This column has been updated.

One of the most demagogic and influential pro-Trump appeals in 2016 came from Michael Anton, a Republican publicist writing under a pretentious Roman pseudonym. “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die,” he wrote, arguing that if Hillary Clinton won, “death is certain.”

Donald Trump did take the controls — and flew the plane straight into the ground. Almost 200,000 Americans have died of covid-19, and more than 29 million people remain on unemployment. None of this had to happen. If the United States had the same death rate as Canada, more than 100,000 victims of covid-19 would still be alive. President Trump is even now endangering America by holding indoor rallies in the midst of a pandemic and refusing to take climate change seriously.

But that has not deterred right-wingers from trying to portray this as another “Flight 93 election.” Their theory seems to be that only a Trump second term can save us from the death and destruction of his first term.

“The battle for the survival of the United States of America is upon us,” proclaims a hysterical cover story in Commentary. “The dissenters are being silenced. The buildings are burning, and the demands are ever growing.” We are living, the author argues, in “France in 1789, Russia in 1917, and China in 1949.” Derek Chauvin, the police officer whose brutality sparked nationwide protests, is “our own Gavrilo Princip,” the assassin who triggered World War I. This is “an American version of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, similarly suggests this is yet another Flight 93 moment. She compares the ideology of al-Qaeda to the “Wokeism” of progressives: “Islamists shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Death to America’; the Woke chant ‘Black lives matter’ and ‘I can’t breathe.’ Islamists pray to Mecca; the Woke take the knee. Both like burning the American flag.”

In a Post op-ed, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute writes that she might be “forced” to vote for Trump, because if he loses, “The corrosive left-wing extremism of 2020 would be ascendant. … Trump, for all his flaws, could be all that stands between our imperfect democracy and the tyranny of the woke left.”

Give me a break. And get a grip.

I’ve been criticizing “political correctness” for more than 30 years, ever since I was a student columnist at the University of California at Berkeley. Its excesses continue to irk me. But they are insignificant compared with the threat posed to our country by Trump and the malign forces that he has unleashed.

More than 90 percent of racial justice protests have been peaceful. The far right, not the far left, is responsible for almost all domestic terrorism. A recent study found that right-wing extremists perpetrated nearly two-thirds of attacks and plots in 2019, and 90 percent in the first four months of 2020.

Joe Biden has been clear in condemning violence whether of the left or right. As he said: “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple.” Trump, by contrast, employs racist and violent language to mobilize White voters. He won’t even condemn a supporter accused of killing two people in Kenosha, Wis. Trump warns of “anarchy” if Biden wins, but he is the one promoting lawlessness and disorder.

Trying to portray Biden as a dangerous radical — or a dupe of dangerous radicals — is simply absurd. The former senator was a centrist and compromiser during more than 40 years in Washington. The far left can’t stand him because he was too nice to Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and too tough on crime. Today, he rejects leftist demands to defund the police, abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and stop fracking. His plans for new spending are only a small fraction of those proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.).

Biden was vice president for eight years under a president who was also denounced by the right as a dangerous, un-American radical. Far from ushering in Bolshevism, the Obama-Biden administration presided over the longest economic expansion on record and falling crime rates. This year, by contrast, the Trump administration has seen the worst recession since the 1930s and a rising murder rate.

Even if you differ with Biden on the issues, you have to admit he is no threat to our democracy. Trump is. He has called the election a hoax, encouraged supporters to vote twice, refused to say whether he will recognize the results, tried to blackmail Ukraine into helping him politically, and failed to combat Russian election attacks. It’s Orwellian to claim that only Trump can protect our democracy when he is the biggest threat to it.

I do not want to be a mirror image of the right-wing alarmists by claiming that America won’t survive a second Trump term. As Adam Smith said, “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” But even a cursory examination of the candidates’ records makes clear that our future is far more endangered if Trump wins than if he loses. Only Biden has any hoping of rebuilding the airplane that Trump crashed.

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The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police and vigilantes are part of bigger injustices felt by these black Americans. (The Washington Post)

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