Republicans can be such cowards sometimes

I think it’s awfully hilarious that the GOP gets this public image that they are extreme, out of touch, and wholly enslaved to the Far Right, even despite the stories that come out about their full and unconditional surrender to the president’s executive fiat on immigration. As my RedState colleague (and, despite all reports, a decent human being), Erick Erickson puts it:

…[S]ome House Republicans still seem to be desperately clinging to the illusion that in a few months they will be able to stand on stronger ground alongside a Republican majority in the Senate to oppose amnesty. They couldn’t be more wrong – both House and Senate leadership have no real intention of undoing the President’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. In fact, while they publicly act outraged, they’re secretly relieved, because the President has removed by executive fiat the single biggest obstacle to their long running efforts to force comprehensive immigration reform through Congress.

What more, though, do you expect from a man like John Boehner? I hold nothing against men who cry, but for God’s sake, the man cries at the drop of a hat. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have been in Congress too long to still be in touch with what the party’s voters want, and even if the voters were for this immigration plan (I, like a few others, actually don’t mind Obama’s ideas, but despise the way it happened), there is an obligation for the Congress to keep executive overreach in check. The fact that they will take a symbolic vote (as idiotic as the votes to repeal Obamacare have been since they reclaimed the House in 2010) that will go nowhere before surrendering is adding insult to injury. The Republican leadership are being absolute cowards in this fight… actually, you know what? It’s not even a fight. It’s an unconditional surrender before the battle starts.

There’s an old military legend about a strategist who was soon to be besieged by an army 20 times the size of his own. He had only about 10,000 men to the enemy’s 200,000, and no reinforcements that could effectively hold off defeat. In light of this information, the strategist remained calm and ordered all the banners be put away and the war drums be silenced. He had most of his soldiers hidden away, but a few were ordered to dress in civilian clothing. The gates were opened and the “civilians” were out sweeping the streets leading into the city.

The enemy strategist saw all this and hesitated his advance, because he knew that his opponent was prudent and never took unnecessary risks. Thus, he came to the conclusion that there was an ambush and ordered a retreat from the city. In fictionalized versions of this story, there were then ambushes along the path, as the strategist had sent out messages calling for reinforcements, but not to the city. The enemy was dealt a pretty serious blow, and the enemy tactician was outraged that he had fallen for the trap.

I share this story because, in spite of being outnumbered in the Senate (for only another month or so) and not holding the White House, the House Republicans have strategies that can fend off Democrat policies that are, at best, dangerous precedents of overreach. However, unlike the strategist mentioned above, they are choosing to surrender, wanting to avoid a fight. Even worse, unlike the strategist, the goals of the Republican leadership are in this case aligned with the goals of the Democrats. They are only showing a fight, but in reality, they are negotiating before the fight even begins.

The Republican leaders are cowards who don’t want to fight, and the subordinate Republicans in the House are cowards who won’t stand up to this blatant and offensive smoke-and-mirrors act.


Miyamoto Musashi and Carpentry

According to Miyamoto Musashi, a skilled 19th-century swordsman and strategist, the study and mastery of carpentry is much like the study and mastery of strategy. In this case, the carpenter is the equivalent of a modern day home contractor, however, for the sake of keeping it simple, we’ll stick with Musashi’s terms.

The carpenter, for example, as a foreman knows the entire blueprint of the home he is in charge of building. Every detail must be learned in order to make sure the house comes together as it is supposed to. He must know the individual parts of the home that, when brought together, will make it a complete building. He also must know those working under him, what their jobs should be and who would be most effective at which assignment.

Likewise, the strategist knows the goal of the campaign he is in charge of winning. As such, he must know the basic battle plans. He must know the individual tactics and strategies that will make those plans successful. Lastly, he too much know the people who will be in charge of ensuring those tactics and strategies are put into play and used most effectively. The strategist is in charge of making sure the right personnel is in charge of the right assignments to make the strategies successful.

The carpenter and the strategist know, however, that conditions may change. Rigidity is important, as a carpenter cannot constantly make arbitrary changes to a design on a whim, and a strategist cannot change the plans in the same manner. However, along with rigidity comes the understanding that improvisation can and will happen. It is vital in tighter situations where conditions can and most likely will change. A carpenter does not begin a job with only the materials to complete the project. Wood may rot or break. Materials can go missing. The labor may be limited or workers can leave prematurely. The strategist also must have plans and tactics waiting in case conditions change and they are needed to replace outdated or broken strategies.

Bows and Guns and Messaging

In “The Book of Five Rings,” Musashi Miyamoto gives a brief mention to the strengths and weaknesses of weapons. In the field, bows are a great way to begin a battle. In the same way, guns are as effective in structures (bases, castles, etc.) There is a difference in what the two projectiles can do, however. The bow allows you to see the trajectory, so you can make adjustments while the arrow is still flying and see how far off you are. The ammunition from a gun, however, is not so easy to adjust. In battle, you either hit your opponent or you don’t. Granted, in the 16th century, guns were very inaccurate, but the premise behind this is still applicable today.

In messaging, you can broadly define two types of messages. The first is the Wide Message. This type of message in politics is something along the lines of a platform message, where the politician or political candidate has loosely defined beliefs and goals. These include ideas like “pro-life” and “equal rights.” These ideas are the arrows of political messaging.

The bullets of political messaging can be referred to as Pointed Message. A politician or political candidate has the ability to take a Wide Message and narrow it down into specific points. He or she can also narrow it down and use it to attack an opponent. These are riskier, as an incorrect definition can miss its target.

The Wide Message is one that moves more slowly. It is a bigger projectile that can sail through a campaign. If voters don’t respond as you like, it is noticeable in polling and can be adjusted on the campaign trail without requiring much work. However, the Pointed Message, as a smaller, more immediate message, can have an instantaneous impact that has the potential to make big strides for a campaign. Or, it could do irreparable harm if misfired or inaccurate.

A candidate can say that they are for “equal rights,” but if the constituency is more conservative, they can add other, more conservative ideas behind it. Likewise, a candidate that is “pro-life” can adjust the Wide Message to include other, more progressive ideologies to balance that out in a more liberal constituency. However, the progressive constituency will have a harder time accepting the candidate if the issue is made into the Pointed Message of “Life begins at conception.” The candidate in the conservative constituency will quickly lose support if he or she comes out supporting gay marriage.

In the same way, the Wide Message is good for establishing a baseline with which to define an opponent, and a Pointed Message is a way to drill those points home. However, if the Pointed Messages misfire – they are quickly and irreparably disproven or their tone and meaning reflect poorly on the campaign – then it is harder to make an adjustment. The gun is louder than the arrow, and once it is heard, your position is given away. You are much more likely to be defensive after that.