Authors: Stuart Stevens;
Most important, the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle. As does, of course, the U.S. population, which only serves to reinforce the two other causes outlined above. This is the core reason why the Left, the Democrats, and the bipartisan junta (categories distinct but very much overlapping) think they are on the cusp of a permanent victory that will forever obviate the need to pretend to respect democratic and constitutional niceties. Because they are.
This is a familiar racist plea, and it is not surprising that the author at the time chose to keep his identity secret. (As a general rule, if you are afraid to be associated with your opinion in public, it’s probably time to rethink your opinion.) David Duke delivered the same message when he proclaimed in Charlottesville, “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
The voice in “The Flight 93 Election” echoes less a heroic Roman consul of 350
and more an 1861 secessionist in Mississippi who justified his actions in documents like “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union”: “There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”
In more turgid and pretentious language than the Mississippi Confederates, the author of “The Flight 93 Election” makes the same case that the choice is so bleak there is no choice:
The election of 2016 is a test—in my view, the final test—of whether there is any
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.
“The final test.” This is the language used to recruit suicide bombers, not a rational discussion of political choices in a civil society. The reality that so many Republicans feel the need to justify their support of Trump with these apocalyptic constructs is a telling indication of their desperate contortions to prove that doing what they know is wrong is in pursuit of some higher good. The writer of “The Flight 93 Election” turned out to be not a heroic warrior like his pen name but a former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani named Michael Anton, proving that both boss and staffer can compete side by side in the humiliation derby of the Trump era. In classic Donald Trump style, Anton was rewarded with a White House job. An early essay under the same self-glorifying pseudonym titled “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism”—like the need not to use one’s own name in defense of an American presidential candidate, recognizing the need to admit that “Trumpism” is neither sensible nor coherent is likely more telling than the writer realizes—was full of the same foreboding fear of a nonwhite, non-Christian world that is the essence of Trumpism: “Only an insane society, or one desperate to prove its fidelity to some chimerical ‘virtue,’ would have increased Muslim immigration after the September 11th attacks. Yet that is exactly what the United States did. Trump has, for the first time, finally forced the questions: Why? and can we stop now?” As always with the religious fearmongering of the Trump era, it is instructive to replace “Muslim” with “Jewish” to crack the code of the real sentiment behind the anger. In the same essay, Anton writes,
Yes, of course, not all Muslims are terrorists, blah, blah, blah, etc. Even so, what good has Muslim immigration done for the United States and the American people? If we truly needed more labor—a claim that is manifestly false—what made it necessary to import any of that labor from the Muslim world?
It seems reasonable to assume the author is aware he is dismissing one-fourth of the world’s population with “blah, blah, blah, etc.” To Anton, any potential benefits of Muslims would be for “more labor,” a characterization that any German of the 1930s and 1940s would recognize as
. Though Anton doesn’t have a PhD, as did Joseph Goebbels, he’s well educated and earnestly seems to believe he is presenting an intellectual framework to support the weight of the chanting Trump rallies. When the Trump era and the preceding descent of the Republican Party into a legitimizing force for white nationalism are studied, it seems inevitable that the greatest weight of history will rest not with the Trump voters or even the red-faced Trump rallyists screaming their anger at the press, but with those like Anton and the leaders of the Republican Party who failed a fundamental test of civic decency. They broke a basic bond of trust that those handed a role of power in a functioning democracy would treat the gift as both priceless and fragile, what Abraham Lincoln called “the legacy bequeathed to us.”
Collectively, they are the indolent children of inherited wealth, removed by generations from those who last made the fortune—the Greatest Generation—and too self-absorbed and selfish to consider what they in turn might leave for the next generations. The assumption they make is that there will also be a civil society that respects differing opinions and rejects authoritarianism because they inherited it and assume it is a basic privilege that comes with their natural place in the world. The alternative, responsible role is outlined in
How Democracies Die:
Successful gatekeeping requires that mainstream parties isolate and defeat extremist forces, a behavior political scientist Nancy Bermeo calls “distancing.” Prodemocratic parties may engage in distancing in several ways. First, they can keep would-be authoritarians off party ballots at election time. This requires that they resist the temptation to nominate these extremists for higher office even when they can potentially deliver votes.
Second, parties can root out extremists in the grass roots of their own ranks….
Third, prodemocratic parties can avoid all alliances with antidemocratic parties and candidates….
Fourth, prodemocratic parties can act to systematically isolate, rather than legitimize, extremists. This requires that politicians avoid acts—such as German Conservatives’ joint rallies with Hitler in the early 1930s or Caldera’s speech sympathizing with Chávez—that help to “normalize” or provide public respectability to authoritarian figures.
Finally, whenever extremists emerge as serious electoral contenders, mainstream parties must forge a united front to defeat them….[I]n extraordinary times, courageous party leadership means putting democracy and country before party and articulating to voters what is at stake.
