The Missing “Buckley-Factor” in Publius Decius Mus’ Historic Essay


If you haven’t heard, a fellow (I assume) named Publius Decius Mus penned an anonymous, 10-page essay at the Claremont College website, entitled the Flight 93 Election It’s a near-masterpiece, even historic. While I have argued virtually every point raised by PDM for several years, his presentation is immaculate, chalkboard perfect in connecting dots with metaphors I could never match. This is a keeper, so print it, even highlight or diagram it.

It’s also long, but not above anyone’s head, even millennials, if they only put their whole minds to it. It’s what you might call a 4-dotter, where the author connects paragraphs with logic, one to the other, completing a nearly complete picture of the Trump candidacy and what it means to the nation and conservatism. (Then finally, with William F Buckley’s assistance, I add the constitutional position of the average American citizen.)

The essay is an explanation, more than an attack, on the position held by the #NeverTrump crowd, politely chastising the logic of their arguments more as a parish priest might a wayward soul than a fire-breathing Billy Sunday pounding on the pulpit. But as you can imagine, many took offense anyway.

Clearly, Publius Decius Mus’ logic isn’t shared universally.

Nor was it, for my conservative tastes, complete. As a unified theory, it missed a point, which I have raised below, but only after I’ve dispensed with the teat-fittery, for you see, whether intentional or nor, Publius Decius Mus’ arguments are largely generationally-resisted, between a group that has largely been around a long time, and have the benefit of experiences, and insights gathered by those experiences, that millennials and far too many Gen Xers, can’t claim…yet.

So, when Rush Limbaugh brought this essay to the general public’s attention last week, it caused a firestorm of controversy, while also possibly producing an irreversible sea-change in the election itself, in that it depicted the reality of a Hillary Clinton victory in November in stark, even harsher terms than anyone (other than me) has portrayed to them.

That so many anti-Trumpsters may be edging closer to voting for Trump anyway, based on PDM’s Flight 93 metaphor, may in part explain the vitriol that has been employed to counter its impact. The January 2016 “National Review” issue was dedicated to prevent just this very thing. Publius Decius Mus has proved that it didn’t work.

But I have this curious interest with millennials, especially its brightest, knowing that some day sooner than I’d hoped, we’re going to have to bequeath the whole conservative shooting match to them, one way or another. So even if we win in 2016 conservatism may well still face its own Flight 93 moment say 15-20 years from now. Their arrogance and vanity, and me-me-me’ism is so great they may never be able to grasp the finer we-we-we’isms of conservatism that well have passed with William F Buckley in 2008. In fact that’s how I measure conservatism-time, before- and after-WFB.

Which brings me to Ben Shapiro, who I still think is the cream of the millennial intellectual lot, even though he attended Harvard, which Buckley warned us about (below). My son, (45) who follows Ben more closely than I do, and, being closer in age tells me Ben had led him to think that he will hold his nose (God, how many times have we been asked to do that since 1992?) and vote for Trump anyway. But I didn’t get any hint of that in reading Ben’s screedposte at DailyWire, so you be the judge. I see some cause to believe that Ben Shapiro may have retrenched in the other direction, against Trump, which is teat-fittery writ large, since he may be arguing against his own logical inclinations.

I still believe Ben Shapiro to be the best of his generation, but unless he can look into his future and see himself as a big duck on a big pond some day in the future, after gaining experience, maturity, and heaps more knowledge than he currently possesses, not to mention just a dash of humility, and compare it with his current estate as just a big pissant in a shallow pool of warm pee today, while he truly is swimming at the top of his class, and quite profitably, I hold out little hope for him when he’s 45-50.

I’ve tried to save Ben in the past in this regard, but because of the urgency of the current election, I can only offer him my best wishes going into the final few weeks, for if things go as they seem to be, Ben, like that unlucky president of William and Mary, who went from first to worst by choosing the wrong side in 1776, going from the Great American Colonials list to Forgotten American Tories list in six short years, may find himself as one of the forgettable. But we simply have no time for foot-stomping tantrums. By 2017, should Trump win, all that will remain to be seen will be how many of these never-Trumpsters will become Great American Wreckers, as Ben Howe at RedState, and his duller-minded colleagues there have promised to assist Mrs Clinton in every way they can. (I’ve tried to save this other Ben, too, as I know him, and personally believe he could never have gotten through PDM’s essay without a cheat sheet.)

