Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The Flight 93 Election

November 02nd, 2017 by G.

Some on the mainstream right, so rapid is the course of their degeneracy, have started to argue that all is well in the Republic.

Friend of the JG @Handle responds here.

If one sees an open, flying staircase, with a guardrail on the right, but a big pile of bodies far below on the left, dead from having fallen over the edge, one ought not to foolishly assert, “See, the guardrails are working!”

Have you ever taken your kid bowling with the “bumpers” on over the gutters? If you see the right bumper bounce back the bowling ball, but the left bumper isn’t up, and the bowling ball only bounces back from that direction when it’s thrown so incredibly hard to the left that it bounces off the edge of the gutter itself, then you ought not to conclude, “No worries, we’re guaranteed to knock down at least some pins.” One only need look at the score, see some zeros despite those reliable bounce-backs from the right bumper, and conclude, “Hm, it seems that the guardrails aren’t working.”

So, it is at a least a little preposterous – and takes no small measure of chutzpah – to marshal examples of progressives using (or more accurately, abusing) the power of certain institutions – mostly the courts – that they dominate, in person and in precedents, to stymie the initiatives of a Republican administration, as evidence in favor of the argument that we can now be confident these tools will always be around, and that they can and will also be equally reliable and useful in reigning in future progressive excesses.

It is furthermore naive in the extreme, not to mention flatly contradicted by the last eight decades of our history, to believe that the progressives will come to some kind of permanent epiphany regarding these institutions that embraces the “bargain” of being just as checked when they are in power as the right is checked during Republican administrations, in order to preserve the their own ability to check those Republicans. Don’t we always observe the sudden, tragi-comic “epiphany-reversal” with every transfer of power? As an empirical test: did progressives emerge from the George W. Bush era with such lasting respect for the institutions they used to check his agenda that they didn’t immediately start arguing the opposite case when Obama won? This one almost answers itself.
All these examples show is that the stakes weren’t very high for the progressives, who have the winds at their backs and will arrive at a California-style One Party State in the fullness of time, as indeed many on their own side argued.

Comments (22)
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November 02nd, 2017 05:20:59

November 2, 2017

It would be equally foolish, in your opening example, to conclude that that guardrails don’t work and remove the one on the right.

The right course is to doggedly insist on guardrails on both sides of the staircase.

November 2, 2017

@Vader: One guardrail that contains both right and left is a supermajority requirement to ensure broader consensus in the case of more important decisions. But some such requirements are maintained only by the forces of tradition, custom, sentiment, and the typical kind of “cooperate or defect” strategic calculus in any game of many turns.

You are on team A, but team B is currently in charge, with sufficient power to override the supermajority requirement. At that point, it is perfectly appropriate to doggedly insist on maintaining the guardrail.

However, the question is how should one so insist? One could limit oneself to moral persuasion, “You will be bad people if you defect, but we will continue to cooperate regardless”, but then that is not much incentive, and also what if it doesn’t work? Or one could try simple deterrence, and make a credible threat of tit-for-tat repercussion for defection, “If you defect from the guardrail, then next time we’re in power, we will defect from it too.”

This is precisely what happened in the case of the Senate filibuster, and is why Justice Gorsuch is on the SCOTUS bench, since the vote was 54-45.

Is that not the reasonable result? And if so, then why should the same logic not apply in every other similar case?

November 2, 2017

Because then everyone is going off the rails, not just one side.

Retaliation has only a very limited place in trying to build a better world.

November 2, 2017

Aren’t you two talking past each other? Does Vader believe things are recoverable short of sore calamity and repentance, and is Handle advocating doing away with the guardrails? It seems obvious to me that efforts to build a better world will be wasted on the wider political arena, and that any attempt to foment revolution is doomed to fire and smoke. Offenses must come, but woe to him by whom they cometh. The only remaining path is passivist gardening: setting ourselves in order, then helping whatever cluster of order we find nearby, or forming one.

November 3, 2017

If colliding with the rock wall on the right side of the road is the only alternative to the car soaring off the precipice on the left, colliding is the best option. Of course staying on the road with both sets of rails in place is far, far preferable. Is that an option? I don’t see much reason to believe it is. Handle goes into this at some length in the linked post.

