The #Resistance Resembles the Flight 175 Hijackers

Like many Americans do around the 9/11 anniversaries, I have contemplated the mindset of the men flying the planes.

It is a natural response: how could a human being deliberately undertake such an inhumane act? The terrorists who flew Flight 11 into the North Tower were at least partially ignorant of what would result from their actions. Would they even be able to hit the building squarely? What if they missed? What if they managed a direct hit, but the structural integrity of the building was such that the damage was comparatively minimal? What if there was little loss of life? What if the visual dimensions of the collision proved to be less spectacular? Perhaps at the forefront of their minds was “What if the other hijacking teams don’t follow through?”

The team that guided Flight 175 into the South Tower did so with much more information. They knew that at least one other team had succeeded in their mission—which must have emboldened them. They knew that a direct hit was doable. And as they hurtled toward lower Manhattan, surveying the catastrophic damage caused by the first plane, they could imagine the scope of the pain, grief, panic, confusion, and global conflict that would come in the wake of the attack.

In that moment, there was a tiny chance that their humanity might win out—that they would find some way to avoid such massive devastation. Maybe the plane could be landed safely? Maybe the plane could be crashed into a target that would result in less loss of life? Either choice would have resulted in a painful death for the hijackers, but they could have died knowing that finally—ultimately—they recognized the dignity of every individual and did something to mitigate their hatred. Obviously, if the Flight 175 hijackers had such a moment, they pushed it to the back of their minds, and finished their bloody business. The fact that they followed through makes them seem—somehow—even more evil than the terrorists on Flight 11.

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Michael Anton anonymously published his essay “The Flight 93 Election” and it proved to be an influential statement as conservatives of all stripes tried to decide where they would stand in relation to Trump’s candidacy. Everyone remembers the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93, who fought back against the hijackers. Ultimately the passengers aboard that plane managed to crash it into a Pennsylvanian field, saving innumerable lives. Anton’s essay used the flight as metaphor. Like it or not, the next president would be Hillary or Trump. A Clinton victory, he argued, would finally consolidate the cultural, political, and institutional branches of our society under the Left’s ideology that was anathema to the founding principles of our democracy.

Voting for anyone but Trump was tantamount to sitting patiently aboard Flight 93 as the terrorists chose which building to demolish. A vote for Trump was the rushing of the cockpit: a last ditch effort—perhaps a doomed one—to assert some individual agency. It was a willingness to take the risk of self-governance.

The desperation that conservatives felt as they stared down the possibility of 8 more years of far-left autocratic governance pales in comparison to the desperation of the Left since Trump’s victory. Throughout the campaign, the Left had treated Trump as a bad joke. But in the late evening hours of November 9th, as Martha Raddatz gently wept, the joke ended: Trump was a grave, existential threat to American democracy. Within a matter of days, the Resistance started to coalesce. For the first time in modern American history, the losing presidential candidate openly called into question the results of the election—and shockingly—called on Americans to work to undermine the president. And many, especially in Washington, took that call as an order.

At first, the #Resistance seemed like a raw, psychic, reflexive reaction that comes from a sudden, painful recognition that the world isn’t the way you thought it was. We had to endure assassination fantasies and pussy hats and profanity-laden orations from aged celebrities, as we patiently waited for our fellow citizens to come to grips with reality and settle down. But they didn’t.

Even people in positions of power—elected officials and government workers—upped the ante. So, the media gave us months of hysterical distortions about collusion with Russia, which resulted in the Mueller investigation. We heard the #Resistance act out fever dreams about the emoluments clause and the 25th Amendment. We watched Democrats seek to destroy a nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, on hearsay and evidence-free yarns about sexual improprieties from decades ago. Unelected bureaucrats wrote anonymous accounts of the ways they were heroically working behind the scenes to hamstring the administration’s agenda.

In light of these power plays, it finally became clear that the #Resistance wasn’t some childish tantrum. It was a calculated, coordinated, cynical effort by a cultural and political elite to advance their own policy objectives regardless of the outcome of the election by violating norms and weaponizing parts of the government that were designed to be politically neutral.

But then, in spite of their caterwauling, Kavanaugh was confirmed. And it turned out that the Covington kids weren’t the aggressors in their confrontation with the Native American man in Washington. And worst of all, Mueller failed. He didn’t admit he failed, which made it all the more pitiful, because everyone knew it.

