Decius Won A Sidney!

A crown of laurels is due to our own Publius Decius Mus. He won a Sidney Award from David Brooks in the New York Times for his essay, “The Flight 93 Election.”  The award is richly deserved. By all accounts this was the most influential essay of the entire election. It is the essay that galvanized Trump supporters in the run up to the November 8th and made the intellectual case for the Greatness Agenda in a way that many people had never heard before.

Here is what David Brooks writes:

Every December I read hundreds of long-form essays to select the Sidney Awards, and every year I regret that I spend so much of the other 11 months reading online trivia. Then, every January, I revert to Twitter…

I have left the election largely out of the awards, named for the philosopher Sidney Hook, since we’ve been so consumed by the madness all year. But I should mention a few deserving political essays:

The economist Tyler Cowen of the Marginal Revolution blog excellently suggested that I include a pro-Trump essay, to give the winning side its due. I’ve picked “The Flight 93 Election,” from The Claremont Review of Books, by the person who writes under the name Publius Decius Mus. The core argument is that modern conservatism has failed at everything except its self-preservation, that a figure like Donald Trump could arise only in deeply corrupt times and that only the radical shift he offers can protect the nation from utter destruction.

Here is an excerpt from “The Flight 93 Election”:

“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.

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.

To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals? Cruz in 2024!

Not to pick (too much) on Kesler, who is less unwarrantedly optimistic than most conservatives. And who, at least, poses the right question: Trump or Hillary? Though his answer—“even if [Trump] had chosen his policies at random, they would be sounder than Hillary’s”—is unwarrantedly ungenerous. The truth is that Trump articulated, if incompletely and inconsistently, the right stances on the right issues—immigration, trade, and war—right from the beginning.

But let us back up. One of the paradoxes—there are so many—of conservative thought over the last decade at least is the unwillingness even to entertain the possibility that America and the West are on a trajectory toward something very bad. On the one hand, conservatives routinely present a litany of ills plaguing the body politic. Illegitimacy. Crime. Massive, expensive, intrusive, out-of-control government. Politically correct McCarthyism. Ever-higher taxes and ever-deteriorating services and infrastructure. Inability to win wars against tribal, sub-Third-World foes. A disastrously awful educational system that churns out kids who don’t know anything and, at the primary and secondary levels, can’t (or won’t) discipline disruptive punks, and at the higher levels saddles students with six figure debts for the privilege. And so on and drearily on. Like that portion of the mass where the priest asks for your private intentions, fill in any dismal fact about American decline that you want and I’ll stipulate it.

Conservatives spend at least several hundred million dollars a year on think-tanks, magazines, conferences, fellowships, and such, complaining about this, that, the other, and everything. And yet these same conservatives are, at root, keepers of the status quo. Oh, sure, they want some things to change. They want their pet ideas adopted—tax deductions for having more babies and the like. Many of them are even good ideas. But are any of them truly fundamental? Do they get to the heart of our problems…” Read the rest here.

About Chris Buskirk

Chris is publisher and editor of American Greatness and the host of The Chris Buskirk Show. He was a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute and received a fellowship from the Earhart Foundation. Chris is a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold businesses in financial services and digital marketing. He is a frequent guest on NPR's "Morning Edition." His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Hill, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter at @TheChrisBuskirk

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18 responses to “Decius Won A Sidney!”

  1. It is for Decius to decide on his own satisfaction with this honor, but if I understood him correctly, Brooks is exemplary of the intellectual rot Decius so marvellously inveighed against.

    • I can’t imagine Decius being too impressed by the honor.

    • Exactly. The irony is delicious. Brooks exemplifies irrelevant and self-parodying National Review-style conservatism. Nonetheless, Brooks was intellectually honest enough to honor the most influential political essay of our time…or he could not avoid it.

  2. Says plenty that Brooks didn’t even know of the essay. His friend had to point it out to him. And then he has to add on his own that he had to “tip his hat to the winning side” by giving “them”, the Deplorables an honor. I say “send it to the round file.