Anyhow, I think Vader and Handle, in this thread, are getting too lost in the metaphor (me too, in the paragraph above). You both are arguing about what the proper response may be to the emergency of having the left guardrails gone and a driver intent in steering us off the road. That is not what the Flight 93 Election essay is about, not what Levin’s incredibly complacent essay is about, and not what Handle’s post rebuts. The argument is about whether the situation is dire or not. That is all.

November 3, 2017

G: Well said, as usual. And yet, it seems to me that it is hard to contain the discussion to merely the matter of the bleakness of the current situation. As is often the case with “high-brow” essays from figures in The Conservative Movement, answering the posed issue is not merely an end in itself, but a means to another end. It’s possible to infer an agenda to affect a downstream debate on political strategy by influencing the upstream assessment of facts on the ground. The intelligence officer who wants to override the general can get his wish by feeding the general some calculated fibs about the disposition of friendly and enemy forces.

The big debate lurking in the background, over which I think Levin – no Trump fan! – is trying to have influence, is what can and should be done regarding the future of right wing politics. I think Levin wants to “stay the course,” (or, at least narrow the range of appropriate electornal options to a space which definitely excludes Trumps) which requires him to ‘argue’, “What, me worry?”

John Mansfield
November 3, 2017

These overblown metaphors, “Benedict Option,” “Going Nuclear,” “Flight 93 Election,” don’t communicate very well.

November 3, 2017

A lot of the confusion is willful, IMHO.

November 3, 2017

@John Mansfield: Soon we’ll all have to argue with lines like, “Shaka, when the walls fell.”

November 3, 2017

Bring back King David.

T. Greer
November 4, 2017

Handle is always very clever with metaphors.

I dont think Flight 93 types have grappled with coming demographic realities. Not talking poc, but millenials. Already of the left, they are now overwhemingly poisoned.against the GOP and clingers. The non politicals are. This is the defining event of their generation. They won’t come back.Destroying and rebuilding institutions won’t happen fast enough to make a difference here. This is the largest generation in American history. Any party that does not adapt to their preferences will die.

Lots of talk about the base. What base? Trump won on voters who hadnt voted for decades, if ever. He had less votes than Romney did. For every voted gained at least one other was lost. Had his opponent had the popularity of Obama, he would have lost. Very lucky for GOP that such a terrible candidate was chosen against Trump. Very lucky too that the SC was main issue on the plate-one post election survey suggested 1/5 of Trump voters voted for.him because of that alone!

In the meantime, a sizeable majority of the country is both pro trade and pro immigration reform.

So how do you chart a future for the party given.these facts? We live in a center.left.nation-kand that center will.drift.further left as older folks die off.

All I see in Trump is a tarnished brand in the eyes of the median voter, perptual.civil.war.on the right, and left that has not been as invigorated since Vietnam. And for what? A would be tyrant who.struggles to put four words together. We weaken our democracy and have gotten.almost nothing for.it…. just more delaying until another ’93’ election is upon us.

T. Greer
November 4, 2017

As for Levin:

Read his book earloer this year. Generally agree with his ideas. The problem.is he cannot.condense them down into a slogan. There is no grand narrative. Id suggest “The Great Ceasefire.” Open question if that would be enough, however.

November 5, 2017

@T. Greer: Millennials are a pretty godless lot too, and very pro-LGBT. When some of those churches signed that Nashville statement, it really alienated some margin of those millennials, who won’t be coming back either. If a church cares about numbers, however, what should they do? Stand firm and shrink, or give the millennials what they want and maybe buy themselves another few years, but at the price of extinction a few years later.

The debate of what degree of ideological compromise is optimal is a timeless one and depends a lot on context. I have argued elsewhere that in any of these circumstances, there is a critical point somewhere along the ideological spectrum beyond which any rival ideological institution cannot go without dooming itself to disappearance, for failing to provide the motivation for its own preservation as an entity distinct from the mainstream. You can play the follow-the-leader compromise game a long time, as the GOP has been doing for 85 years. But at some point the game is over.

