First, read a writer called Publius Decius Mus:
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. …
Only three questions matter. First, how bad are things really? Second, what do we do right now? Third, what should we do for the long term? …
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. I should here note that I am a good deal gloomier than my (former) JAG colleagues, and that while we frequently used the royal “we” when discussing things on which we all agreed, I here speak only for myself.
How have the last two decades worked out for you, personally? If you’re a member or fellow-traveler of the Davos class, chances are: pretty well. If you’re among the subspecies conservative intellectual or politician, you’ve accepted—perhaps not consciously, but unmistakably—your status on the roster of the Washington Generals of American politics. Your job is to show up and lose, but you are a necessary part of the show and you do get paid. To the extent that you are ever on the winning side of anything, it’s as sophists who help the Davoisie oligarchy rationalize open borders, lower wages, outsourcing, de-industrialization, trade giveaways, and endless, pointless, winless war.
All of Trump’s 16 Republican competitors would have ensured more of the same—as will the election of Hillary Clinton. That would be bad enough. But at least Republicans are merely reactive when it comes to wholesale cultural and political change. Their “opposition” may be in all cases ineffectual and often indistinguishable from support. But they don’t dream up inanities like 32 “genders,” elective bathrooms, single-payer, Iran sycophancy, “Islamophobia,” and Black Lives Matter. They merely help ratify them.
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. It’s even more ridiculous to expect that hitherto useless conservative opposition would suddenly become effective. For two generations at least, the Left has been calling everyone to their right Nazis. This trend has accelerated exponentially in the last few years, helped along by some on the Right who really do seem to merit—and even relish—the label. There is nothing the modern conservative fears more than being called “racist,” so alt-right pocket Nazis are manna from heaven for the Left. But also wholly unnecessary: sauce for the goose. The Left was calling us Nazis long before any pro-Trumpers tweeted Holocaust denial memes. And how does one deal with a Nazi—that is, with an enemy one is convinced intends your destruction? You don’t compromise with him or leave him alone. You crush him.
So what do we have to lose by fighting back? Only our Washington Generals jerseys—and paychecks. But those are going away anyway. 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. …
Yes, Trump is worse than imperfect. So what? We can lament until we choke the lack of a great statesman to address the fundamental issues of our time—or, more importantly, to connect them. Since Pat Buchanan’s three failures, occasionally a candidate arose who saw one piece: Dick Gephardt on trade, Ron Paul on war, Tom Tancredo on immigration. Yet, among recent political figures—great statesmen, dangerous demagogues, and mewling gnats alike—only Trump-the-alleged-buffoon not merely saw all three and their essential connectivity,but was able to win on them. The alleged buffoon is thus more prudent—more practically wise—than all of our wise-and-good who so bitterly oppose him. This should embarrass them. That their failures instead embolden them is only further proof of their foolishness and hubris. …
Trump’s vulgarity is in fact a godsend to the conservatives. It allows them to hang their public opposition on his obvious shortcomings and to ignore or downplay his far greater strengths, which should be even more obvious but in corrupt times can be deliberately obscured by constant references to his faults. That the Left would make the campaign all about the latter is to be expected. Why would the Right? Some—a few—are no doubt sincere in their belief that the man is simply unfit for high office. David Frum, who has always been an immigration skeptic and is a convert to the less-war position, is sincere when he says that, even though he agrees with much of Trump’s agenda, he cannot stomach Trump. But for most of the other #NeverTrumpers, is it just a coincidence that they also happen to favor Invade the World, Invite the World? …
The election of 2016 is a test—in my view, the final test—of whether there is any virtù left in what used to be the core of the American nation. If they cannot rouse themselves simply to vote for the first candidate in a generation who pledges to advance their interests, and to vote against the one who openly boasts that she will do the opposite (a million more Syrians, anyone?), then they are doomed. They may not deserve the fate that will befall them, but they will suffer it regardless.
