General George McClellan was beloved by his troops. McClellan returned the affection, earning a reputation as a well organized and meticulous commander. Giving credit where due, McClellan turned the Army of the Potomac into a cohesive unit and kept it together, even in the face of defeat. He is also credited with fortifying Washington, DC and securing the Union frontier, all through his skills in logistics. But after some early victories, defeats became all too common. It is a common theme of biographies of McClellan that, when it came to actual battle, the general was overly cautious, unable (or unwilling) to gamble, and failed to take advantage of Confederate mistakes that might have turned stalemates into victories, or victories into routs. According to some, McClellan consistently overestimated his opponents’ strength and, thus, refused to advance or attack for fear of losing. Lincoln came to distrust the general and, when sufficiently frustrated with McClellan’s hesitations and caution, fired him.
The Army of the Potomac then went through a series of generals (Burnside, Meade, Hooker), all of whom were blamed for similar failures of leadership, chiefly the inability or unwillingness to advance against the Confederacy. Then came Ulysses Grant. In the western states, Grant had fought hard against the Confederacy. Unlike the other generals, he was willing to risk casualties to achieve strategic advantages and would try unproven tactics if he thought some advantage could be gained. With the full aid of superior Union industry and a far larger Union population — advantages his predecessors shared but failed to exploit — he was relentless in his advances, racking up casualty numbers that earned him criticism as a butcher of his own troops. But he won battles.
The years since 2008 have reminded me greatly of our Civil War. The Obama administration has effectively declared a cultural war on middle America through an expanded regulatory state, lawsuits in retribution of political appointments, collaboration with far-left activist groups, the stirring-up of racial animosities, attacks on religious institutions, the opening of borders, assaults on the Second Amendment and the attempts to gut the First Amendment, and scores of petty and vindictive skirmishes against small businesses, churches, and private citizens. Our president has pitted half of America against the rest, claiming — like some restless dictator — that his advances and occupations are really defensive in nature, while wielding powers no prior president would have dared try.
We scored a few victories in return, regaining first the House and, later, the Senate as well. We won many lower court victories, but the battles that counted at the Supreme Court have frequently been lost. As for our generals in the cultural war, John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell deserve more credit than they are generally given. They returned the House and Senate to our side and Regular Order. They stopped the relentless legislative push to enshrine and secure the regulatory victories claimed by Obama. They built a defensive works that, while not impenetrable, have held true against many of the worst excesses of Obama’s agenda.
Yet — like McClellan before them — they’ve held party unity and discipline remarkably solid, but have secured few offensive victories and rarely exploited the enemies’ vulnerabilities. “We need more troops! We need more Congressmen and Senators!” they’ve pled, without ever breaking camp.
Mitt Romney, too, failed to make a solid case for himself or to sufficiently attack Obama; such, it seemed, would have involved getting his hands too dirty. He waved the flag and paraded the troops, but led a tepid campaign that seemed more hopeful of victory through Obama’s mistakes than his own aggression.
So now we come to the campaign season again, and we have a general (for those who would follow him) who could well cause enormous casualties for our side. “And yet he fights,” as Lincoln said of Grant. His principles are uncertain, and his tactics are unconventional, hearkening back to an America well-nigh forgotten. And yet he fights. He won the Republican primaries, out-maneuvering the party princelings and upstarts, turning them against each other. Those within his party who were most dismissive of his abilities when this began are now those most opposed to his victories and, unsurprisingly, most convinced of his inevitable failure. Many — like McClellan running for president after his termination — are now threatening to oppose the one who succeeded where they all failed.
The worst damage Obama has done to this republic has been to our national unity and, though it, support for the rule of law. No president since Lincoln has been so utterly divisive, and no president has ever so actively pursued division. No previous president has so openly sought to curtail the First Amendment without even attempting to disguise the attacks as “temporary” or “expedient.” Obama has launched and led a cultural war on America, the likes of which has only been seen writ in larger scale in major revolutions in France, Russia, or China. Hillary shows every indication that she will continue this war. Love him or hate him, only Trump is openly fighting them.
Yes, the man is morally distasteful. Yes, the man is corrupt. Yes, he may well butcher the down-ticket races in this election. And yet he fights, and for the sake of wrenching the presidency from the cultural Marxists, we should not fear a bloody battle. With the head of this cultural war firmly entrenched in Washington, with an uncertain and timid Congress unable or unwilling to attack the executive overreach, and with the courts having deferred the very law of the land to the whims of the cultural warlords, we must remove the Democrats from their power base. We must remove their hands from the levers of control. We must break their stranglehold on the media and the dissemination of information. After four or eight more years, the damage may be insurmountable, and the losses unrecoverable.
Trump may be the most reprehensible and amoral candidate the GOP has ever fielded, yet he is the general we have. And at least he is fighting.