Like the inability to imagine Donald Trump winning, there is a great failure of imagination to contemplate the damage done to American civil society by Trump’s presidency and the degradation of any moral authority of a center-right party. Shortly before the 2016 election, when the consensus was that Trump was going to lose and lose badly, the RNC chairman, Reince Priebus, told a political operative friend, “As soon as this election is over, we’re going to just bury it in the backyard and act like it never happened.” Now many in what passes for the Republican establishment view the Trump presidency the same way. Yes, a white nationalist who ran on a Muslim ban and calls Mexicans rapists, a man who has no sense of truth and little of right and wrong, a man who wrote hush-money checks for a porn star in the Oval Office is president, but, hey, we cut marginal tax rates for corporations. Republicans have become the alcoholics at the bar who promise themselves they can quit drinking whenever they so desire. But let me finish this drink first. In
How Democracies Die,
the authors described
a set of four behavioral warning signs that can help us know an authoritarian when we see one. We should worry when a politician 1) rejects, in words or action, the democratic rules of the game, 2) denies the legitimacy of opponents, 3) tolerates or encourages violence, or 4) indicates a willingness to curtail the civil liberties of opponents, including the media.
Republicans in the Donald Trump era are guilty of all four. A review:
1. Rejects, in words or action, the democratic rules of the game.
Like much of civil society, American democracy functions under a combination of specific laws and assumed norms. As the Mueller Report makes clear, Trump would likely be indicted for obstruction of justice, were he not a sitting president. He has used the White House as a corporate branding tool for his personal gain; is the first president in modern history to refuse to release his tax returns (after promising repeatedly to do so); praised a congressman for assaulting a reporter; attacked the foundations of the American criminal justice system at its highest levels with attacks on the Justice Department, FBI, and CIA; and encourages staffers to break laws both large and small, from refusing to respond to congressional subpoenas to ignoring the Hatch Act. He’s refused to allow records of his meetings with foreign leaders hostile to the United States, like Vladimir Putin. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds are spent at his golf clubs, hotels, and restaurants. His company charges the Secret Service for the golf carts they rent (at exorbitant fees) to follow him in security details. Like no president in U.S. history, Trump has taken the presidency, built in a profit margin, and charged the American public. He has refused to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of the largest attack by a hostile foreign power on the American election system in U.S. history. He has openly discussed not leaving office when constitutionally required. Trump has demanded the attorney general of the United States act as his personal attorney, putting his interest first, the way Roy Cohn did when he worked for Trump. All of these insults and attacks on American democracy have been either cheered by Republicans or, at best, ignored. Those who refuse to specifically support various acts of outrage by Trump more often than not simply shrug and pretend not to be aware. When Trump has left, it is safe to say the ranks of the “Good Republicans” who maintain they really didn’t know the extent of what Trump did will make Washington feel a lot like 1946 Berlin.
2. Denies the legitimacy of opponents
. Trump launched his campaign for president with an attack on the legitimacy of the U.S. president. By challenging Barack Obama’s birth certificate, he was challenging the legality of the presidency and accusing the U.S. government of being illegal. Like so many of his actions to come, the Trump attack was meant to undermine democracy itself and to establish himself as the arbiter of what was legal and illegal. Just as Trump would later rant, “I alone can fix it,” the accusation that Obama was foreign born and therefore illegal was predicated on secret information that only he held. This theme of “secret information” would be a thread throughout the Trump presidency, from assurances he received from Kim Jong Un on nuclear weapons to a trade deal with the Mexican government. Anticipating defeat in 2016, Trump crossed the country denouncing a rigged election manipulated by dark forces that included the press. “The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies,” he accused, usually combined with his now standard charge that Hillary Clinton was a criminal. “Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election.”
Trump led the party that once defined itself as the “law and order” party into Nuremberg-rally-like chants of “Lock her up.”
3. Tolerates or encourages violence.
Trump, who went to great lengths to avoid serving in the military, where he might encounter actual violence, gleefully urges his supporters at rallies to “beat the crap out of” protesters, just “knock the hell…I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.” He’s praised a congressman who attacked a reporter, saying, “Any guy who can do a body slam, he is my type!” In a speech in front of law enforcement officers, Trump urged them to get “rough” on gang members.
host Joe Scarborough asked Trump in 2015 about Vladimir Putin’s record of killing journalists, Trump answered, “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe.”
Trump has lamented that other Republicans aren’t “tough enough.” In an interview with Breitbart in March 2019, Trump said, “You know, the left plays a tougher game. It’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. O.K.? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”
At a rally before the 2018 midterm elections, when a protester was removed, Trump reacted, “You see these little arms, these little arms?…Where are the Bikers for Trump? Where are the police? Where are the military? Where are—ICE? Where are the border patrol?” As Jonathan Chait wrote for
magazine, “Trump isn’t inciting violence by mistake, but on purpose. He just told us.”
4. Indicates a willingness to curtail the civil liberties of opponents, including the media.
Trump has launched an assault on the First Amendment unlike any president in history, threatening to use the power of the government to attack media he dislikes, from
The Washington Post
to CNN, as “the enemy of the people.” His knowledge of the Bill of Rights is limited to a passing knowledge of the Second Amendment, and he has spent his presidency attacking the judicial process that is the essence of American civil liberties. The Constitution means as much to Donald Trump as the rules of golf, a game at which he routinely cheats.