A Willingness to Win

In an historical parallel that works, Pedro Gonzalez compares the relationship of the Democrats and Republicans to that of the hammer and anvil. This image is taken from an 18th-century Prussian commander who was describing the choice confronting his country and its Austrian adversaries during a war in 1740.  One side would strike decisively, while the other side would receive the blows delivered.

 Hostility erupted between the two states after Frederick the Great seized Silesia from the young Austrian Empress Maria Theresa following the succession of both of them to their respective thrones. Although Frederick had some distant genealogical claim to Silesia and supposedly invaded it to protect his fellow Protestants who were being persecuted, the young Prussian king grabbed the territory, as Gonzalez reminds us, for Machiavellian reasons. Frederick wanted Silesia to increase the size and wealth of his small, relatively impoverished German state. And after two wars, the last ending in 1763, the Prussian ruler managed to hold on to the land he grabbed so unceremoniously.

Gonzalez casts the Democrats in the role of Frederick and the Republicans in that of the Austrian empress, who was demonstrably offended by Frederick’s brazenness. Fredrick prevailed over Maria Theresa, who is supposed to remind us of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Vice President Mike Pence. The triumphant side in both cases is the one who most desires victory.  Like the Democrats going after their prize, Frederick pulled out every stop to hold on to Silesia. Morality be damned!

Allow me, as a diligent European historian, to point out the limits of Gonzalez’s comparison. Unlike Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Hakeem Jeffriess (D-N.Y.), Frederick the Great was a heroic figure who held his ground in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) against a large continental European alliance, even after his English allies abandoned him. Moreover, Frederick’s father was grossly deceived by Maria Theresa’s father, Charles VI, who promised the Prussian monarch German territory (for which he had a dynastic claim) in return for voting for Maria Theresa as Holy Roman Empress. Since, by law,  that title could only go to a male and, by custom, only to a Habsburg, Charles VI needed to persuade the imperial electors (of whom the Prussian king was one) to break precedent by voting for his daughter to succeed him. (Charles had no sons.)

 Of course, Gonzalez’s larger point is entirely correct. The Democrats, like Frederick, will do what it takes to gain victories, while their opponents appeal in vain to high principle. While the Democrats do have the support of our leading cultural and political institutions, they also enjoy another significant advantage: They fight relentlessly, and with a greater determination than their opponents. 

Unlike our Republican gentlemen (Mike Pence and the GOP advocates of bipartisanship come to mind), Democrats are intent on increasing their power. In their determination to win they exemplify what I have called “the thumos factor,” a quality of boldness that even adversaries must grudgingly admire. 

Republican cable TV pundits complain that the Democrats are all about power.  Although this may be viewed as a moral defect, it is also an advantage when fighting the less warlike. When was the last time a Republican president combatted the deep state by replacing, where possible, Democratic administrators? This should be normal procedure for Republicans, as it has been for Democrats. I also have no idea why so many Senate Republicans—please listen, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell!—have voted for highly partisan nominees for federal judgeships and cabinet posts put up by Democratic presidents. Why don’t Republicans in Congress treat their adversaries’ nominees exactly as Democrats treat Republican ones?

Moreover, it is incomprehensible to me that Republicans have not totally defunded NPR, which is the obvious mouthpiece of the Democratic Party and the deep state. Does anyone in his right mind believe the Democrats would not long ago have taken such an action against a Republican-occupied radio station that reached millions of listeners each week? 

Nor should Republicans be shy about going after hostile public-sector unions, starting with Randi Weingarten’s United Federation of Teachers. Like Joe Biden’s handlers, Republicans should be punishing enemies as well as rewarding loyalists. Most definitely they should strip these enemies, as much as possible, of any influence over the government.  

Exemplifying the attitudinal difference between the two parties, a “conservative” columnist writes in a self-described “conservative magazine” about the need for moderation. Instead of planning for “another American revival” after the woke explosion on the Left, conservatives “could work for social improvement in less dramatic ways.” “In a fallen world” in which “those efforts will lead to unexpected and frequently unwelcome outcomes,” we should be cautious in our political responses.  

But we on the Right are not in a situation to plan for modest changes. The Left is playing for keeps; and as Gonzalez observes, victory will go to the more ruthless and more determined. In this case, survival itself may require a willingness to win.

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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