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Tea party may have good — not crazy — plan

Kenneth Gough • Nov 18, 2013 at 9:28 AM

“If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”So said the Greek general Pyrrhus as his troops won a bloody battle with the Romans in 279 B.C. Pyrrhus was fighting to thwart Rome’s attempt to conquer the Greek city-states in southern Italy. His brilliant generalship and the desperation of the Greeks resulted in one victory after another, all to no avail. In the end they didn’t have the manpower, money or political cohesion to resist the Romans. One by one the cities surrendered, and Roman subjugation of all Italy soon followed.Over the last few weeks I’ve watched the tea partiers wage a fight with President Obama, the Democrats in Congress, and the more-moderate members of their own party, with no small amount of sympathy and almost as much amusement, but gloomy resignation. Like them, I believe that Obamacare must be repealed and replaced with a market-based system. (Got to stop here for a moment. Note that, Obamacare supporters — not a return to the status quo, which was nearly as bad as Obamacare itself, but replaced with a market-based system that has a real chance of lowering costs without ruining the quality of care and our finances. Among Obamacare opponents you will find zero, repeat zero, support for going backward. So in your criticisms, at least be honest enough not to pull out that lie.) However, in agreement with the vast majority of observers, I never believed they stood a chance with a frontal assault. It was a suicide mission. But unless they really are the fools that the Democrats and the media make them out (and let’s make due allowance for that possibility), they knew that. So, on the reasonable assumption that they aren’t the American version of jihadi suicide bombers, just what’s going on here? Well, I suspect they see themselves on the losing side of a Pyrrhic victory, with Obama in the role of Pyrrhus.Pyrrhus’ victories didn’t dissuade the Romans. Instead, they spurred them to greater efforts. This was before imperial Rome’s superb professional army, but Rome had enough peasant soldiers, competently led by patrician officers, to outlast Pyrrhus’s smaller professional force. Roman numbers and resolve proved superior to Greek skill and valor. The Romans realized that if they were willing to pay the price, victory was all but assured.So, could it be that Ted Cruz and allies, like the Romans, are playing the long game? Taking the hits now to wear down and continually pressure an opponent who is weakening by the day through his own miscalculations and hubris, confident that as disillusionment with Obama’s agenda and the gross incompetence of his administration grows, an angry electorate will realize sooner rather than later who is really “speaking truth to power”?Oooookaaaaay. Boy — talk about a risky strategy. No wonder conservatives, with their strong aversion to revolutionary approaches to anything and everything, are worried sick, and angry with the people who are the pointy end of the spear in the conservative movement.But this isn’t the first time that conservative rebellion has torn apart the Republicans. Only seasoned citizens remember the 1964 election, in which Barry Goldwater and his conservative insurgents took over the party and took a hardline conservative stance in the campaign. Lyndon Johnson and the sympathy vote for martyred John Kennedy crushed him. Announcement of the demise of the party proved premature, though. Only four years later, the Democrats melted down over Vietnam and out-of-control spending, assuring the election of Richard Nixon. In 1972, he returned the favor by crushing George McGovern. One more experience with Democratic governance under the high-toned but hapless Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 to the most successful presidency of modern times.The point is it took Goldwater in 1964 to set the stage for Nixon in 1968 and, more importantly, for Reagan in 1980. A few years in the wilderness proved a good thing in the long run. As it turned out, Goldwater lived long enough to see himself vindicated and nearly sainted by his successors. Not a bad return on a life often lived in political purgatory.Well, the scandals (Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, NSA) haven’t gone away just because they haven’t been in the headlines the last few weeks. There is no hiding the utter failure of Obama’s Mideast policy (in particular the humiliation in Syria). The economy is still on Federal Reserve-provided life support and looks to stay there, and Obamacare is falling to pieces before our eyes.Maybe the tea partiers aren’t quite as crazy as they seem.Kenneth D. Gough of Elizabethton is president and general manager of Accurate Machine Products Corp. in Johnson City.

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