    Decius and the rest of the Deplorables know he did an excellent work and an outstanding service to his country, not that the elites would acknowledge such.

    Thank you Decius!

    • He knew of they essay. His friend just suggested that he include a pro-Trump one.

      • The article does not make that clear … “The economist Tyler Cowen of the Marginal Revolution blog excellently
        suggested that I include a pro-Trump essay, to give the winning side its

        What is clear, regardless, is that the article was not on his shortlist in any case.

      • The article also does not make it clear that he did not know of the essay, like you claimed in your first post.

      • What are you? A Brooks apologist, defender? What a troll. Arguing about … nothing. Going around in circles. Have fun … by yourself.

  3. Congratulations. I hope this heralds a move by liberals towards taking the political philosophy of thoughtful citizens outside of the maintstrean at least as seriously as they take the political views of entertainers.

      • President Trump is an entrepreneur. Entertainment was one of his business interests. I concede your point, however I have no tv and never watched that Apprentice show. I did read Art of the Deal and do respect Mr. Trump as a model American businessman. There are some thoughtful entertainers, but most are not.

      • President Reagan was a serious intellectual who gained political credibility on account of serious political engagement rather than seeking to capitalize on his celebrity. He never mistook the gravitas of excellent citizenship or public office for the celebrity of acting fame. He was not an entertainer turned politician but a serious citizen turned statesman.

        And by way of anticipation: Arnold Schwarzenegger was not an entertainer but a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding – like gymnastics in general – is an important component of excellent citizenship.

        When I use the term “entertainer” in the derogatory, I do not mean to suggest that art and politics are antagonistic, only that good art nurtures political excellence while poor art – ugly, narcissistic, nihilistic and ignorant (the majority of pop culture) poisons politics.

        We live in an age when the Court Jester is asked about foriegn policy and taxes while the soldier and the economist are ignored because they are boring. Your run of the mill Hollywood star is constantly asked for an opinion on matters he does not know anything about while high minded Americans of some sound education are ignored.

  4. Congrats, Mike, but this is like winning a Darwin Award.

  5. It’s well deserved, and it is an honor to receive this award. Congrats to Decius.

    Tyler Cowen -a libertarian- recommended ‘The Flight 93 Election’ to his readers via a link in September, saying “6. A West Coast Straussian defense of Trump (no, not my view but the contrarian in me wishes to pass along some of the smarter people writing on this topic)”
    Then Cowen suggested the essay to Brooks, who stated “I have left the election largely out of the awards… since we’ve been so consumed by the madness all
    year. But I should mention a few deserving political essays”

    To be esteemed by those who disagree with you and yet are able to appreciate your cognitive and writing abilities is a higher honor than being applauded by your friends, fans, et al.

    There were reams and reams of essays written by the “winning side” and Brooks chose Decius’ as the ‘winner’.

    Bravo, Decius!

  6. Well, The Flight 93 Election was the single best piece of political writing that I have read in 15 years. It highlighted the binary nature of the election for those who saw no consequences for not voting Trump; it served as an intellectual apology of Trumpism; and–perhaps most importantly–it laid bare the fact that Movement Conservatism has been a peddler of vaporous philosophy while failing to move the political needle by a single tick in at least 40 years.

    As a cherry on top of the cake, it served as the basis for the most delightful intellectual duel between Decius and Jonah Goldberg–with the former displaying a razor-sharp knack for analysis and the latter bringing a dull and lazy set of bromides (as has been wont of him lately). Result: poor Jonah.

    I wouldn’t make much of the fact that this award comes from David Brooks. Yes, he represents a lot of the rot that Decius rightfully deprecates, but he is also part of an elite that is still very much a part of the political reality. The fact that he has recognized Decius–and, indirectly, this magazine–is all positive news in my book.

  7. Good for him, I guess, but does anyone wonder why so-called conservative gives away an award named after a social democrat?