Like many readers of American Greatness, I have watched the unfolding debate over what can only be called “the Flight 93 question” with equal parts interest and annoyance.
Observers like Henry Olsen fret about the potential for a protracted apocalyptic conflict between an ascendant Trumpian Right and a vengeance-obsessed Social Justice Left, and question whether it might be time to consider how to negotiate a truce and head off that eventuality.
But Ken Masugi gently points out that any meaningful truce would be possible only once President Trump has put us in a position to deal from strength, and perhaps reacquainted America with Jeffersonian and Lincolnian principles along the way, presumably in 280 Twitter character bursts. Meanwhile, some in the comments sections seem to hold the opinion that, having wrested the proverbial cockpit from the terrorists, we should keep the plane in crisis mode by flying around a little longer just to spite them.
I think the whole debate is getting far ahead of itself. As I recall, the ultimate thesis of the essay that started it all went as follows: “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.”
Not to further butcher what was an otherwise very clever metaphor, but if this is Flight 93, we just got control of the cockpit, and Trump—the proverbial pilot—seems to have taken the past year figuring out how to fly. Even the most optimistic observer, I think, would have trouble arguing that Trump could land the plane in less than his first full term, and a more realistic take would assume he’d need two full terms (almost the decade Olsen fears) to even get us close to the ground.
Now, when I say “Trump hasn’t landed the plane yet,” I don’t mean that he’s failed to meet an abstract, ideological goal of the sort that I suspect Olsen and Masugi would both favor. By that standard, Trump will never land the plane, but will at best keep it hovering at altitude.
Brent Bozell Jr. once called the Founding Fathers “the only group of men in modern history to have set their minds to the task of constructing a commonwealth on the basis of prudence, and therefore free from ideology,” an assessment that I’m sure many writers for this site would hotly dispute. Without opining about the accuracy of Bozell’s description as it applies to the Founders, I will say that I think it applies spotlessly to how Donald Trump sees the job of reconstructing the commonwealth—that is, of making America great again. This is not an ideological president, and I believe it will bring only grief to expect him to bring ideological results. To the extent President Trump has an ideology, it consists of specific results he wants to achieve, and in many cases has promised to achieve.
Which is why, when I say Trump hasn’t “landed the plane,” I mean that he has not yet managed to meet multiple, tangible goals that I believe are essential to the process of removing America from its Leftism-induced crisis state, at least for the moment. In some cases, this is due to the short time he has been in office. In others, it is due to the steep learning curve any non-politician will face when assuming such a difficult political job. In others, I believe it is due to accepting help from the wrong people, whose influence will hopefully be temporary. Nevertheless, these are all goals that I believe a fully empowered President Trump can and will meet, given his titanic work ethic, as well as the right political climate, the right advisers, and just a tiny spot of luck. Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 such goals:
- President Trump has not yet built his famed Wall across the Southern border, though he may yet be able to, if he plays his cards right in the DACA negotiations.
- President Trump has not yet forced North Korea to halt its nuclear program, though he may be able to squeeze China into inducing them to do so.
- President Trump has not yet wiped ISIS completely off the map, though at this point, it’s obviously only a matter of time.
- President Trump has not yet ended Obamacare, though he has made good strides with the individual mandate.
- President Trump has not yet signed an infrastructure bill.
- President Trump has not yet signed a bill putting America’s entitlements back on the path to solvency.
- President Trump’s administration has not yet taken steps to halt the wide-scale attempt by Silicon Valley’s Snowflake Barons to censor the political Right from the Internet, or to directly challenge their frightening monopoly powers, though his FCC has chipped away at their power by ending Net Neutrality, and has forced them into politically unsustainable territory as a result.
- President Trump has not yet presided over a lowering of prescription drug prices, though Congress has several good measures aimed at this end working their way through both chambers.
- President Trump has not yet ended the opioid crisis.
- President Trump has not yet fully curbed the rampant attacks on freedom of speech, assembly, and on due process on America’s college campuses, though his administration is to be commended for repudiating the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague letter” establishing Rape Star Chambers
Your own list of such “plane-landing” items may differ from mine. Whatever your list may be, until a majority of the items on it are completed, any talk of retreating from the Flight 93 posture of crisis is at best premature and at worst an invitation to allow charging the proverbial cockpit to be for naught.
To Henry Olsen, I say with the greatest respect: Until the plane is on the ground, I have no interest in finding middle ground with the hijackers, even if it might avert future cockpit charges.
To Ken Masugi, I say also with the greatest respect: Let’s land this plane, now, before we try to get everyone to accept general principles that would prevent any and all future hijackings.
In short, yes, the Flight 93 election went our way, and the Flight 93 presidency may also. We got control of the plane. We just learned how to fly it. We have still to learn how to land it. And, as a certain wise man once observed, “There are no guarantees.”