So, in yet another way, this election could indeed be many NeverTrumpsters own Flight 93, and they know it. This election is about their celebrity, their status, and their bank accounts. They’ve given less thought to true American conservatism than Milo has about kissing a girl.

About PDM’s Flight 93 metaphor

Now, I’m an historian and analyst, and my paying gigs for nearly 20 years was in using historical models to assess what are the possible and likely outcomes of certain kinds of political regimes coming to power. I learned my craft in the then-Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, 1991-2010.

It has long been my position, considering the clear intentions of the Left in this country, made manifest in the past 7 1/2 years under Obama, but even back to the Clinton years 1992-2000, that the Left is moving headlong toward one type or another of authoritarian government which will leave roughly 80% of the citizenry powerless in all the important things in our lives. There is at least 500 years of history, including recent history, which proves how these experiments work out. I came to know this intimately from the bottom-up in the old Soviet Bloc, where virtually every Russian believed that Lenin didn’t die, but was killed because he was getting a little too soft on the people.

So I have always proceeded under the assumption that there are no limitless number of tomorrows for the American people to restore their rights and power via the ballot box and electoral process. Ben Shapiro explicitly rejects this, and he is flat out wrong. But he is young and can be excused. Going up the generational ladder, to Erick Erickson, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, Jeb Bush, and George Will, they are less excusable, although the private logic behind their reasoning may well be the same.

I have some friends over 60, who are full on board with Trump, but still cannot allow themselves to believe that such a thing could occur, to “think the unthinkable” about a complete razing of American culture and institutions, even as they’ve watched it plucked like a goose, feather-by-feather, for over 20 years now. I think Ronald Reagan could never have convinced himself to see “communists” in the eyes of Congress men and women when he gave a State of the Union address, or GW Bush could see in Congressmen a worse evil and threat to America than the one he was fighting in the Middle East. Reid and Pelosi were just harmless liberals. Barack Obama has proved him wrong, possibly fatally, and 2017 may well give is the answer.

Probably speaking for all of the anti-Trumpsters, Shapiro rejects the Flight 93 metaphor out-of-hand. But he only examined the one hand. You see, the doom was never a sure thing to many of the passengers on that aircraft. That logic was assumed by the few who actually took over the cabin and then attacked the cockpit. I’m sure many of the other passengers would not have been for it had they put it to a vote. They, like some of my friends, could never think the unthinkable and that in a few minutes they might be dead. But the one-in-a-million shot that they might actually be able to save themselves was moved to second place with the thought that if they did not take that risk, many more Americans on the ground, perhaps the Capitol Building, who knows, would also die.

If Publius Decius Mu were trying his Flight 93 metaphor in court, Shapiro would stand no chance with his arguments where the Rules of Evidence were in play, with a jury of adults not of the Harvard Law Faculty were sitting in judgment, for a survey of his entire generation’s political writings is a wasteland of “me-me-me” versus “they-they-they”. Circumstantial evidence would laugh any of that tribe, from Glen Beck down to Erik Erickson, who never quotes God without somehow glorifying himself, to the Ben’s, out of court.

Therefore PDM’s Washing5ton General’s analogy also works. You may not know the General’s, but I did as a kid in the 50s, as one of my college heroes, Bill Spivey, played for them. It works because the circumstantial case for a Flight 93 doomsday scenario, and the motives behind it, is better made than the puny notion that modern, post-Buckley conservatives are in the craft for “America and the other guy”, since clearly they are driven more by celebrity, status and money.  I can’t imagine George Will conceiving of a world in which he doesn’t have a full membership to Washington society, which was created and established by the 1930s Roosevelt’s: his ticket to all events paid for by the Washington Post.  I don’t think anyone argues that if one is to be successful inside the Beltway that their success will be as a satellite in a planetary system in which the American Left is the sun. So how can you try to destroy that which illuminates you.

