Everyone is buzzing about the reappearance of “Decius” from the late lamented Journal of American Greatness with “The Flight 93 Election” over at the Claremont Review of Books website. Here’s a curious thing: I’ve had a couple of emails from people wondering if I’m “Decius.” To which I respond: You may very well think so; I couldn’t possibly comment.
The lede captures the argument and action of the piece:
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.
Rush Limbaugh read the piece in its entirety on his show yesterday, and it is provoking strong reactions both positive and negative. Ben Howe, a NeverTrumper, objects at RedState:
The metaphor is crap, obviously. The article itself isn’t bad other than that it is a phony baloney plastic banana good-time rock-n-roll straw man. Hell, it’s the Burning Man of straw men.
Did Howe need a professional kitchen sized stand-mixer to combine all those metaphors? Never mind. While Howe objects to what he thinks is the hyperbole of Decius and other conservative panic mongers, he strangely goes on to lay out a lot of arguments about the feebleness of the GOP that actually reinforces the Flight 93 Election thesis, and culminates in this:
[I]t is time to break this cycle [of Republican performance not matching up to campaign promises]. Not out of some sense of tiredness, or election fatigue. It is precisely because we are at a tipping point that the cycle must be broken.
The view that Trump is not the person to break the cycle is perfectly cogent—it is the basis of my huge reservations about Trump—but probably wrong in at least one respect. In my own private conversations with Decius (in front of a mirror???), the question comes up, “If not Trump, then who?” The case for Trump rests chiefly on the massive political disruption he represents. Can he pull it off if elected? Even Decius admits grave doubts.
But about this “disruption” theme. I know that among some of my NeverTrump friends, the conventional wisdom is that the best outcome is for Trump to lose badly, partly so that conservatives won’t be engaged in months or years of bitter recriminations about how Trump might have won but for the traitorous defection of Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol, who, we’re otherwise being told, have no real power or influence anyway. (Heh.) But Ross Douthat, who I believe is a NeverTrumper, offers ironically a good case for why a narrow Trump loss would be the best outcome, recriminations be damned:
Yes, there is much in Trump and Trumpism that richly deserves a total wipeout, and much in his Republican Party that deserves to be sent howling into the political wilderness. But a true landslide, a total repudiation, would also encourage unwarranted self-satisfaction and relief among the American republic’s ruling class — a sense that the ideas Trump represents, the fears and concerns he has exploited, and the people he has rallied can be safely buried and ignored and consigned once more to the benighted past. . .
So it might be with Trumpism, in the event of a true landslide — the problem would be repressed, the political class reassured, and much that needs to change would not.
Thus Hillary Clinton’s weakness and unpopularity might be a gift, of sorts, to the American future. Because she can’t put Trump away, it’s harder to dismiss Trumpism as either a pure joke or a pure evil. Because she can’t put him away, we have to take him seriously. . .
Hmmm. And what if Trump wins? Maybe Ross is moonlighting as “Decius”? His entire column is a brilliant bit of ironic writing.