Fabius the Fool: Choosing a Roman Analogy for Today’s GOP

Jonah Goldberg does his level best to exhort the Republican Party to greatness, comparing the Democrats’ win in NY-26 to Caesar crossing the Rubicon — because, apparently, a great battle looms. But who’s Pompey? And who’s Caesar? Jonah’s not so sure. The analogy goes amiss because Pompey’s flaw wasn’t just waiting to take up arms against his consular brother — it was being tricked into waiting. Caesar outplayed Pompey; it wasn’t moxie (which is totally a word). It was brains. Similarly, by the time Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he’d already struck first, and therefore, already won. I’m pretty sure that makes us Caesar.

Anyways, exhorting today’s Republican Party to greatness is like leading a dead horse to water. It’s just not going to take. Partially because today’s Republicans aren’t reading out of the kind of playbook that’s influenced by stories of when and how to strike. Most are still tied up deciding whether to strike at all.

For two solid years, Republicans never engaged on the merits, preferring to win by invective, rather than offering anything resembling a policy counter-proposal. Their first real policy initiative — the Ryan budget — continues in its long, slow death. The first debate of the Republican presidential “primary” drew only one candidate with any real chance (Pawlenty). Wonkish moderates are dropping out of the race left and right (Daniels, Pence, Thune) as extremists rise and fall (Gingrich, Trump). Should Palin enter, which now seems likely, it will only perpetuate that trend.

This isn’t a march on Rome. It’s craven hiding behind a walled city, while (if you believe the party’s rhetoric) the countryside burns around them. If anything, the Republicans’ is a Fabian strategy: wait out the enemy, apparently until 2016. But this plan of delay was at arrived at by default, and based on the individual, selfish calculations of the generals, rather than by design. More, it’s a Fabian strategy without an endgame. They have no Scipio, and without Scipio, there will be no Zuma.

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5 comments

  1. “Their first real policy initiative — the Ryan budget — continues in its long, slow death.”

    I’m curious – how is the President’s budget proposal doing these days?

    1. Well, it’s not losing us bellwether races. So that’s a start!

      1. Ames – really – don’t read too much into that race. It hinged on one specific part of the Ryan budget AND there was a significant third party component.

        But also, the absence of a negative electoral outcome is hardly a positive development for the Obama budget. In its one test it failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

  2. This isn’t a march on Rome. It’s craven hiding behind a walled city, while (if you believe the party’s rhetoric) the countryside burns around them.

    Although it should be said that strategy worked perfectly well for the French under the Hundred Years War, at least in the long term.

    I guess Caesar does make for a somewhat more… stirring analogy, though. Probably got better name recognition than, say, Bertrand du Guesclin, too.

    1. But I wonder how the Republicans would feel about being compared to the French :)

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