Nevertheless, congressional Democrats hauled the doddering old man back to testify on the illusory charge of obstruction. And he failed again. The Collusion Myth—the delusion that supported the entire project of the #Resistance—lay in rubble. And in the process, all of the legal machinations and media manipulations that sustained the hoax were exposed. And then, one more desperate shot at Kavanaugh! But that proved to be demonstrably fake news, too.

From a certain perspective, this is funny—like watching a cat chase the red dot from a laser pointer. But it takes a profound toll on Americans and the national mood. Every attempt at the soft coup deepens and widens the divide between Americans. Though they fail again and again, the result of the #Resistance’s attacks are American trauma. As they pursue Trump like Ahab chased the monster, the Democrats sow doubt, frustration, uncertainty, disbelief, suspicion, hatred, anger, resentment, exhaustion, impatience, and more.

As it was for the Flight 175 hijackers, the trauma their designs are causing is in plain view to them. Nevertheless, they persist. They maintain their trajectory, aiming at the structural foundations of our democracy.

At a certain point—after so much failing and embarrassment—one might think these people would recognize that their maniacal attempts to wrest power from Trump are not worth the civic damage they are inflicting. But now, mere days after a report of a whistleblower complaint against Trump, they have opened an impeachment inquiry.

Never mind the anonymity of the whistleblower. Never mind the fact that the former vice president boasted about precisely the type of behavior that they now leverage to undo an election. Never mind that in his newly released conversation with authorities in the Ukraine, Trump is clearly discussing an existing investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 election—a topic Democrats have insisted Trump does not take seriously enough. Never mind that Congress always has cautiously considered the possibility of impeachment for a given offense for months or years before moving forward with an inquiry that necessarily will be traumatic and costly for the public. Never mind their humiliating, winless record when it comes to their “bombshell” revelations about Trump’s offenses. The end justifies the means, even when the means are lies.

No, the #Resistance is not a sad, childish tantrum. Nor is it simply a cynical political calculation to advance the policy aspirations of the Left. This latest maneuver exposes the truth about the #Resistance. In opening an impeachment inquiry on the scantest evidence, with full knowledge of all of the suffering on the Right and the Left that they have inflicted through all of this nonsense—the Mueller affair, the Kavanaugh disgrace, all of it—they show that they really, truly believe that their victimization by Trump is so profound that absolutely anything (no matter how unethical or how untrue) is justified. Given their knowledge of the trauma that the impeachment process will inflict on Americans, it is tempting to assume that Democrats have only indifference or disdain towards the people they represent.

But I can’t believe that. Rather they are like the men who hijacked Flight 175—they are true believers. They are convinced that Trump represents such a threat that no law, no precedent, no amount of collateral damage, no future consequences could justify refusing to use the most brutal force to address their grievances. In their quest to impeach, Democrats see themselves as the innocent men and women on Flight 93—fighting and resisting the malevolent people who hijacked their plane. But in this case, the people they fight are their own countrymen. In fact, the people from whom they try to wrest the controls are their own countrymen: people who are rightly on the plane, justified in their demand that the plane flies to the destination they paid to go to.

This impeachment inquiry represents the third phase of the #Resistance, where failing all other means, the elected officials (who are supposed to represent the American people and carry out their will) determine that they have a moral prerogative—a royal prerogative—to fly the nation wherever they deem fit, even as they survey the catastrophic results of their hatred.

Pelosi and House Democrats, aiming to enforce their political will on the nation without any mandate to do so, surveyed the devastation they have already caused, and made a choice to stay on the path to social cataclysm. The #Resistance is the Flight 175 response to the victory of the Flight 93 election. The decision to pursue impeachment, in disregard of all historical precedent and absent any compelling evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors, will haunt American governance for decades to come.

Absent the restraint that has governed the use of this awesome power of impeachment, future executives could be hindered permanently in their ability to execute the people’s mandate. 2020 will be painful. Will we allow the #Resistance to take the controls?

About Adam Ellwanger

Adam Ellwanger is an associate professor of English at the University of Houston – Downtown where he directs the M.A. program in rhetoric and composition. His new book, Metanoia: Rhetoric, Authenticity, and the Transformation of the Self, will be released from Penn State University Press in 2020. You can follow him on Twitter at @DoctorEllwanger

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

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