Michael Anton wrote “The Flight 93 election” on the then upcoming 2016 presidential election under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus. Published by the Claremont Review of Books on September 5, it proved to be the most consequential essay on the election because Rush Limbaugh took it up and read from it on his September 7 show that year. When Anton returned in 2020 with The Stakes and the American Mind essay “The coming coup?,” Rush took it up as well (video at bottom).
Five people died in the chaos on Capitol Hill on January 6. An unarmed 14-year veteran of the Air Force, Ashli Babbitt, was shot point-blank by a Capitol Police officer. Four others, one of them another Capitol Police officer, apparently died of medical emergencies. All of these deaths were tragic and unnecessary. At least one of them, and possibly two, may have been the result of criminal acts—though early reports of Officer Brian Sicknick being beaten with a fire extinguisher are now being, as they say, “walked back.” His family says he died of a preexisting medical condition and have asked the media to stop politicizing his death. Further complicating the official narrative, Officer Sicknick was an avid supporter of Donald Trump.
If it turns out that Officer Sicknick was attacked by a protester, the legal system will—as it should—avenge his death. But the shooting of Babbitt will be investigated and almost certainly found “justified” or, at most, regrettable but no one’s fault except her own. That might even be the correct outcome, and we pray, whatever the verdict, it will be the result of a fair or judicious legal process. Recent experience, however, more than suggests that those perceived as supporting present ruling arrangements are, and will be, treated much more gently than those seen as opposing them.
A full understanding of what happened that Wednesday would begin with the ruling class’s decades-long betrayal and despoliation of what would eventually come to be called Red or Deplorable or Flyover America. But the more proximate cause was the 2020 election—easily the highest intensity such contest of my lifetime. Each side felt that the stakes were existential. The accuracy of those feelings doesn’t matter; their existence was enough to drive events.
As an incumbent seeking a second term, President Trump-even after the COVID lockdowns had tanked America’s previously supercharged economy-seemed to have a lot of things going for him: near-unanimous support from the base, high primary turnout even though he faced no opposition, a seemingly unified party, approval ratings not far from Barack Obama’s in 2012. According to Gallup, in September 2020 56% of Americans reported doing better than they had four years prior—a level that, in ordinary times, would all but guarantee an incumbent’s re-election.
But these were not ordinary times. It was also easy to see—and many friends and supporters of the president did see, and warned about—shoals ahead. The Democrats used the pandemic as an excuse to accelerate and intensify their decades-long effort to loosen and change American election practices in ways that favor their party. In the spring, they began openly talking about staging a coup: literally using the military to yank Trump from power. It’s one thing to hold a “war game” and plot in secret about a president’s ouster, but why leak the result? Only if you want the public prepared for what otherwise would look like outrageous interference in “our democracy.” Democrats and their media allies also, and for the same reason, assiduously pushed the so-called “Red Mirage” narrative: the story that, while you are likely to see Trump way ahead on election night, he will certainly lose as all the votes are counted. This was less a prediction than preemptive explanation: what you see might look funny, but let us assure you in advance that it’s all on the up-and-up.
In response (or lack thereof) to the other side’s assiduous preparations, the president, his staff, his campaign, and his party committed four serious errors of omission….
Whole thing here.
We will conclude our preview tomorrow with Christopher DeMuth’s essay on the Electoral College.