Seizing the Cockpit of the Flight 93 Election


OK I was wrong.

Back in August I predicted that Trump would lose to Clinton, and even further back, in 2014, I predicted that Senate would go back to the Democrats. Instead, Trump smashed down the gates of the establishment, winning the Presidency with (as of this writing) 279 electoral votes.  I also predicted that Florida would go Democratic this year.  I was wrong about that too. Instead, this Black Swan Event totally disrupted the polls and the process. How sure was I that Hillary Clinton was going to win?  Last weekend I wrote a totally different draft version of this post, one that made the assumption that Clinton would win: one that would be ready to publish as soon as the networks called the election.  I didn’t even bother to prepare an alternate version.  After all, Clinton had been leading in the polls most of the year, and in that way it resembled 2012 or 1996.  The polls would have to have been totally wrong in order to get another result.

Well they were wrong.

This election truly was the Flight 93 election. While writing this I had thought for sure I had written about this article previously and apparently didn’t.  And for that, I apologize to my readers, since I regard it as the most important piece that’s come out this year in defining the stakes of this election for the right.  Well even though the election is over, it’s still worth reading in its entirety. But just a few excerpts to summarize the main thesis:

“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.

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?”

“Let’s be very blunt here: if you genuinely think things can go on with no fundamental change needed, then you have implicitly admitted that conservatism is wrong. Wrong philosophically, wrong on human nature, wrong on the nature of politics, and wrong in its policy prescriptions. Because, first, few of those prescriptions are in force today. Second, of the ones that are, the left is busy undoing them, often with conservative assistance. And, third, the whole trend of the West is ever-leftward, ever further away from what we all understand as conservatism.”

“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. “

Basically, the country is declining, which is an argument I’ve been making for years. I don’t believe any other Republican candidate could have won this year.  The Republican brand is trashed and only a Republican who has an identity of something other than a Republican, like Trump, could have fought through that.  That eliminates almost any other “normal” candidate.  Normal has not been working for a while.

So the question has to be asked, does this mean my basic thesis, that our politics is becoming more tribal and based on identity politics wrong?  I think it actually confirms it. I’ll be curious to look at more hard data on the demographic breakdown as it’s released in the days ahead, but winning Ohio and especially Pennsylvania, which last went Republican in 1988, shows that Trump did exceptionally well with the white working class.  Trumps version of the Sailer Strategy, which is that Republicans should go after the white vote in the same way that Democrats go after the Black or Hispanic vote, appeared successful.  Although I don’t think that was an intentional racial appeal on Trump’s part, when your platform reflects the concerns of the white working class, the results will be similar. As Lee Kwan Yew, the late former President of Singapore noted, “In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with your race and religion.”  That’s been the trend in the US for a generation; everyone is bunching up according to their identity group.  The last people to recognize that was happening were the Republicans.  I think at this point, they’ll have to learn to accept and deal with that reality.

So it looks like the passengers were able to rush the cockpit and grab the controls, but it’s not clear yet if they can land it.