Why liberals lose
Summary: Today’s post by Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired) applies the analytical tools of strategy and tactics to American politics. At the end is a primer on grand strategy.
Juan Cole (Prof History, U MI), one of our most perspicuous observers on the Middle East, ran a blog post the other day that illustrates why conservatives have such a strong hold on certain segments of our society. The item featured a map showing average life expectancy by state, and Cole’s summary was:
With the exception of Utah, there is a pretty strong overlap between lower life expectancy and deep hostility to the Affordable Care Act. Those who need it most are most opposed to it.
Fair enough. But why? Although one can sympathize with Cole’s frustration, his conclusion illustrates why liberals are struggling so hard:
Know what that is called? Fatal stupidity.
So long as liberals have that attitude, they will feed the very movement they so righteously denounce. It wasn’t that long ago, for example, that Rick Santorum was making a credible run at the GOP nomination by shouting at his audiences:
They think we’re stupid!
Boyd suggested four elements of an effective grand strategy. You can look them up at Patterns of Conflict slide 139 (PDF here). The second is:
Pump up our resolve, drain away adversary resolve, and attract the uncommitted;
Politics is all about grand strategy, about attracting the uncommitted, particularly the swing voters who hold the key to most elections. Telling yourself — that is, locking in your orientation — that they don’t agree with you because they’re stupid will probably not produce effective campaigns.
[Note: I’m not making any statement about the ACA. I’ve been on government-sponsored, single-payer health programs (TRICARE and Medicare) for a while, and they seem to work for me. But, of course, the ACA is not a single-payer program.]
(3) A primer about Grand Strategy
“To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War, circa 500 B.C.
To understand the nature of grand strategy is to see that we’re doing it badly. The late American strategist Col. John Boyd (USAF) said that a grand strategy focused our nation’s actions — political, economic, and military — so as to:
- Increase our solidarity, our internal cohesion.
- Weaken our opponents’ resolve and internal cohesion.
- Strengthen our allies’ relationships to us.
- Attract uncommitted states to our cause.End conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts.
In his essay on grand strategy, Chet Richards quoted Boyd as recommending a “unifying vision” (killing every potential enemy is such a vision, albeit a mad one):
A grand ideal, overarching theme, or noble philosophy that represents a coherent paradigm within which individuals as well as societies can shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances — yet offers a way to expose flaws of competing or adversary systems. Such a unifying vision should be so compelling that it acts as a catalyst or beacon around which to evolve those qualities that permit a collective entity or organic whole to improve its stature in the scheme of things.
— ”Patterns of Conflict”, Chart 143
One of Boyd’s closest associates, Chuck Spinney, summarized Boyd’s concept:
… grand strategy is the art of pursuing national goals in a way that improves our nation’s fitness to shape and cope with the conditions of an ever-changing international environment. A nation’s grand strategy is about its organic vitality and growth … or in Sun Tzu’s words, it is the “road to survival or ruin” over the long term.
For More Information
For all posts about this topic see the FM Reference Page:
Posts about the Democratic Party:
- America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?), 14 November 2008,
- The Democrats believe we are stupid. Are they correct?, 19 December 2008