In the present American context, what data do we have about the success rate of these compromises that might let us know whether or not we’re already close to that point? It doesn’t look good.

The GOP has “evolved” in California and many other states to try and keep up with the progressives. There are now pro-abortion Republicans, pro-welfare Republicans, pro-alternative languages Republicans. Nobody cares, they are almost entirely shut out, and only “Bloomberg Republicans” of the most cynically opportunistic brand-abusing type (aka the Governator) have any hope of winning anything, and then go on to govern in a typically mainstream progressive manner.

Meanwhile, the Mainline Protestant sects have evolved to a position of wokeness that can’t bear to remember George Washington in his own church. Their days were numbered a long time ago. It occurs to me I’ve never actually met anyone in my entire life who referred to themselves as an Episcopalian. I’m pretty sure my children have never even heard the word and will only encounter it one day in a history book. Their grandchildren will probably have the same experience with the word “Republican,” no matter what the GOP does.

People think we have an inherently two-party system, but that’s obviously not true. We have an inherently “one or two-party system,” where the axis of debate can accommodate no more than two rival parties, but can operate perfectly well between the factions of one party alone, as it does now in all Deep Blue states.

At Kling’s place, in response to the claim that the Flight 93 essay was too bleak and alarmist, I responded that it wasn’t nearly bleak enough, because of both of those aspects of likely demographic evolution, in terms of the voting preferences of age cohorts and various identity groups. There is, “Charging the cockpit is your only chance at survival” on the one hand, or, “You are guaranteed to perish, but maybe you can crash in a field instead of a building and save some people,” on the other, and maybe even, “You can’t even stop the plane from crashing into its target, but maybe you can inspire a few people if they hear the ‘Let’s roll!’ that lets them know you tried.” And at the end there is, “You will not survive, the terrorists will crash the plan on target, no one will ever learn what you did or didn’t do, but maybe you can die with a little honor, refusing to go gently into the night, and refusing to be the sheep that passively obeyed Atta’s, ‘Nobody move, everything will be OK, if you try to make any moves, you will endanger yourself and the airplane, just stay quiet!’ by at least annoying them a little on the way down.”

If the space of options is so limited that Trump means nothing more than the equivalent of one last chance to flip progressives the bird while going down, then that’s still good enough.

T. Greer
November 6, 2017


If Republicans were to take your metaphor re: Nashville seriously, they would not have accepted Trump at all! Either we are to compromise our principles for the sake of getting our people into power (e.g., Trump!) or we are to cast off potential supporters in the name for the sake of preserving our principles (Nashville). You cannot have it both ways.

In any case, this is not what I really meant. (Forgive me for not being clearer this first time around, I was typing that on a phone in an airport). Identity comes first, policy second. Beliefs change when people you trust–and on the national scale that means people with authority who you have attached your identity to–change their beliefs. Republicans decided that Trump was great, then decided that trade was bad, not the other way around. So it has always been and so it will always be. The key to getting the electorate of the future on your side won’t be by pandering to the median voter. It will happen by getting them to identify with your side.

Trump cannot do this. And it is not just that he cannot do this–he has done the opposite. He has drawn some people who were not part of the party into it. These people are mostly older folk; a large percentage are older than 60. A majority are older than 50. On the other hand, Trump has driven an equally large number of people out of the party. These people are in there 40s, 30s, and 20s. People on the fence he has driven to the left, and people to the left he has driven to near insane levels of hate for not only Trump but anybody associated with him.

The brand is done for. What we needed is somebody who could sell conservative ideals (and identity) to a new generation. Instead what we chose is a person who poisoned an entire generation–the largest generation in American history–against anything that looks or smells conservative. We sold out the next twenty years of national politics for a supreme court seat.

And really we sold out more. It wasn’t the Nashville statement that drove out millennials from the fold, but the compromise on the principle that preceded it:

he Trump factor: so many white Evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump that they surrendered the ability to speak with moral credibility on anything having to do with sexuality
That last one — the Trump factor — deserves some commentary. A couple of people in college ministry were at the table. They said that it is impossible to overstate how alienating the enthusiastic support their parents gave to Donald Trump was to their students. A number of college students have left the church entirely over it.