Next, read what the writer wrote after that:
Second is the objection to my invoking Flight 93. I refer such objectors to Stanton’s words at the death of Lincoln: “Now he belongs to the ages.” Heroes always belong to the ages. For all of recorded history, men have drawn inspiration from, and made analogies to, their heroes. Speaking only of us Americans, for more than 200 years, we’ve been making Bunker Hill analogies, Gettysburg and Pickett’s Charge analogies, San Juan Hill, Belleau Wood, D-Day, Okinawa, Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, and so on and on. But all of a sudden this is “disgusting.” It’s quite obvious that what’s really disgusting to these objectors is Trump. Which they could say forthrightly without recourse to the cheap, left-wing tactic of feigned, selective outrage over a time-honored rhetorical device that goes back to the Greeks, which conservatives are perfectly happy to use when it suits their immediate interest.
Some also complained about the aptness of the analogy: the plane crashed! Well, yes, and this one might too. Then again, it might not. It depends in part on what action the electorate chooses to take. The passengers of Flight 93 roused themselves. They succeeded insofar as that plane did not hit its intended target. The temptation not to rouse oneself in a time of great peril is always strong. In another respect, the analogy is even more apt. All of the passengers on Flight 93—and all of the victims at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon—died owing in part to a disastrously broken immigration system that didn’t then and still doesn’t serve the interests of the American people. Which also happens to be the core issue at stake in this election.
A third objection is that Trump is immoderate in the Aristotelian, or personal, sense and I don’t take that into sufficient account. I have even been lambasted for acknowledging, but not going into detail on, Trump’s faults—as if that theme hasn’t been done to death elsewhere. Trump is not the statesman I would have chosen for this moment. My preferences run toward Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, Reagan, and the like. Trump doesn’t measure up to any of them. But his flaws are overstated. One of the dumber things often said about Trump is that “you can’t trust him with the nuclear codes.” This statement, first, betrays a complete lack of understanding of nuclear command and control. More important, it’s an extraordinary calumny, one that accuses the man of a wish or propensity to commit mass murder on the scale of Pol Pot. On what basis does anyone make such an accusation? Can Trump be erratic, obnoxious, and offensive? Of course, he can be all that and more. But while these qualities are not virtues, they may well have helped him punch through the Overton Window, in which case I am willing to make allowances.
For this objection to be decisive, Trump’s personal immoderation would have to be on a level that aspires to tyrannical rule. I don’t see it. Not even close. The charge of “buffoon” seems a million times more apt than “tyrant.” And even so, one must wonder how buffoonish the alleged buffoon really is when he is right on the most important issues while so many others who are esteemed wise are wrong. Hillary Clinton launched the Libya war, perhaps the worst security policy mistake in US history—which divided a country between two American enemies and anarchy, and took a stream of refugees into Europe and surged it into a flood. She pledges to vastly increase the refugee flow from the Middle East into our communities (and, mark my words, they will be Red State communities). Trump by contrast promises not to launch misguided wars, to protect our borders, and to focus immigration policy on the well-being of the currently-constituted American people. Who is truly more moderate: the colorful loudmouth with the sensible agenda or the corrupt, icy careerist with the radical agenda?
The fourth objection is that I, or what I advocate, am/is immoderate, dangerous, radical, imprudent, and so on. …
To all the “conservatives” yammering about my supposed opposition to Constitutional principle (more on that below) and who hate Trump, I say: Trump is mounting the first serious national-political defense of the Constitution in a generation. He may not see himself in those terms. I believe he sees himself as a straightforward patriot who just wants to do what is best for his country and its people. Whatever the case, he is asserting the right of the sovereign people to make their government do what they want it to do, and not do things they don’t want it to do, in the teeth of determined opposition from a managerial class and administrative state that want not merely different policies but above all to perpetuate their own rule. …
One must also wonder what is so “immoderate” about Trump’s program. As noted, it’s to the left of the last several decades of Republican-conservative orthodoxy. “Moderate” in the modern political (as opposed to the Aristotelean) sense tends to be synonymous with “centrist.” By that definition, Trump is a moderate. That’s why National Review and the rest of the conservatives came out of the gate so strongly against him. I admit that, not all that long ago, I probably would have too. But I have come to see conservatism in a different light. To oversimplify (again), the only “eternal principle” is the good. What, specifically, is good in a political context varies with the times and with circumstance, as does how best to achieve the good in a given context. The good is not tax rates or free trade. Those aren’t even principles. In the American political context, the good is the well-being of the physical America and its people, well-being defined (in terms that reflect both Aristotle and the American Founding) as their “safety and happiness.” That’s what conservatism should be working to conserve.
