When historians look back at the decline and fall of the conservative movement, a chapter should cover the Claremont Institute’s compromising attempts to tap populist energy.
The latest object is Donald Trump. The think tank, ostensibly dedicated to restoring the principles of the American founding to preeminence in national life, has just published an essay, “The Flight 93 Election,” so at odds with the conservative tradition, or any coherent attempt to fuse it with the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, that one wonders if the enterprise now shares more premises with conservatism’s flagship publication National Review or the leftist journal Jacobin.
The essay is an attempt to change the minds of conservatives who refuse to support the GOP nominee. It doubles as a barely disguised rejection of conservatism itself, stoking panic in hopes that conservatives embrace what is essentially right-leaning authoritarianism. And it begins with an overwrought metaphor about the passengers on one of the planes hijacked during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die,” the pseudonymous author, Publius Decius Mus, begins. “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. Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”