A Sherman-Like Warning Needed for Republicans

We have the best informed conservative “choir” in history — I’ve said it often. This is obviously due to the abundance of materials available on the web, to talk radio, to what (at least some of the time) the Fox News Network has to offer. Despite this, we have unprecedented numbers of low information voters, particularly among the millennials. Part of my premise for this “information war” series of articles is, however, that few of these pretty well informed Americans know exactly what’s needed to turn things around in this country.

The following bullet points might seem like an oversimplification, but they’re not. I’ll start with the end in mind: we must have widespread and intelligent reform of government policy at the local, state, and federal level.

  • To get that we’re going to have to have a majority of the public that supports it.
  • To get that we have to have a flow of information that convinces people we need to elect better candidates.
  • To get that we have to have a Republican Party that offers these better candidates.
  • To get all of the above, we have to have Republicans and conservatives fighting in the political trenches in unprecedented numbers, as well as in the information war using all available means.
  • We’ll never see that until those with big microphones and big wallets sound the trumpet for battle.

Piecemeal isn’t going to get it done. One congressional district or a few, or one region or a few won’t cut it. This will have to be the political equivalent of total war.

It’s been part of my good fortune to have many conversations over many years with Republicans and conservatives that understand both human nature and the domestic and global challenges we face. Yet when the conversation turns to the subject turns of how in the world we’re ever going to turn the tide — what you get are blank stares and an expression of fatalism as if all was already lost.

I truly believe that all is not lost. In late 1861 as the American Civil War was just picking up speed, William Tecumseh Sherman was warning Union leaders (including President Abraham Lincoln) that the struggle against the South was going to be more difficult, take longer, require more troops and cost more bloodshed than any of them seemed willing to admit.

William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman

Because his brother was a United States Senator, Sherman’s voice was heard and his views were publicized widely in the press. Instead of his warning being heeded, however, Sherman was judged by many people to be literally insane.

Author Michael Fellman in his book Citizen Sherman writes that Sherman’s “mental stress became a national sensation.” Of course Sherman’s prediction about the war proved accurate. One footnote: Sherman’s national reputation was restored early in 1862 because of his bravery at the battle of Shiloh, and as many know, General Sherman’s taking of Atlanta in 1864 helped turn public opinion in support of the war and Lincoln won a second term as a result.

This historical reference comes to mind because it seems as if many of today’s Republicans and conservatives treat the current political battle much like the North viewed the threat of the South in 1861. For all the talent and experience on our side, there is little attention given to the practical realities facing us in this new century.

What, specifically, needs to change? What specifically, has to be done? Simply put, we need to fight on all fronts. If the Democrats and the liberal left are engaged on a battlefield, our side must also join that fight.

How can that be accomplished when those on our side are busy building businesses, raising families, and trying to make ends meet? Is it even possible to compel more conservatives to take up their responsibility as citizens and enter the fray?

I continue to argue that we have plenty on the field already to make a good start of it. What’s lacking, however, is more enlightened donors and the right leaders who understand the right direction.

There are those who think I’m crazy to say that we have the ability to fight on all fronts. We do have the ability. And we must fight on all fronts if we want to save the country. The specifics of that battle are what I’ve been writing about here, here, here, and here for many years. What I write is not as much fun to read as the one-hundredth commentary piece on the big news story of the day. Nor is it fun reading for people who want others to do the work to save the country while they sit on their backsides watching Fox News.

William Tecumseh Sherman painted a dire picture in 1861 about the relative strength and will of the South. But his point wasn’t that the North would lose, it was that the Union could be preserved only if its leadership woke up to the reality of the enormous battle ahead.