washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Extremism as Political Guerilla Warfare

A brief note from James Vega:
Since 2009 The Democratic Strategist has insisted on the unprecedented character of the extremism that has come to dominate the GOP, an extremism that incorporates not only extreme positions on issues but also extremist political strategies aimed at sabotaging the basic operations of government.
A current, startling example is the “Regulatory Responsibility Act,” passed without fanfare last week by the Republican majority of the House of Representatives and unopposed by any major GOP candidates or leader of the party. Here is a brief description of the legislation:

WASHINGTON — The House passed a measure Tuesday to dramatically restrict the government’s ability to enact any significant new regulations or safety standards, potentially hamstringing the efforts of every federal agency, the entire spectrum of public health and safety, worker health and safety, financial protections and consumer product protections. Opponents dub the measure a “stealth attack” because it targets obscure parts of the regulatory process but has such broad scope that it would affect all agencies, from independent regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission to executive branch agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

As the mainstream media moves further and further into 2016 campaign coverage and increasingly insists on describing various GOP candidates as representing a “moderate” or “sensible” wing of the party it is important for Democrats to energetically point out “stealth” proposals like this that illustrate the entire GOP’s unopposed hard-line extremist strategy of subtly sabotaging the government.
In this regard, a recent column in Time Magazine deserves close attention. Written by David Kaiser, a military historian who taught for 20 years at the Naval War College (as well as at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, and Williams College) it argues the very startling thesis that the extremist strategy of the GOP is actually surprisingly similar to a classical method of guerilla warfare.
As Kaiser notes:

[The Republican success in the 2014 elections is] a new victory for a long-term strategy with a very surprising analog: the strategy that allowed the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese to win the Vietnam War.
In one of his many books on the Vietnam War, the late historian Douglas Pike described the overarching Communist strategy, called dau tranh, or struggle, [one in which] the political aspects were always more important.
The Viet Cong always had more political workers than soldiers. They conducted motivational propaganda among their own troops, but also infiltrated and did whatever they could to make it impossible for the South Vietnamese government to function effectively. If they could reduce South Vietnamese society to chaos, they reasoned, the well-organized Communist party could easily take over.
Some years ago, I realized that that the Republican Party has been practicing its own kind of dau tranh for more than twenty years. Recently, the strategy has intensified. It has significantly weakened government at all levels and has a good chance of eliminating the remaining vestiges of the New Deal and the Progressive Era.
…Since winning the House of Representatives and taking away the Democrats’ 60-vote majority in the Senate in 2010, Republicans have made it impossible for large parts of the federal government to function. The genius of the Republican strategy is that it validates itself. Crippling government tends to prove that government does not work, and allows Republicans to argue that the nation would do better with even less government.
Democratic administrations on the other hand depend on the idea that government can help the people. Starving and immobilizing the government makes it look ineffective, which seems to validate Republican propaganda. Franklin Roosevelt created the modern Democratic Party by convincing every section of the country, from the agricultural south and the resource-rich west to the urban areas of the northeast and Midwest, that the government could help them. Now that belief has nearly disappeared in most of the Red states.
…Some months ago Mitch McConnell told a symposium hosted by the Koch brothers that if the Republicans win the Senate, a Republican Congress will use the budget process to defund every part of the federal government that they do not like…That would be the final triumph of several decades of dau tranh.

Republicans will of course respond that it is completely outrageous for anyone–even a professional military historian–to compare their strategy to that of insurrectionary movements whose objective is the deliberate sabotage of government. On this point Democrats can most heartily agree. It is indeed outrageous and the moment the GOP ceases to engage in such behavior Democrats will with great pleasure cease to draw the comparison.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.