government has prompted a deep and wide backlash, alienating normies from the Democrat Party. In this, Trump’s presidency helped people awaken to their true political foes and allies, clarifying what time we are in and who is a talk-only grifter and who’s a legit freedom fighter.
Anton also couldn’t account for Covid opening so many people’s eyes — except many among self-appointed conservative “leadership,” who acquiesced instead of fighting for actual constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly, free speech, and not being “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”! They left resisting the communists to ordinary citizens, such as the few Democrat lawyers who still believe in civil rights, apolitical doctors who formed impressive new messaging and policy coalitions, and mom bloggers with kids banned from school.
We don’t need the right’s Monday morning armchair quarterbacks to do anything but get out of the way as Ben Sasse did. I’ll stomach the sickeningly cushy retirement awaiting many false friends of our country like him if it frees Senate seats for leaders with a fire in their bellies for holding the left’s feet to the Constitution. We’re going to need all of those we can get in 2022 and every single election thereafter.
As for 2024, it’s an open question whether Republicans will be allowed to freely choose their own candidate or if 2016 was the last time that ever will be allowed to happen in America. The subpoena and coming indictment of Trump, along with all the other security-state election meddling, are clear indicators that, yet again, Anton was right. 2016 truly could have been the Flight 93 election. We stormed the cockpit, and we still don’t know if the plane survived.