The Strategy of a Shutdown, Pt. 2

In the last post, I sourced “Mastering the Art of War” by Zhuge Liang to dissect the overall strategy of the shutdown the Democrats used in an effort to gain the political upper hand. The post used the following to make the assessment.

There are five skills and and four desires involved in generalship.

The five skills are: skill in knowing the disposition and power of enemies, skill in knowing the ways to advance and withdraw, skill in knowing how empty or full countries are, skill in knowing nature’s timing and human affairs, and skill in knowing the features of terrain.

The four desires are: desire for the extraordinary and unexpected in strategy, desire for thoroughness in security, desire for calm among the masses, and desire for unity of hearts and minds.

And so, in that last post, I expanded the five skills. Since that post was nearly 1000 words long, I won’t go too much into it. Suffice it to say, looking at it analytically, it doesn’t appear to be the strongest strategy, this shutdown. It’s certainly not going the way they wanted it to.

So, of the four desires involved in generalship, do the Democrats (specifically Harry Reid and Barack Obama) have them?

Well, the lack of originality in the “Let’s blame the Republicans” strategy would negate the first desire, the one for “extraordinary and unexpected strategy.” We all knew where this was going to lead. We knew it weeks in advance when the first murmurs of a shutdown trickled out of Washington D.C. We expected it and we have taken most of the blow on the chin. Much like Ted Cruz after 21 hours, we still stand.

The strategy of the shutdown is not grandiose. It was not some elaborate trap. The Democrats signaled very loudly what it would be and we moaned about it. The Republicans, however, ended up not being overly blamed. The margin of blame (60% say it’s the GOP’s fault while 59% say it’s the Democrats’ fault) is thinner than the 2012 presidential election results. The Democrats have been blaming the Republicans for  four years now, and they have lost support in that blame.

Now, the desire for thoroughness in security is open to interpretation. I like to consider it this way: the party of big government needs people to be dependent on it, but if the people lose faith in that government, then they will begin to work harder for themselves, believing the government can no longer be trusted to act for them. In some cases, that is an extremely long shot, but it can happen. The security the Democrats had was based entirely on their controlling the narrative.

But, again, new media hurts. Classical media is also taking its toll. Even in the leftward-leaning media, Ted Cruz hit up every show he could to get a narrative out there. It was the only one out there. Then, the wave of conservative new media, domination over Twitter in many aspects, solidifies the message. The Democrats are having troubles breaking through when even CNN reporters ask tough questions.

The desire for calm among the masses is clearly not there, either. The administration has made the shutdown as visible and painful as they can… all while looking completely ridiculous in the process. They have not aimed for a calm populace. Rather, they have been striving to make the country plunge into fear, Obama even going so far as to tell the stock market to just go ahead and crash.

They are also not desirous of unified hearts and minds, and this can be explained in two different ways. The first is the unity of the country. The Democrats are not trying to unify anyone. Instead, they are looking to alienate others. This is in direct contrast to the idea of Obama wishing to negotiate. If he wanted to sit down and work with Republicans, he would do so now and try to come across as the great unifier, the man who brought Democrats and Republicans together in what many (foolishly) call the most turbulent time in American politics.

But, their own hearts and minds are not unified. Obama is suggesting negotiations (even if he’s not actually interested) on a myriad of subjects, which does not reflect the Senate Democrats’ position of hold the line and do not budge.

So, on the topic of the four desires of generalship, the Democrats are not meeting the standards set in place nearly 1800 years ago by the author of this work. And, it is not as if the five skills and four desires are incredibly complex, either. It’s a pretty intuitive system of checking on one’s ability to be a good leader, whether it be on the battlefield or, in this case, in the trenches of government.