The Congressional GOP's Historic Failure
How do you tame an elephant? An elephant is a massive, powerful beast, one with no serious natural predators. Intelligent, strong, enormous in size, it should logically be impossible to turn such a beast into a domesticated critter, yet it is done all the time by human beings. Essentially the elephant is isolated and poked with sticks by teams of men, until the creature's will is broken and it submits. It's not that the man is so much smarter than the elephant, nor that he is stronger, nor faster; it is that he is more aggressive and indefatigable. He wears the will of the elephant down.
This is how men have enslaved each other as well.
Niccolo Machiavelli was the father of modern politics, a man not constrained by morals or ethics so much as by the absolute pursuit of power and how to use it. Machiavelli was the forerunner of Barack Obama's mentor Saul Alinsky, and in Alinsky's admonitions on political power we see the soul of Machiavelli, as indeed we see it in Mr. Obama, who will violate every rule of civil behavior if it suits him. Mr. Obama has managed to win almost every contest with his opponents in the GOP, and the rise of Donald Trump in the race for the Presidency is a direct result of that failure on the part of the Republicans to fight back against Mr. Obama and his minions in Congress.
It really is that simple; Trump fights back, and is effective. Consider this from Machiavelli:
"For the mob is always impressed by appearances and by results, and the world is composed of the mob."
Or, to look at it from the reverse, Machiavelli stated:
"Among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised."
And indeed the GOP has been bringing boxing gloves to a gunfight with Mr. Obama all these years -- and losing. Their failure is astonishing when one considers they own both Houses of Congress and dominate at the state levels. The symbol of the GOP is the elephant, and Mr. Obama has broken their spirits in an amazing fashion. It has gotten so bad that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't even try to defund Planned Parenthood, despite solid evidence of law-breaking and the foulest of actions on the part of this diabolical institution. Apparently murdering babies to harvest for body parts cannot draw enough support to cut off taxpayer funding.
What would Machiavelli say? Perhaps this:
"The Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others."
Here exactly is the problem with the GOP; they want peace at any price. They erroneously believe that the public wants "comity" and warm fuzzy feelings. Machiavelli would heartily disagree:
"...it is better to be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her down must beat and bully her. We see that she yields more often to men of this stripe than to those who come coldly toward her."
Coldly indeed! The Republicans surrender before even engaging the enemy these days, and the grass roots has had it. Politics is war by another means, and our generals think they are playing jacks.
This is how badly Mr. Obama has beaten them down. Frightened of their own shadows, they dare not challenge Obama on anything, lest he take some horrible retribution on them. Saul Alinsky said "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself," and he admonished his minions to "keep the pressure on." Obama has used metaphorical sticks to poke the elephants, frightening them with sound and fury. McConnell and Boehner cower in their pens, terrified by shadows and moonbeams.
But, but, the Republicans will lose any possible shutdown of government! we are told. Did they lose seats after the last one? If they keep getting creamed like that there won't be a single Democrat in Congress, although the current leadership will still say they need more people to roll back Obama's programs.
The reality is, in war and in politics a defeat is often a victory. Abraham Lincoln understood that perfectly, demanding his generals fight even if they lose because the enemy was smaller and weaker and could not keep sustaining the damage. This is equally true of the current makeup of government; the Democrats are smaller and weaker than the Republicans. What they have that the GOP does not is a sense that they can win, and a willingness to fight.
And, as the ancient Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu pointed out, "opportunities multiply as they are seized." Do nothing and nothing happens.
Take William Hull during the War of 1812; Hull, a Revolutionary War hero, had become timid, and when he was supposed to sally forth from his Detroit stronghold to capture Canada he became frightened of all the possible dangers, eventually retreating to his fort and, when the British came, surrendering without a fight. He fell to Alinsky's rule about the fear of a thing being worse than the thing itself. He was court martialed, and barely escaped being executed.
A refusal to fight on the issue of Planned Parenthood says to the voting public that the GOP is unwilling to stand for anything, that they are about political fortune alone. It dispirits the base. It emboldens Obama and his cadre. It further evaporates the authority of Congress.
In a recent ruling, a D.C. judge has green lighted a lawsuit by Congress against the Obama Administration over Obamacare. Herein is another example of the weakness of the Republicans in Congress; they are groveling to what Alexander Hamilton called the weakest branch of government in Federalist 78 to aid them against what should be only the second strongest. (George Washington considered himself the "chief magistrate" as opposed to a lawmaker.) Congress holds all the cards; they control the money, the appointments, the power to impeach, the power to subpoena testimony from anyone, and yet here they are groveling to the Courts to make bring a lawless president to heel. It is like watching a pit-bull dog seek defense from a cat against an aggressive pug.
(It should also be pointed out that Sun-tzu also said “Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions” and using the courts negates any advantage they have to succeed through swift, bold action. It is dreadful strategy.)
Answer me this; did the Democrats take a beating after defunding the war in Vietnam? That was a far worse action to take, and they paid no price for it. Indeed, they were going to impeach Nixon and they won the White House after draining funds away from American troops, soldiers who would die or suffer as a result. Courage and boldness won the day.
So why do the GOP continue to flail about in so amateurish a fashion? Simple: they are terrified of what Obama may do to them. They have become fully tamed Elephants. That is the secret to Donald Trump's success, and that is why the base is rebelling against the Establishment. Tamed men are called slaves.
There is a reason the Tea Party adopted the Gadsden flag as their symbol; "Don't tread on me" is a slogan the rest of the GOP should embrace.
Tim is a St. Louis based writer. Read more from him at The Aviary