“How is that possible?” I asked one of the campus ministers. “How do you decide to leave Christianity altogether over who your parents voted for? That makes no sense to me.”

He said that in Evangelical circles, it’s common for college students to be skeptical at best of their parents’ theological views. For a lot of them, their parents’ backing of Donald Trump made everything they had been taught as kids about Christianity a lie. Their parents were the primary face of Evangelical Christianity to them, and to see this happen was shattering. They concluded that Christianity must be all about the economy, or tribalism, and so forth. One pastor said that a young man he ministers to in college posted a criticism of Trump on Facebook, and was cut off financially by his parents because of it.

Listening to these pastors and laypeople talking about the Trump effect on younger Christians was quite sobering to me. An older pastor said that it is impossible to separate the Nashville Statement from the massive support white Evangelicals gave to Trump. Impossible to separate, I mean, in the mind of the young.

“But Russell Moore signed it, and other Trump critics among Evangelicals,” I said.

“I know, and I’ve tried to tell people that,” said this pastor, a conservative Evangelical. “It doesn’t matter to them. All they see is a bunch of leaders of a movement who voted for a sexually corrupt man like Donald Trump are now trying to take a public stand on sexual morality for gays. It’s totally hypocritical to them. I don’t know how the Nashville Statement drafters and signers didn’t see this coming.”

Source: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/is-the-nashville-statement-a-surrender/

November 6, 2017

“The key to getting the electorate of the future on your side won’t be by pandering to the median voter. It will happen by getting them to identify with your side.

Trump cannot do this.”

We’ll see. If Trump is the “master persuader” that Scott Adams and Tony Robbins say he is, he’s got a chance.

I realize that Trump is no conservative. He’s no idealogue. But he is a pragmatist. And he is intelligent. He is smart enough to dial down his vocabulary to get more people to identify with him.

But he is in tight with the big money people. Other than the big money people of Wall Street, it’s hard to tell who he’s really listening to, because people come and go so quickly. Some of his hirings and firings could just be feints/distractions.

I’ve read enough excerpts of The Art of the Deal to know that I need to read that book to grok Trump. He laid out what he’s doing in that book. Anyone taking Trump literally has to read it before commenting, or they won’t see the right picture. If someone doesn’t understand the art of hyperbole or bargaining, they won’t see, let alone understand, what Trump is doing.

The funny thing is that Bill Clinton did a lot of the same thing, just in the opposite direction, yet the talking heads fell for it back then, because Left was the direction they wanted to go.

Trump has given the left a taste of their own medicine, he’s fought back, and the left just aren’t used to it.

Comments from GW Bush on Trump, after eight years of silence on BO, kinda show where Bush has been all along too.

And anyone paying attention at any point over the last 30 years already knew McCain was a leftist in R-clothing.

T. Greer
November 6, 2017

“If Trump is the “master persuader” that Scott Adams and Tony Robbins say he is, he’s got a chance.”

But what evidence is there that Trump is anything of the sort?

We have had polling since Eisenhower. This far into a Presidency, every single president before Trump has had a positive approval rating–the lowest never dipping below 10%+. Trump is at 22%-.

Trump was able to convince one slender demographic—working class white males, mostly over the age of 40–to identify with him and vote in slightly higher numbers than usual. He was lucky that this demographic is strong in the key in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. He has alienated everybody else. Half of his voters only tolerate him out of fear of leftist advance.

Remember, just as important to Trump’s victory was the fact that a lot of Obama voters–blacks, especially, and millennials–just did not show up to vote. If the Dems can field a halfway decent candidate they don’t have that problem.

What we need, actually, is something like Clinton in reverse. Clinton talked the talk of the center right but moved the country leftward. We need someone who can talk the talk of the center left while actually pulling large demographics to the right.

Again, my concern isn’t with just winning the next election. It is with the political alignment of the country for the next three decades. If you had a candidate who get both the new Trump votes among the WWW, and the old Romney voters among more educated whites, then you have a popular and electoral majority. But Trump will never be the man to pull that coalition together–much less build an enduring sense of identity for the future.

