What it will take to hold our own.
The Stakes, Higher Than Ever
The consequences of a watershed election continue to unfold.
Michael Anton, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, published The Stakes last summer in anticipation of the 2020 election, which he described as a highly consequential “point of no return” for America. The book is being released this week as a paperback, and The American Mind is pleased to publish Anton’s preface to the new edition.
The Stakes was written between December 2019 and May 2020, then augmented in June as the effects of the spring and summer rioting and crime wave, plus the COVID-19 lockdowns and mask mandates, were just beginning to be felt. Since the book was published in an election year and intended to influence the outcome, a potential reader may reasonably ask, “Now that the election is over, why should I read this?”
The answer is that the recommendation to vote for Trump culminates from an analysis that is truer to America’s present and future than it would have been had Trump remained president. The America of 2021 is the America of 2020, only more so, and the country will continue in this direction for the foreseeable future. The trends that Trump might have reversed, or at least slowed, are now barreling forward full speed ahead.
The Stakes is intended as a work of political science. It offers an analysis of the American regime: what it was designed to be and once was (Chapter 2), and what it now is. The book does not presuppose but attempts to show that the government of the founding fathers, of the Declaration and Constitution, of some two hundred years of continuous operation, is today but a memory. While formally still the law of the land, that regime has in practice been repealed and replaced. I describe our present regime in detail in Chapter 3.
Chapter 4 explains the nature and character of those who run it, for a lawless regime is defined by those who move the levers of power.
We are now somewhere in Chapter 6. The present regime and its ruling class have consolidated their power. They consider dissent to be threats to “national security” and are looking to wipe out all actual or perceived remaining pockets of opposition. They despise not merely the founding but also the America of the frontier, of the King James Bible, of folkways and habits stretching back to the first years of the seventeenth century, and they treat those who cherish them as enemies.
How long the regime and its ruling class can maintain their rule depends on their competence at running it and the conformity of their regime to human nature. There are reasons to doubt on both scores, which are explored in Chapter 6.
When the present regime fails—which must be regarded as inevitable, since nothing human lasts forever—new possibilities will open up. Those possibilities are sketched in Chapter 7.
Chapter 8 presents a policy agenda for the Trump second term that will not take place. Yet its ideas could usefully inspire a positive agenda for the Right not just at the national level but, more important, at the state and local levels where much more is possible for our side.
To know what to do, we must know where we are, and what we face. The Stakes is intended to help clarify both, and I hope it becomes a useful tool in the coming struggle.