September 10, 2012 by E. Cooper Ostresh
The two most significant Machiavellian mistakes the right has made are in the selection of its “secretaries”(political lieutenants and surrogates) and its failure to avoid being hated. This first blunder owes its roots directly back to the Republican’s obsession of retaking the White House as soon as possible. One would have thought that after the disastrous eight years of the Bush administration, the right would have taken some time out to reassess their mistakes and reformulate a more productive reinvention of their party model. Instead, and likely owing to the short sighted nature of the “quarterly return business culture,” that pervades the Republican beltway, they began plotting the overthrow of Obama on the night of his inauguration. One would assume that this was hardly enough time to hold a proper “after action review” of their 2008 loss let alone formulate a proper plan of reorganization. Thus, they charged headlong into a counter attack with the closest available forces, in this case the Tea Party.
In chapter 22, Machiavelli discusses the kinds of “secretaries” a good prince should surround himself with. Of the first order, are those who can think for themselves and make good decisions. These are naturally the best because they reflect well upon the prince. The second order are those who cannot think for themselves per se, but can learn from others. This is an acceptable secretary since the prince can communicate his desires, goals, and methods and expect that his wishes will be competently performed. The third order of secretary is the least desirable because they lack the ability to think for themselves and the ability to learn from others.
Instead of outlining specifics of these three types of secretaries, let me simply list a few names. The cadre backing up Barak Obama as he entered the White House included Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton, Rom Emanuel, and Robert Gates to name a few. The chief political lieutenants to emerge from 2008 on the Republican side included Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and John Boehner. While each of these individuals have qualities of their own, when observed as a whole there is a stark contrast in the level of the overall competence.
And most telling of the mistakes Republican’s made in rushing too quickly to assemble new lieutenants on the heels of 2008 can be found in this quote:
“But to enable a prince to form an opinion of his servant there is one test which never falls; when you see the servant thinking more of his own interests than of yours, and seeking inwardly his own profit in everything, such a man will never make a good servant, nor will you ever be able to trust him; because he who has the state of another in his hands ought never to think of himself, but always of his prince, and never pay any attention to matters in which the prince is not concerned.”
Imagine where the “War on Women” charges would stand if the Republican lieutenants had not passed legislation forcing vaginal penetration by an ultra sound probe. What if Darrel Issa had allowed Sandra Fluke to testify? What if Rush Limbaugh had had the good sense not to call Ms. Fluke a slut? Or if Mitt Romney had had the good sense to more strongly condemn Mr. Limbaugh? What if the Republicans and Romney had not promised to defund Planned Parenthood? Imagine indeed. The Tea Party came to power promising jobs and a balanced budget and so far have managed only to damage our nation’s credit rating and pass a series of Abortion bills. They have gone more than just off the reservation. They are off the map all together.
The mistake of picking the wrong secretaries has led to their biggest mistake of all. Don’t be hated!
“It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain.”
An ABC poll in March of 2012 showed that the disapproval rating of the “Republican Congress” was as high as 71%. It should come as no surprise when you read Machiavelli’s statement above. More so than even the Democrats (who’s approval rating is not great but not quite as disastrously bad) the Republican’s are seen as the party of Wall street. Wall Street is largely blamed for the economic collapse of 2008 which led to massive loss of property that still continues to this day. Furthermore, the attacks on women, that I have previously discussed, also have created a great deal of discontent within the populace. When you combine these two, it has the effect of being the modern day political equivalent of raping and pillaging the land. And, at least in the case of vaginal ultrasound bills, it isn’t a figurative rape but an actual legalized rape. That makes people hate the Republicans.
This above all else is the most critical Machiavellian mistake the Republicans have made. While these mistakes have already been exploited by the left to some extent, the attacks must be relentless. Obama has just weathered three and a half years of coordinated attacks by the right and his position is also weak. So now that he holds the upper hand in these areas, it is important that he, his surrogates, and the punditry on the left don’t let up for even a moment. The left cannot afford to be the “nice guys” who are above Machiavellian stratagems. They must embrace them until November, perhaps even until the Tea Party has been fully purged from the Republican Party. The Democrats, once the perpetual victims of the “wedge attack” now own the wedge attack and they can’t allow any quarter if they expect to survive in this political climate.
Exploit every crack in Republican unity, hang the banner of self deportation, Sandra Fluke is a slut, vaginal probes, birtherism, outsourcing vs. offshoring, foolish military adventures, the debt debacle, corporations are people, and a lack luster tenure as governor around Mitt Romney’s neck until he chokes on the weight of his own mistakes and the mistakes of his surrogates. Do not be afraid to damage his reputation. Do not be afraid to ruin his life if need be. Do not be afraid to be seen as heartless and cruel. Do not be afraid of the conservative media crying foul. Do not fear cutting lose loyal democratic surrogates if they get in your way. By the time this campaign season is over your goal should not be the defeat of Mitt Romney but his destruction. Destroying his political career should be the absolute minimum. Destroying his reputation would be even more prudent. Tear his reputation down so completely that not even his children can have a realistic hope of perusing a political career. George Romney wasn’t smashed utterly enough to prevent Mitt from coming back stronger. George Bush senior wasn’t destroyed utterly enough to prevent his son from returning with a vengeance. Don’t make the same mistake a third time. In the coming months remember the most important Machiavellian principle of all: If you can’t be loved and feared at the same time then it is far better to be Feared than loved.