Verad Mehta has a piece at Medium that attacks the “reverse Flight 93 election” argument in favor of Anybody But Trump. Mehta makes some good points, like this:
“Policy doesn’t matter,” averred Nichols. It can be “reversed,” avowed Brooks. The reason so many NeverTrumpers are loath to back Warren or Sanders, and are even, in the wake of Sanders’ massive victory in the Nevada caucus, contemplating the once unthinkable prospect of voting for Trump, is that policy does matter, and the reason it matters is that often it can’t be reversed.
In fact, policy matters a great deal. Especially when you’re demanding conservatives support a Democrat over Trump, with the consequence that you are telling them they must vote for a candidate who backs many policies they oppose. Nichols offers no answer to this dilemma. For he does not believe it is a dilemma. And that is why his argument fails.
Trump’s voters, we are incessantly told, have voted for everything he has done in office. Not just judges, tax cuts, and deregulation, but: tariffs and trade wars; “children in cages”; his Twitter invective and depravity, vulgarity, and vindictiveness; his incompetence; etc.
Yet if voting for Trump was voting for all those things, then a vote for the Democrat in November is a vote for everything he or she will do or might have done. Gun confiscation. Taking away private health insurance. Massive taxation.
If Sanders is the nominee, as now seems likely, voting for him would be voting for his program to “reorder or referee almost every part of American life.” It would be voting for a man who admired some of the most noxious regimes of the last century. A vote for either him or Warren would be a vote for a presidency as authoritarian as Trump’s purportedly is.
I used to think policy was virtually the only thing that mattered. Give me someone who votes my way, I would say, and I’ll forgive almost anything in their personal life. (Almost. I could not support Christine O’Donnell, because of her obvious dishonesty.) Then along came Donald Trump, to prove me wrong. I don’t want to make the same mistake in reverse, and act on the idea that only character matters. Policy does indeed matter.
But leaving the analysis there doesn’t cut it, and Mehta ultimately passes on truly addressing the real question facing people who want Trump out of office: the notion that Donald Trump is actually dangerous to our system of government. He mostly handles the concern by asking: Really? That’s what you actually think?
America has faced existential threats before. Nazi Germany. The Confederacy. The Soviet Union. Nuclear weapons. Is Donald Trump an existential threat? Will the United States or its system of government cease to exist because he was elected or is reelected? Is the 2020 election really a matter of life or death?
Think what this is actually saying — that unless you vote for this one candidate, that unless this one candidate is elected, the nation is doomed. And unless you don’t, and unless they aren’t, too.
Asking these questions rhetorically, as Mehta does, with an air of disbelief (“do they really think?!”), does not convince people who suspect the answer to these questions may actually be yes. I keep coming back to the fact that Trump has already demonstrated that the ways to rein him in, other than an election or unlawful and immoral violence, do not and cannot work. With a two-party system in which Senators of the same party of the president will almost never vote to impeach him, it is impossible to remove him through impeachment. Given that fact, along with a Justice Department that refuses to indict a president who has not been impeached, we now know that a criminal cannot be removed from office, except through an election or through violence (which, again, is immoral, wrong, and unthinkable).
That’s your Flight 93 scenario, and it can’t be shrugged away by asking the questions as if the answer is obvious.
I think the better argument than the Flight 93 argument for voting for a Democrat — any Democrat — is that voting for Trump reinforces and ratifies all his corruption, nastiness, instability, proud ignorance, and shocking dishonesty. The GOP needs to be dealt a hard punch to the face for backing all this, and it has to hurt. A lot.
But is that argument good enough? I don’t know.
I’m still uncertain whether that convinces me to vote for Bernie (assuming he ends up being the nominee). I’m tempted to do so, because my vote is meaningless and it would stand as a tiny symbolic rebuke to Trump and everything he stands for on a personal level. But the trouble with viewing a vote against Trump as a symbolic reproach of his corrupt evil is that it will also be seen as a symbolic ratification of socialism, a system that (taken to its logical extreme) is the most evil and dangerous known to man. Socialism and communism (there is really no difference; it’s just how far down the road you want to walk) have killed millions.
As an aside: don’t talk to me about &(*&(*^ Bloomberg. He’s taking too large a chunk of the possible centrist support from someone like a Buttigieg or Biden, who are slightly less insane than Bernie and have a much better chance of winning.
I understand Mehta not confronting this tough question. It’s a tough question because there really is no easy answer. All we can do is ask these questions, and then resolve to somehow fix a system that gives us choices like this, time and time again.
There’s still an outside chance that we get a “moderate” like Biden or Buttigieg. They’re not actually that moderate, but the so-called moderates are moderate enough for me.
That said, it does not look like they can win the primary. And it does not look like the socialist can win the general. So we get four more years of Mr. Looney. Let’s just hope he doesn’t nuke someone.