The Reichstag is always burning: a commentary on The Flight 93 Election
By: A Yeoman Farmer
The Flight 93 Election
By: Publius Decius Mus[i]
September 5, 2016
On 5 September 2016, a writer under the pseudonym of Publius Decius Mus, wrote a defence of Trump which was also an extended meditation on the American conservative movement. Although not aware of it, the author was engaging in the age old American practice of the jeremiad,[ii] the difference, though, was that it was a European jeremiad, not an American one in that it addresses the problem but offers no solution.[iii] Or, in this case the author offers a solution that is worse than the problem.
The following is an extended commentary on the essay, which hopes to honour the author’s wish to be flayed in the public domain.
1. 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.
Like my title, the author’s was hyperbolic and like his, my title serves a purpose. It is to warn the reader that we cannot always believe the Reichstag is burning, that each election is a democratic Gotterdammerung for the conservative movement if not America, in part because one can find this language in nearly all elections going back to the founding. A cursory reading of J.G.A. Pocock’s The Machiavellian Moment, would show that republics are always unstable, surging with democratic thymos, virtù as well as their corruption, since they seek to maintain a bounded space within time fully conscious that they may share the fate of their predecessors. Yet, the American Republic is different and it is this difference the author does not acknowledge or simply declares is no longer material which causes us to consider the author’s intent.
The author seems intent on arguing that both choices are bad with one choice worse than the other simply because of what it means for conservatives and by extension America, which seems to invert the normal understanding that what is good for America should be good for conservatives but that seems at a level of nuance beyond the author’s intent.
If we start with the opening sentence, we find an unsettling proposal. If this is the Flight 93 election, then the airplane is America and the pilot is POTUS and the cockpit is the…