November 6, 2017

“Again, my concern isn’t with just winning the next election. It is with the political alignment of the country for the next three decades. If you had a candidate who get both the new Trump votes among the WWW, and the old Romney voters among more educated whites, then you have a popular and electoral majority. But Trump will never be the man to pull that coalition together–much less build an enduring sense of identity for the future.”

All I wanted him to do, really, was keep the dems from taking the Supreme Court over completely, and to stem the tide of illegal immigration that is even more threatening to the political balance than millennial disaffection. Both of those are things that have an effect a loooooong way down the road.

November 7, 2017

That candidate was not on offer. The GOP truly is feckless and decrepit in many ways.

November 7, 2017

TG, the current optimism in the business climate puts the lie to the polls.

For evidence of Trump’s persuasion skills, or how to view his actions/words through a 3D persuasion filter, catch up on Adams’ blog.

What you describe that Clinton did is also 3D persuasion. But Clinton had all of media, entertainment and news, moving with him. Trump is going against that flow, so it takes longer.

Yea, he virtually destroyed the Republican party. The R leadership deserved it. (A pox on McCain, McConnell, Boehner, et al.) Now he’s working on the democrats.

We’ll see where this goes. Overall, I’m with you guys in terms of pessimism. Things will get worse all the way through to the 2nd Coming.

What was the figure that JS used? Even 1/3 or 1/2 of the righteous get wiped out in the Tribulation/Apocalypse.

If the Nephite arc is going to be played out amongst us, it could mean that we’ll split into some violent tribes like they did prior to the Crucifixion.

I think of the upheavel we had to society caused by 9/11. The next 9/11 will likely be nuclear, chemical, or biological. NK and Iran both have produced stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Get your food storage in.

November 7, 2017

@TG: I’m with G on this one, though probably more so. That person was certainly not on offer by the GOP this election, but that person probably does not exist because they cannot exist.

Romney was a good man of character and principle, but he couldn’t win, and he didn’t win in the big picture through inspiration and example despite losing in the small picture either. He just faded away.

The shape of the argument seem to be the optimal way to beat a retreat and regroup to a more stable, defensible position in a new equilibrium.

Your position seems to be that there was a way to lose this election in a principled fashion with the honor of having rejected Trump and in a way that would have made that future camp larger, stronger, and with more saints in it, especially Millenial Saints. And that by compromising on principle and choosing Trump to fire back a few counterproductive shots out of pique, that future camp now doesn’t exist, or will resemble a nursing home. The end of the line.

My perspective is less optimistic. There was never any way to establish and secure that camp, and all the choices were bad, and even the best person available or imagineable wouldn’t be up to that task.

Furthermore, even being nice and principled losers wouldn’t earn any future campers, exiled from any hope of mainstream political influence, the kind of benign neglect and noble, indifferent tolerance necessary to live ones lives in any sort of heretical intentional community according to ones preferences and principles, and in an undisturbed manner.

If I’m right, then the least worst option is to try and slow things down as much as possible, and to buy as much time as possible, even for its own safe, but also to open up a space of possibility for some future option or opportunity we cannot yet foresee, or which has not yet been worked out.

My position is that even in the best case scenario, an honorable loss with Warren Court 2 and Clinton at the helm would have meant less time to work anything out, if it’s even possible.

Sutton Coldfield
November 8, 2017

About a year ago, Zen said:

> Helm’s Deep, and we are waiting for Gandalf to return on the morning of the third day.

That’s the situation. We do what we can, but a eucatastrophe is required.

November 9, 2017

If 2016 was the Flight 93 election, then they are still fighting in the cockpit. The plane has neither crashed nor come to a safe landing. I am happy that HRC is not president, and so far President Trump has neither crashed the economy (which is doing very well) or started a war. As Books put it, “we’ll see where this goes.” There are grounds for pessimism to be sure, but the Brethren are not sounding particularly pessimistic, perhaps because we need prudence, preparation, and patience more than pessimism. Apologies for the alliteration.

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