On September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93’s passengers defied armed hijackers and fought to take over the cockpit regardless of danger or odds because they realized that certain death was the alternative. Michael Anton’s 2016 essay “The Flight 93 Election,” written for the Claremont Review of Books and later expanded into a book, argued that although Americans did not know what kind of president Donald Trump would be, they should risk all to elect him because they could be very sure that the alternative would be our republic’s death.
In his new book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return, Anton, now a lecturer and research fellow at Hillsdale College, again urges Americans to vote for Trump, disappointed though they may be with his performance, because they know even better than before how much this country’s ruling class would use control of the presidency to hurt us in our private and public lives for having dared to reject their mastery. Trump, imperfect as he is, is like a finger in a dike that, if removed, would loose a deluge. Anton describes how the Democratic Party-led complex of public-private power has been transforming our free, decent, and prosperous country into its opposite—and how it’s going to do to the rest of America what it has already largely accomplished in California. In the book’s final chapters, he lays out several paths that the current struggle for America’s future might take.
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Anton’s commentary on the 2020 election does not belabor the obvious: it is a binary choice. The unprecedented level of opposition President Trump has faced explains, but does not excuse, some of his shortcomings. As Anton puts it: “[t]here’s little wrong with President Trump that more Trump couldn’t solve.” Then he adds what is really radically new about the 2020 election: should the Democrats win, the ruling Left—which includes just about everyone who controls American government and society’s commanding heights—is ready, willing, and eager to implement plans that would make it virtually impossible for conservatives ever to win national elections again. These plans include the importation and counting of non-citizen voters. Elections by mail would shift power from voters to those who count the votes, just like in Venezuela. Though reelecting Trump makes the republic’s survival possible, and preserves all manner of good options, it guarantees nothing. Trump’s defeat guarantees disaster—like in 2016, only much more so.
The bulk of this well-written book juxtaposes accounts of life under what had been the American constitutional regime with the ruling-class politics that have gone a long way to destroy it. It opens with a bittersweet description of California, then and now. Anton, a young man, is old enough to remember it a near-paradise. Those of a certain age have even more idyllic memories of the Golden State’s unrivaled beauty and plenty, crowned by freedom, ease, and safety. Millions flocked to work and raise families here.