Trump seems to grasp that the best way to do so in these times is to promote more solidarity and unity. The “conservatives” by contrast think it means more individualism. Neither of these, either, is an eternal principle. Prudence calls for a balance. Few would want the maximized (and forced) unity of ancient Sparta or modern North Korea. Only fool libertarians seek the maximized individualism of Ayn Rand. No unity means no nation. No individualism means no liberty. In an actual republic, a balance must be maintained, which can require occasional course corrections. In 1980, after a decade of stagnation, we needed an infusion of individualism. In 2016, we are too fragmented and atomized—united for the most part only by being equally under the thumb of the administrative state—and desperately need more unity.
Which means that Trump, right now, is right and the conservatives are wrong. His moderate program of secure borders, economic nationalism, and America-first foreign policy—all things that liberals and conservatives alike used to take for granted, if they disagreed on implementation—holds the promise of fostering more unity. But today, liberals are apoplectic at the mere mention of this program—controlling borders is “extreme” but a “borderless world” is the “ultimate wisdom”—and the Finlandized conservatives aid them in attacking the candidate who promotes it. Conservatives claim to deplore the way the Democrats slice and dice the electorate, reduce it to voting blocs and interest groups, and stoke resentments to boost turnout. But faced with a candidate explicitly running on a unity agenda they insist he is too extreme to trust with the reins of power. One wants to ask, again: which is it, conservatives? Is Trump to be rejected because he is too moderate or because he is too extreme? The answer appears to be that it doesn’t matter, so long as Trump is rejected.
Now, read David French:
I have the same problem with the restatement as I had with the first essay, and it’s the same problem I’ve had with every single allegedly intellectual defense of Trump I’ve ever read.
Simply put, these folks don’t defend the real, live Donald Trump. They create someone else entirely — we’ll call him Fake Trump — and defend Fake Trump against all comers. Fake Trump, for example isn’t going to embroil us in foreign wars. But Real Trump supported both the Iraq invasion and the Libyan intervention (Flight 93 dude calls Libya “perhaps the worst security policy mistake in US history”), and during this campaign (just last week!) has supported indefinite foreign occupation for resource extraction.
Fake Trump is going to put a stop social justice crusading and defend life. Real Trump at best doesn’t care about religious liberty or abortion and at worst not only declares that Planned Parenthood does “wonderful things,” he’s arguably one of the sexual revolution’s most ardent practitioners.
Fake Trump, to quote Flight 93 dude again, is “mounting the first serious national-political defense of the Constitution in a generation.” This is spit-out-your-coffee hilarious. Real Trump doesn’t know the slightest thing about the Constitution, but he’s more than happy to suppress your free speech rights if it means the media is more compliant, and he’s more than happy to take your home from you if he can replace it with a Trump casino.
Fake Trump is finally going to implement a sensible immigration policy (indeed, I’ve written that the latest iteration of his policy has some very good elements), but Real Trump has been all over the map. His own business practices contradict his alleged immigration philosophy, he’s signaled that he’s for touchback amnesty, he’s gone after Republicans (namely, Mitt Romney) for being too hawkish on immigration, and even if he gets to build his wall, he’s talked about including a big, beautiful door.
Fake Trump has an ideology. Real Trump has a will to power. We can only count on Trump to say what he needs to say and do what he needs to do to advance his own interests. He will pivot instantly and shamelessly to whatever position he needs to take in that moment to get what he wants. “I alone can solve this” is the core of his belief system — and he “solves” things not through the application of real ideas to real problems, but rather through the alleged awesome force of his wisdom, insight, strength, and personality.
I’d vote for most of the Fake Trumps, but Real Trump is the only one on the ballot. In some ways even Real Trump would be preferable to Hillary (yes, she’s that bad), and in others, she has the edge (yes, he’s that bad.) Americans are faced with two unfit major-party nominees, but don’t tell that to the creators of Fake Trump. They can’t handle the truth.