Historians often cite Mao Zedong’s legendary Long March of 1934 as the pivotal event for the Chinese communists. With his troops facing annihilation by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, Mao sent his army of 100,000 men on an arduous 6,000-mile march from southern to northern China. Commencing in October 1933, the march took an entire year and cost nearly 90% of the communist forces.
The costly march actually saved Mao’s army by keeping it in the field. Despite the terrible losses, the Party survived to fight on: first, against the Japanese; then, against Chiang Kai-shek’s forces. Many historians say the Long March helped China avoid long-term subjugation by Japan. In 1949 the resurgent communists finally drove the Nationalists onto Formosa Island and took control of mainland China.
Chinese history is complex, so it would be an error to represent it simplistically. But it can be legitimately argued that the Long March matured the communists, raised their reputation with the peasantry, and generated a base of trust from which the Party could ultimately seize and govern the most populous country on earth.
My readers should not infer that I sympathize with Mao’s agenda or with the communist philosophy. Mao was an economic dunce who wrecked the Chinese economy by implementing policies in which the central premise – that people will produce without any self-interest or profit motivation – is false. Mao’s iron (some say iron-headed) rule denied China’s people a half-century of economic progress.
Nevertheless, some valuable lessons can be gleaned from the Long March of Mao and his persistent followers. In particular, I cite a summary of Mao’s guerilla warfare principles (shown below); and the issue of political maturity.
If the enemy advances, we retreat.
If the enemy halts and encamps, we harass.
If the enemy seeks to avoid battle, we attack.
If the enemy retreats, we pursue.
These precepts depict an army that is never at rest. It is ceaselessly active – completely responsive to whatever the enemy is doing (or not doing). “Relax, take it easy” is not in this construct. Mao’s Principles of Guerilla Warfare could as aptly be called “principles of political warfare,” as they apply to nearly any political scenario.
To be effective an army must be an army, not a rabble. It must have the discipline to follow its leadership – to carry out orders without individuals questioning the mission or thinking they should be in charge. Most political parties have problems with this. It is where the issue of political maturity is most telling.
Political maturity is a loosely defined term. With respect to the Long March, some historians define maturity in terms of discipline and trust. I favor that definition. Survivors of the Long March emerged as a disciplined army which trusted its leadership and believed they could achieve anything.
The Long March also convinced the peasantry that the communists could do difficult things to help them. Mao knew the peasantry was disaffected with Chiang and the Nationalists. He also knew that the peasants’ trust had to be won before political victory could be achieved. The Long March did that. From this base of trust Mao finally won China.
I mention these matters – so far removed from us in time and geography – because the dynamics of trust and political maturity matter on our own political scene. There are many examples, but I cite two from the twentieth century. The first is the ascendancy of the Democratic Party in the context of the Great Depression and World War II.
Democrats’ Long March
Following the Roaring Twenties, the financial reverses of the Great Depression wiped out the wealth of millions of Americans, scourged the workplace, and drove confidence from the political arena. The people were shocked and deeply depressed. Boldness and confidence would be required to win their trust.
Into this vacuum – at nearly the same time as the Long March was happening – strode (figuratively) the confident figure of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cocking his cigarette holder at a jaunty angle, he said we had “nothing to fear but fear itself.” He implemented a bevy of new programs, while chatting with the American people, in avuncular style, on radio Fireside Chats.
Many of FDR’s New Deal programs were later shown to be counter-productive to the country’s recovery, but Americans didn’t care. FDR believed in what he was doing, and his attitude was infectious. Folks thought he cared and was trying to help them. FDR won the people’s trust. His party trusted him, too. The New Deal was Democrats’ Long March. Its legacy kept them in power for more than six decades. FDR’s leadership during World War II brought his Party to full maturity. Unless they really messed up, Democrats looked to be the dominant force in American politics for a long time.
Communism being what it is, Mao stopped worrying about the people’s trust once he gained power. “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun,” said Mao, as he implemented programs featuring violence, oppression and equal-opportunity poverty. The massive Cultural Revolution of the 1960s – which purged millions of “intellectuals” from Chinese society – set the country back decades.
Democrats gradually forgot the American people, too, and their political maturity faded. Party members stopped trusting their leadership and began to concentrate on self-interest. Radical special interests split the party over war, national defense and minority interests. Democrat bigwigs got cozy with Hollywood celebrities and billionaires. Normal Culture Americans began to doubt that FDR’s New Deal party still cared about issues which concerned them and their families.
