Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Principles of Political War (Part 1)

By Wes Riddle

The people are rising up. Americans are waking up at last to the threat: a leftist elite, bent on fundamentally changing America and making every citizen entirely dependent on the state. The Obama machine driven by a socialist agenda is spending trillions of tax-payer dollars to finance takeover of the American workplace and to stifle personal initiative and community awareness and self-determination. America is built of better stuff, however, namely the principles of private property and individual freedom, and the Resistance has begun.

In May 2009 Californians launched a tax revolt, indeed at a time when their state government’s deficit was larger than the budgets of most other states and many countries. State law according to its “Initiative” process required legislators to win a two-thirds referendum of the people before they could raise taxes. Forced to hold special election with multiple ballot Initiatives to raise taxes, California citizens shocked legislators by sending an unmistakable message by margins of 60 percent even in San Francisco: Taxed Enough Already! No more taxes!

The “TEA” Party movement quickly spread, gaining steam across the entire nation. David Horowitz calls it “the most innovative, exciting and powerful grassroots force in the history of American conservatism.” Today and through the election cycles of 2010 and 2012 it is not only vital to the health of the country, but essential to the survival of America. Consider that on the eve of the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama proclaimed, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming America!” Tea Partiers threw themselves into the political breach, so to speak, saying unequivocally “No” to Obama’s plans to fundamentally alter the federal constitutional Republic and turn it into a socialist state.

The breach is one thing, but politics is really more about sustained effort and long-term commitment to ideas. A particular movement without an effective plan or strategy will not succeed. Therefore it is critical to reacquaint ourselves with some principles of political war. Many political philosophers have characterized politics as warfare by other, presumably peaceful means. Nixon described politics as being part and parcel of an overall spectrum of conflict. Most Americans are na├»ve politically and unfamiliar with what philosophers and political operatives know about the electoral game played every two to four years. Americans think about politics as some kind of spectator sport or movie show, a passive distraction that doesn’t require any of their personal involvement. They mistake the huge personal consequences while sitting in the bleachers or back row of a dark auditorium. They might bemoan results of an election at tax time, but then they turn again to something else entertaining or pressing.

Liberals are morally bankrupt and clueless about policy, but they still win elections because they understand American politics is driven by a dime novel Hollywood romance, with Americans sitting idly by as, you guessed it, spectators. According to Horowitz, the story they love to watch is about an underdog—you know, the little guy who goes up against the system and triumphs in the end. It is a story about opportunity and fairness too, and to win the flitting hearts and minds of American voters, you have to tap into emotions evoked by the underdog. America’s heroes are cut to a common mold: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, Jackie Robinson, Ronald Reagan or Colin Powell, etc., etc. Always it is about the common man who rises against the odds. Yep, Mr. Smith goes to Washington and make things right! Luke Skywalker saves the planet! Horowitz isn’t as cynical perhaps about the narrative. Truth is, practically everyone in America thinks of him or herself as the underdog and aspires to be a hero. The romance in fact resonates with our deepest convictions, as well as faith in freedom and the ability to overcome adversity or to challenge and win against unjust power arrayed against you. It is the American Dream and largely her story—rising to the top through hard work in spite of humble origin.

Until the Tea Parties showed up, the political left wielded this romantic narrative as a political weapon virtually unopposed at election time. In positioning themselves as champions of the underrepresented, neglected and oppressed, leftists manufactured a version of the American story and spread it far and wide through the media and academe. According to Horowitz, the left successfully transformed America’s story from “an epic of freedom into a tale of racism, exploitation and domination. In their telling, American history is no longer a narrative of expanding opportunity, of men and women succeeding against the odds. Instead, it is a Marxist Morality Play about the powerful and their victims.” Elections have become staged political dramas too, as progressives invariably speak in the name of America’s alleged victims—women, children, minorities and the poor.

Conservatives play into the trap
, approaching politics like management on every issue, as a mere practical problem that needs to be solved—emphasizing, say, utility of the tax cut, efficiency of a certain program, the optimal method to approach this or that. They talk like businessmen in other words, and while there is nothing wrong with instituting good policies and running things efficiently or turning profit, progressives label them as servants of the rich, oppressors of the weak, defenders of the strong and privileged. Conservatives become the enemies of the people, in the liberal parlance of political warfare. Witness Mario Cuomo at the Democrats’ 1996 National Convention: “We need to work as we have never done before between now and November…to take the Congress back from Newt Gingrich and the Republicans, because ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the Republicans are the real threat. They are the real threat to our women. They are the real threat to our children. They are the real threat to clean water, clean air and the rich landscape of America.” Ooh, such good spectator sport. Only now it won’t wash.


Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. He is currently Chairperson of the Central Texas Tea Party. Article loosely based on an essay by David Horowitz. Email Wes@WesRiddle.com or call (254) 939-5597.

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