Again, let a jury decide. But first, submit this final point to the jury:

What Publius Decius Mus missed was to establish the full a parameters

I don’t know how my millennials betters do it now, but when I was in my 30s I was a practicing Army lawyer and spent more time learning than telling people what I knew. I worked for senior officers who are in the history books. I studied just to keep up. And when I found an idea that was new or challenging, I immediately retreated to my closet (a little New Testament lingo there) to evaluate it. It was an acquired habit, and over the years Pascal, CS Lewis, Chesterton, and Tolkien have all sent me there. Lately Larry Schweikart, which I read nearly 10 years after “Patriot’s History” was published. But mostly I turned to “National Review” and William F Buckley, Jr.

One such comment of his is the basis for this essay.

I call it the Buckley-Factor, taken from his quote:

wfb faculty of harvard

After I came back from the USSR in early ’92 I wrote WFB and asked him if he actually meant those words.

He replied, as always, in a brief 4-word note probably typed on that little typewriter always sitting in his lap in the back of his car, while being driven to the airport, “You bet I did.”

I asked that question because of an incident that occurred to me in Ukraine around Christmas, 1991, at the home of a law professor: (I retell this story at every opportunity, as it was my road-to-Damascus moment about the Constitution, first driven home to me by WFB with that quote. In Ukraine that true purpose was revealed to me by some socialist college professors.

I’ve told this story before, of the time in 1991 I attended a birthday party for a law professor at a university in USSR Ukraine. Around three tables pushed together, in a dimly lit room, in early-winter, there were twelve, mostly academicians, all standing, glasses held high, while the host’s son would go around and fill each glass with a home-brew vodka in a very traditional Russian round-robin series of toasts. When this parade finally ended at the head the table, the host asked me to speak on his behalf. Just a little in my cups, and having nothing un-foolish to say right off the top of my head, I steadied myself and reached into my inside pocket and pulled out my trusty Cato Institute edition of the Constitution, and read from it aloud, more specifically, Jefferson’s famous lines of the Declaration, one slow phrase at a time, so it could be translated. “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

At the time I didn’t know these words by heart, but I do now.

What happened next is why.

Common  words to many Americans,  I swear, I don’t think any of those Soviet professors had ever heard them before, for upon finishing, I looked up to see every person assembled crying, tears pouring down their cheeks. There wasn’t a single smug been-there-heard-that look in the crowd. I’m sure the vodka helped. Then after we had eaten, three of the professors, continuing a constitutional Q & A begun before the meal, rushed up to say “Mister, Mister, now we understand Amerika Constitution. Is simple…even Ivan Ivanovich (the Russian Homer Simpson) can pursue life, liberty, happiness without permission of state.” (Emphasis mine …and theirs.)

As Father Mulcahy of the old M.A.S.H. television series once said: “How can you experience something like that and not be changed?”

Only a day or two ago, Hillary Clinton called our collective Homer Simpsons “deplorable.” Last year, George W Bush called these same people, who elected him to office, “nativists” – and between the two Bens they have been called every name in the book, from hayseed, redneck, goober, hillbilly, illiterate, etc…

… and yet there is Bill Buckley saying he preferred being governed by them than Ben Shapiro’s faculty at Harvard. Who can better explain those law scholar-babes in Ukraine who heard Jefferson’s word and were moved to tears over the revelation of a simple truth.

I even published a book, “Famous Common People I have Known” (which is available at Amazon).

So, what does this highest of truths mean to our intellectual betters among the anti-Trumps?

Like our friend, Lady Penguin, who has said she will wear the name “deplorable” with honor, I think it is time we rededicate ourselves to the people about whom the country was created, its C-students, from whence all our A-students come, lest these little ungrateful sonsabitches have forgotten the shoulders they stand on.

They cannot be conservatives if they do not understand the miracle of both our creation as a free people, and our success as a nation, from C- to A-student because of it.

Evening Bells in Russian




Publications: Famous Common People I Have Known and Other Essays

                            Donald Trump, the Common Man and the American Theology of Liberty

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Lady Penguin
September 10, 2016 9:24 pm

I haven’t read the “Flight 93 Election” article yet, but plan to. In the meantime, it sounds indeed like the perfect metaphor of the events facing us.

Hillary’s problem – she of the “Basket of Deplorables” thinking, is that she really believes we are all deplorable Americans. God Willing, that will be her downfall.

The #NeverTrumpsters are riding that same rail, and seem unwilling to pull back from the precipice.