The Left's 'Long March Through the Institutions' Has Been Replaced by the Big Push

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The night before the expected arrival of some great news is often filled with tension.  Word from the Marathon, Waterloo, and Apollo 13 after reentry were times like those. Men prepare mentally for the worst while secretly hoping for the best, in Benson’s words, “like men on the eve of a great voyage, [who] know not what may be in store, what shifting of scene, what loss, what grief, what shadow of death.” There is a sense of being trapped in a chain of events from which there is no escape, no way to start time again except by going forward and discovering what tomorrow brings.


“But this same day
Must end that work the Ides of March begun;
And whether we shall meet again I know not. …

Oh, that a man might know
The end of this day’s business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.”

In the present case, the long-awaited establishment counter-offensive against the populist rebellion of 2016 is about to begin. Andy Hira predicted the pushback in his article: “After Trump and Brexit: The coming of the progressive wave.”

In 2016, it seemed to some like the world turned upside down.

Donald Trump was elected by a slim margin to the White House. The Brexit referendum pushing the United Kingdom to leave the European Union passed. …

Populists inevitably fail because they don’t know how to govern. They paradoxically have to use the instruments of governance to reform government, an inherent contradiction doomed to fail. …

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s nod to a progressive platform — including choosing Sen. Kamala Harris, of Jamaican and Indian origin, as his running mate — along with his experience governing gives us hope. Maybe this recent wave of destructive populism, in the U.S. anyway, has run its course.

Because progressives know how to pull the levers of power and populists don’t, the Blue Wave is said to be inevitable as the public turns to the experienced players to solve urgent issues, which in Hira’s view are:

  1. Rising inequality and a decline in middle-class mobility.
  2. The related collapse in the West of manufacturing and the financialization of the economy.
  3. The rise of China and its different political economic approach and values.
  4. The unresolved urgency of climate change.
  5. Demographics and the increasing challenges for the millennial and subsequent generations who will take over leadership.

Before returning to their role as natural leaders, progressives are apparently determined to ensure the populist upstarts never get a chance to spoil the broth again. One of the apparent lessons from 2016 is that “hate” must not get a chance to pull another upset. Precautions mooted against this eventuality include plans to expand SCOTUS, a grant of mass citizenship to illegal aliens, the offer of a socialized medicine option, the abolition of “fossil fuels” and perhaps ditching the electoral college. The rebellion must not only be crushed, its leaders must be strung up as a reminder to others along the length of the Appian Way.

But inside the apparent progressive confidence in 2020 victory lurks a deep disillusionment in the former strategy of gradual but eventual takeover. The “long march through the institutions,” once guaranteed to work, spectacularly failed and has been replaced by the Big Push. Progressives who spent the last five decades throwing woke pearls at swine will spend the next five decades trying to extirpate the ingrates. The tone has changed from the airport lounge nudge-voice to the harsh “I’ll learn ya!”


In that lies danger of over-extension.

Armies have historically tried to convince their troops of the certitude of victory to keep up their own morale while doing everything to dispirit the other side. One of the purposes of the blatant media suppression of the Hunter Biden story is to demonstrate the true might and ruthlessness of the progressives. It’s like the scene in Star Wars: “Young fool, only now at the end do you understand.” Zzzzt. “You will pay the price for your lack of vision.” Zzzzzzt.

Armies use conspicuous displays of material superiority to boost their morale and overawe the foe. They parade their strength to convince both themselves and the enemy that they are irresistible. Yet they must be careful not to overdo it. The future is hard to predict and history is littered with instances of hubris: Agincourt, the Little Bighorn, Isandlwana. Col. Ishiki wrote in his diary before attacking dug-in Marines at Tenaru and being wiped out:

“18 August, landing; 20 August, march by night and battle; 21 August, enjoyment of the fruit of victory”

Hubris can afflict anyone. Singapore’s governor, Sir Shenton Thomas, upon hearing the Japanese had invaded Malaya said, “Well, I suppose you’ll (the army) shove the little men off.” He spent the rest of the war as a Japanese POW.  The truth, as Helmuth von Moltke the Elder famously observed, is, despite hopes and foreboding, that “no plan survives contact with the enemy.”


Even dreaded events sometimes fail to materialize. In the aftermath of Qasem Soleimani’s assassination in early 2020, all-out war with Iran was widely predicted. It never happened. In the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, deaths in the millions were predicted. That didn’t happen either. An NCBI article authored by statisticians from Stanford, the University of Sydney, and Northwestern explained why our crystal balls are often foggy:

Epidemic forecasting has a dubious track-record, and its failures became more prominent with COVID-19. Poor data input, wrong modeling assumptions, high sensitivity of estimates, lack of incorporation of epidemiological features, poor past evidence on effects of available interventions, lack of transparency, errors, lack of determinacy, consideration of only one or a few dimensions of the problem at hand, lack of expertise in crucial disciplines, groupthink and bandwagon effects, and selective reporting are some of the causes of these failures.

The same shortcomings can veil the eyes of political pundits and forecasters. They predict but they cannot be sure. The Duke of Wellington, like Shakespeare, knew it was the universal human desire to know “the end of this day’s business ere it come,” but knew they cannot except by action.

All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavor to find out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called ‘guess what was at the other side of the hill’.


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