'After the Flight 93 Election' by Michael Anton

'After the Flight 93 Election' by Michael Anton
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

EDITOR’S NOTE: In this RealClearBooks series, we highlight recent nonfiction books from across the political spectrum. This week’s book is Michael Anton's 'After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote that Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose', just published by Encounter Books.

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In September of 2016, a short essay appeared in the Claremont Review of Books that laid out, in apocalyptic terms, the binary choice facing conservatives at the home stretch of our last presidential campaign. 

After the Flight 93 Election by Michael Anton

"A Hillary Clinton presidency," wrote author Publius Decius Mus, "is Russian roulette with a semi-auto." A vote for the Donald, at very least meant "spinning the cylinder and taking your chance." Hopefully more.

To the guardians of conservative thought, the piece provided the intellectual justification for a Trump presidency that they had, until then, successfully squashed. 

Rush Limbaugh picked it up and ran with it, reading the entire essay on the air. Ambivalent conservatives jumped on the Trump train. Trump took the White House. And that's the story of the essay that launched a presidency.

OK, perhaps the essay did not directly secure Trump's victory, but the deeply vindictive critiques that erupted (and continue to flare up) over 'Flight 93' suggest that the essay really did matter: in cracking elite conservatism's mesmeric hold over the right and in signaling the seemingly overnight decline in relevance of its name brand influencers. 

Following a stint as deputy assistant to President Trump, Michael Anton (the artist formerly known Publius Decius Mus) fleshes out his 'Flight 93' thinking in After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote that Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose. Drawing on "the foundational principles of the American and Western traditions", Anton serves his never-Trump critics what he describes as a "positive" vision for Trumpism. 

But with another binary choice on the horizon, Anton's fundamental "charge the cockpit or you die" philosophy may well endure as the galvanizing electoral principle for conservatives in 2020, despite the continued protestations of his twittering enemies. 

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