Levin’s point is focused specifically on the right, and he seems to be saying that Anton is both living in and perpetuating the right’s pessimism bubble. Anton said that American conservatism – especially as someone would have understood the implications of that label in the Reagan administration – is indeed on the verge of total defeat at the hands of the progressives. Levin says it is doing ok, and that no one need be alarmed, or conclude that special, drastic measures must be taken to shore up defenses.
That is not exactly what Levin is saying. I think that the best source is probably an essay that he wrote, called Conservatism in an Age of Alienation. Read the whole thing. A few excerpts:
The idea that ours is the decisive time of history’s reckoning is always attractive, but conservatives in particular should see that it is almost certainly wrong. We are called to enable a revival, not to mount a total revolution, and therefore to hold up the good before the rising generation rather than to tear down all we have inherited and treat it as unsalvageable.
…despair of America is not justified, and the case for why this moment in particular should be the moment to despair does not add up to much. It assigns to Progressives much more malice (and competence) than is warranted and credits them with far more than they have actually achieved, and it sells our society short. While we confront immense problems, America also has extraordinary strengths at its disposal and a deep reserve of moderation that has always served it well.
…Constitutional guardrails matter more than any specific policy preferences—because they will last longer, and because they will give shape and form to our political habits and our civic life and help us take the principles and self-evident truths underlying our politics seriously. A constructive conservative politics in the Trump years must therefore first and foremost be a politics of constitutional restoration.
That was written five months ago. More recently, in conversation, he says that the guardrails have been working. This has been frustrating for those of us who want to see Obamacare repealed and other policy shifts proportional to the drama of the Republican victory a year ago. There have been some changes of direction, for example at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission, but in other areas there has been institutional inertia. Levin would argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Most important, the fact that President Trump has been checked at times by courts and by Congress helps to remind Progressives of the value of traditional institutions. Instead, if the President had trampled over these institutional barriers, that would have magnified support for a destructive “resistance” and for left-wing extremism in general.