Republicans’ Long March.
Richard Nixon’s election in 1968 marked the start of Republicans’ own Long March toward political maturity. Mr. Nixon came to grief by offending the people’s trust, but his Democrat successor didn’t do much better. A naive, indecisive pacifist, Jimmy Carter trashed FDR’s national security legacy. Voters massively rejected him in 1980.
Former Cowboy actor Ronald Reagan promised strong national defense, lower taxes, and a conservative turn on social issues. Democrats said he was “just a dumb actor reading lines,” but after finding that he had more under his 10-gallon hat than hair, voters trusted him for two terms, plus another term under George H. W. Bush. Under Reagan, Republicans continued their long march, although not quite as a united army. Unfortunately, “Bush-41” didn’t comprehend that he had been elected to a third Reagan term. After some ill-advised decisions damaged him, voters denied him a second term.
The charming playboy, Bill Clinton – an avowed “New Democrat” – promised “change” and good government. But adolescent policies and a massive tax-hike quickly squandered whatever voter trust he had. In the massive political shift of 1994, Republicans won both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. House Speaker Newt Gingrich led Republicans on the next leg of their Long March.
After narrowly defeating Al Gore in 2000, George W. Bush brought Republicans closer to political maturity by gaining voters’ trust on national security and lower taxes. For the first time in a half-century Republicans controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress. Millions of Americans believed Mr. Bush understood them and their concerns about the future. Even Democrats were glad he was in charge when terrorists hit us on 9/11.
Unfortunately, “Dub-ya” fumbled the war on terrorism, which began with bi-partisan support. At first, it looked like we might mobilize for total war, as in World War II. But Mr. Bush and his advisors shrank back from this, favoring a go-slow campaign to avoid “alarming” the people. This drew the war out too long without achieving clear success. The Bush War Cabinet forgot – or never really understood – that Americans’ patience with war lasts about 4 years. After that, they start looking for somebody to wrap things up.
Mr. Bush also made the serious error of touching the “third rail” of American politics. Soon after his 2004 re-election, he launched a campaign to reform Social Security by letting workers divert half of their FICA taxes into privately controlled investments, in return for reduced retirement pensions. It wasn’t a bad idea, but indifferent young workers didn’t support it. Worse yet, the proposal alarmed retirees and older workers, causing them to lose confidence in Mr. Bush and the GOP. By hammering Mr. Bush on the war and Social Security, Democrats took both houses of Congress in 2006. Republicans had fumbled the people’s trust, giving Democrats a launch-pad for a new march back to power.
Democrats’ Short March.
To lead that march Dems found an attractive, articulate, well turned-out young black guy who promised to heal the nation’s racial fractures and bring its people together. He campaigned effectively on Hope and Change, without defining exactly what that “change” would be. Young people ran after him like Hamelin’s Kinder chasing the Pied Piper. He won two terms by promising minorities the moon and out-classing the uninspiring GOP candidates who ran against him.
Mr. Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize soon after his inauguration – not for anything he actually accomplished, but because he “looked and sounded so good” (as a young neighbor said to me). Sympathetic media successfully hid his socialist leanings during the campaign, but voters soon realized where he wanted to take the country. Leftists’ “Tax the Rich” battle-cry, which had attracted legions of voters in FDR’s day, fell flat in an era when half of all voters are invested in the stock markets, and most hope to achieve higher income levels.
With both houses of Congress in his party’s control, Mr. Obama’s pushed Obamacare through. He claimed that it would reduce medical-insurance costs, but when those promises turned out to be lies, voters weren’t pleased. He further offended voters by giving Attorney General Eric Holder a free hand on controversial racial matters, and he endorsed same-sex marriage and the emerging transgender movement. After two years of Obama, voters gave Republicans a gain of 63 seats to control the House of Representatives. In 2014, the GOP gained control of the Senate as well. The Hope and Change shtick had run its course.
After Obama, Democrats tried to regain the People’s trust by running a tired former first lady who promised to carry on Obama’s not-very-long march with an identity-politics blitz. But her campaign was completely outclassed by a brash, outspoken billionaire/TV-impressario who convinced enough voters that he might actually accomplish something to help them. His crushing defeat of Hillary Clinton shocked not only America’s bi-partisan political establishment, but the whole world.
