Over the weekend as I watched events unfold in the United States Senate, I thought of the 1863 battle of Gettysburg.
And of the exchange between the British military observer Lt. Col. Arthur Freemantle and Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet when on the third day led by Pickett’s divison the Confederate Army charged the Union line.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for anything,” rhapsodized Freemantle.
“The devil you wouldn’t,” Longstreet retorted. “ I would like to have missed it very much; we’ve attacked and been repulsed.”
That must be the way Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer is feeling just now about the decision to force a shut down of the Federal Government in an effort to help the cause of the “Dreamers,” the children who were brought to this Country during the illegal entry of their parents.
Longstreet foresaw that the Confederate attack would fail but his superior General Lee ordered it and Longstreet faithfully attempted to carry it out.
Senator Schumer surely must have known that shutting down the Government would fail to achieve the objective, moreover would damage the cause of the Dreamers and of the Democratic Party’s overall effort to oppose President Trump and his Republican enablers.
After all, until now it has been the Republicans in modern times who have forced Government shutdowns and in each one the public has sided with the other side regardless of the Republican’s motive.
But Schumer was pushed by the passionate Left to make the stand regardless of (or perhaps without thinking of) the cost.
The public clearly supports keeping the “Dreamers” here and not forcing them out. But the thought that the same public (or certainly enough of it) would countenance a shutdown with all of its attendant hardships on behalf of illegal immigrants no matter how innocent these “Dreamers” are was madness.
Both the passionate Left and the passionate Right in today’s politics appear to have forgotten the lesson taught by Otto von Bismark, the wily German Chancellor of the late nineteenth century who famously observed that “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”
If the goal in any cause is “success,” then all the tactics, all the hard work and effort must be concentrated on avenues that offer successful steps toward that goal.
To insist that “throwing the long ball” is the way to victory over grinding out the yardage one play after another is to throw the game.
Yes, for the “Dreamers” most of them facing a March 5th deadline for deportations to begin, it is late in the game. But there are Court cases underway that could delay the deadline and intensification of public opinion that is already in their favor could force the other side to move the deadline.
So, you ask, the shutdown failed but “so what,” it was worth trying. And the effort pleased and reassured the Democrat’s leftist base.
The “so what” is simply this. Cruel as it sounds to say it, some goals are more important than others. And just now, the “Dreamers” are not the most important goal.
To me, the single most important goal in this Country today is to purge the Country of Donald J Trump and his merry band of selfish thugs including his sycophantic Republican enablers by legal and Constitution means. And the most important of all the next steps appears to be this November’s Congressional elections.
Wrest control from the Republicans of one or both Houses of Congress in those elections and you check Trumpism’s unfettered ability to continue hacking away at our internal and external well being.
Reducing the harm being done to important causes across the board that affect us all as soon as possible is vital. That must be the most important goal and anything that checks the momentum toward that goal should be avoided.
Which brings me to the last name in this Blog’s title of “Longstreet Bismark & Brooks.”
David Brooks in his New York Times op-ed column today has done a masterful job of explaining how the shutdown effort has harmed the momentum toward success for the most important goal.
Here is the link:
On the other hand, another NYT op-ed columnist Michelle Goldberg argued under the heading “Schumer Sells Out the Resistance” that it was “infuriating to see the Senate Democratic leadership sell the Dreamers out.”
Ms. Goldberg quotes a statement from Representative Luis Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois: “This show me that when it comes to immigrants, Latinos and their families, Democrats are still not willing to go to the mat.”
Which caused me to think of another historical moment.
The Greek King Pyrrhus defeated the Romans in two consecutive battles but the result was a cumulative loss of 7,500 of his best warriors whom he could not replace and the plummeting of his army’s morale.
Pyrrhus supposedly muttered “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined”
And so shall the Democrats and their most important objective if they keep going “to the mat” in the fashion they tried this last weekend.
A “Pyrrhic” victory helps no one.