The cheers, jeers and tears that followed the election night results were inevitable. And manifestly pointless. So, like many of you, I ignored it. I turned off the pundits, turned off the Monday-morning quarterbacks, and turned my attention to something productive. But — I’m getting ahead of myself.
The reaction to Obama’s reelection was extreme, but expected. We saw frustration, outrage, concern and despair. Some mourned the death of the American way. Some were angry with the media for bias, with the electorate for not showing up, and with irregularities pointing to election rigging. We saw the sort of reaction one might expect when a Doctor gives bad news. “You’ve got liberalism, son. A bad case. There’s nothing we can do.”
I can’t even take issue with the reasons for being upset. Are there voting irregularities? Is Obama chasing Greece down the road to insolvency? Unresolved scandals in Benghazi and DoJ? Questionable foreign policy? Obamacare causing more problems than it solves? Open hostility to so-called “bitter clingers”? Activist judges rewriting the Constitution?
At least some of these complaints are true — so, what now? Regroup, recount votes, prosecute fraud and all that? Sure, but what next? Is this truly America’s darkest hour? Probably not.
Two hundred years ago, America faced a different threat to her national survival. War came to her shores. As we examine two battles from that war, ask yourselves which group you should copy.
First, the Surrender of Detroit. It was a loss without a battle. Tecumseh and Brock led the British side to an easy victory over the troops under Hull. How’d they win? By convincing the demoralized defenders that they were vastly overmatched, and had no hope of winning. Extra fires were set, and the British made their manpower seem much greater than it actually was. As a result of basic psychological tactics, they faced beaten men, and so, the battle was over before it began. Result? A white flag.
Second, the Battle of Plattsburgh. Macdonough faced the Royal Navy, which (don’t forget), was the best of the best. The two flagships fought to a standstill. The American Saratoga had almost all her starboard-side guns put out of action. So, outgunned against a superior force, did Macdonough strike his colors?
No, he changed tactics. The British did not know that the Saratoga’s anchors were strategically placed to swing it around, bringing the undamaged side to bear upon the enemy. From the British perspective, exactly when the victory seemed certain, the American defenders changed the game. The Saratoga renewed her attack, and — badly battered — the British flagship Confiance struck her colors. Four British ships were captured, and the remaining gunships retreated.
What was the result of this engagement? Oh, nothing much, it merely repulsed the Royal Navy, ensuring that the Americans didn’t have to sign away territory, or lose access to the Great Lakes during peace talks.
What does that have to do with today? Quite a lot, actually. Politically, American conservatives face a similar conflict. Which model will they resemble — Macdonough the winner, or Hull, the loser?
Conservatives, so far, have been playing strictly defence. Afraid to venture outside the fort — like Hull in Detroit — for fear of defeat. The other guys have set the tone of public debate. They smear opposition with pejoratives. They keep advancing after every loss or tie, and set new objectives when old ones are met. We cower, retreat, retrench. Why?
What’s the matter, did you think this would be easy? Cowboy up, Nancy. Grab your cup, you’ve got a long fight ahead of you … unless you surrender. Your principles are worth it, right? If yes, welcome to the fight. If not, Adams would say, “may your chains set lightly on you, and may posterity forget that you were our countryman.”
But lessons still need to be learned. The Saratoga didn’t go toe-to-toe with a stronger force. She had a plan, and exploited an advantage. We will need to revisit our tactics, or face more setbacks.
The first, and foremost lesson: we must reject the goal of a merely political solution. Proper legislation and leaders are only part of what is going on.
We can’t live like the “right person in office” will be a silver bullet. Our political climate is a result of the cultural one, it’s a question of values. To win votes, we must first win hearts. If people are convinced that traditional ways and ethics are outdated or wicked, will they ever gain political traction? Of course not. Let’s stop withdrawing from areas of cultural influence. With every surrender we made, decade by decade, they put their ideologues into vacant positions of power, and we lost influence.
There are two ways out of this. Either reclaim the old systems of culture, arts, media, and education that are now home turf to the liberals — rigid antiquated systems designed to complement the Industrial Age — or leapfrog ahead, and innovate, using flexible, scalable, open-source methods to bypass the lock they have on those systems. Build superior systems, with superior results, and — like Macdonough — retake the field with an unexpected tactic.
What was I doing while others cried or raged? I watched Bill Whittle’s “A New Beginning”. If you would like some real “outside-the-box” thinking, of the kind I’ve been describing, check it out.
Image: Battle of Plattsburgh; Mike McGregor (Can) at en.wikipedia; public domain/copyright expired.