Mr. Trump’s totally unexpected win took Democrats by surprise. They considered the Trump-victory an emergency, so they abandoned the long march model which had helped them regain political power after other setbacks. Instead of trying to regain “normal culture” voters’ trust by concentrating on issues that mattered to them, Democrats decided to deploy their political “army” as an attack force to disrupt Mr. Trump’s governance and (hopefully) evict him from office.
With Mainstream Media as willing allies, Democrats hysterically accused Mr. Trump of “colluding” with Russian agents to steal the election. A two-year Special Counsel investigation failed to support that charge, but voter-uncertainty lingered in the air during the first two years of Mr. Trump’s term.
This demonstrated the importance of political discipline in a party. Although Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, they foolishly squandered the golden opportunity this presented to pass important conservative legislation – notably, repeal of the extremely unpopular Affordable Care Act. That attempt failed because too many GOP representatives and senators didn’t trust Mr. Trump’s leadership. Indeed, significant numbers seemed to believe that Democrats would throw him out of office.
While some frightened Republicans hid in the tall grass, and Never-Trumpers actually opposed Mr. Trump’s legislative initiatives, Democrats romped ahead and retook the House. They promptly launched an ongoing circus of baseless accusations against Mr. Trump, and finally impeached him for (supposedly) demanding a quid pro quo concession from Ukraine’s president. The impeachment went nowhere in the Senate for lack of evidence, but it wasted another year of Mr. Trump’s term.
For three years the continual attack-strategy failed to weaken Mr. Trump, but Dems finally hit pay-dirt when a mysterious Chinese virus invaded the USA. Medical experts predicting millions of deaths spooked many governors into locking down their states – thus crashing stock markets and sinking the country into an induced depression. This removed Mr. Trump’s highest card from the re-election deck, and showed Democrats a way to defeat him.
Using the COVID-epidemic as a political cudgel, Democrats hammered Mr. Trump’s “mishandling” of the crisis, while their presidential nominee – the superannuated, mentally impaired Joe Biden – stayed hidden in his basement. His scripted critiques of the president’s failures lacked credibility and failed to dent the Trump-base. Naming radical Senator Kamela Harris as Mr. Biden’s vice-presidential running mate imparted no energy to his “basement” campaign. The attack strategy was el floppo.
Late in the campaign Mr. Trump caught the virus and was hospitalized. Democrats popped champagne-corks and celebrated, hoping that he might be permanently disabled, or even die. But no such luck. After a weekend of treatment, a rested Mr. Trump emerged to launch an ambitious final campaign of huge rallies across the country. Polls showed him closing rapidly on Mr. Biden. More worrisome still, minority-support was clearly moving toward the president. It was Democrats’ ultimate nightmare. Having deflected everything they threw at him, The Kid was coming back.
Political graybeards know that Normal Culture voters’ top concerns are illegal immigration, high taxes, out-of-control courts, degraded public education, politicization of deviant sex, hostility to Christianity, and tolerance of violent extremists. (Not a complete list.) It’s not rocket science. In saner times, these issues would receive serious attention from any party wishing to earn the people’s trust for launching a new long march to regain political power.
But this is no longer true of both major American parties because these are not sane times. Instead of working to regain voters’ trust, Democrats gambled everything on a 4-year blitz to ruin President Donald Trump, deny him a second term, and elect a man who can’t possibly function competently in the office.
Because their efforts to achieve these goals failed, Democrats have fallen on scoundrels’ tried and true last resort: they’re trying to cheat their man into office by corrupting the election. At this writing the tactic appears to have worked, as floods of late ballots have been counted in key states to push Mr. Biden over the top. Media shills are proclaiming him “president-elect,” without adding the obvious qualifier, “presumptive.” And “statesmen” like Barack Obama and Charles Schumer are urging Mr. Trump to concede, to avoid “hurting the country.”
Meanwhile, like Jackson’s army marching beyond a screen of trees at Chancellorsville to flank the enemy, an army of volunteer lawyers has been working to uncover massive ballot-fraud in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Big Media reporters claim there’s nothing to see, so they’re not covering the story. But fraud-witnesses are popping up all over. When their reports finally explode, Democrats’ media allies won’t be able to stop them. Will they flip the election to Mr. Trump? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t bet against him.
Genuine Democratic patriots, who still think of their party as FDR’s Long-marchers of the New Deal, will have to decide if they believe that cheating their man into the presidency will really help the country. I hope they see that it would be a deal with the Devil. As Faust found out, once you make that deal, it can’t be unmade.