A Lesson from Machiavelli

Portrait of Niccolo' Machiavelli, Santi di Tito [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
For reasons that remain inexplicable to me, I somehow wound up on the mailing list of a wacko left-wing organization called the Alliance for Justice. In a recent communication, theses activists, community organizers, and professional malcontents informed me 2017 is going to be a difficult year and that “we need to be ready to fight the moment Trump takes office.” “We must stop the conservative takeover of our courts and our country,” the email intones.
That’s all a prelude, of course, to rattling the tin cup. Give them money so they can, e.g., “Launch a national campaign of opposition to every single administration appointment and Supreme Court nominee with a record of hostility to civil and individual rights” and “Lead the charge to #StopSessions, highlighting his unsuitability to serve as the nation’s top lawyer.”
The email, like the organization from whose maw it emanates, is almost as inadvertently comic as it is malevolent. But I have to acknowledge that it, in one respect, betrays a sound understanding of political, and therefore human, reality.

Not in the substance of their complaints. By “conservative takeover of our courts,” for example, what they are really complaining about is jurists who seek to apply the law rather than make the law according to a “progressive” agenda.  And in endeavoring to stymie the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general they have picked on one of the most ostentatiously qualified people for the post in living memory. It will be a bootless exercise.

No, the AFJ is to be commended not on account of what it wants to do — what they propose is just the usual rancid menu of hysterical, prosperity-and freedom-blighting left-wing nostrums — but rather the celerity with which they recommend action.  “We need to be ready to fight the moment Trump takes office.”
That’s good advice. But on the Goose/Gander principle, it’s good advice for the impending Trump administration, too.
The perpetually discontented folks at the AFJ are instinctive Machiavellians. They have absorbed the critical lesson of Chapter VIII of The Prince: if you have to do unpleasant things, “do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily.” People have short memories. They will forget a leader’s burst of activity directed against opponents, especially if it is followed by various benefits and largesse for the people as a whole.
The Left have absorbed, whether by reading or by osmosis, certain critical lessons from Machiavelli. I hope that Trump’s team has as well.

The success of his administration will depend on many things: luck, skill, effective alliances. But all will be for naught if he tarries. It’s not just the first 100 days that will matter. It’s the first week, nay, the first 48 hours. His team should come to town ready to undo, right now, today, every executive order promulgated by Obama.  Every appointment that can be made should be made instantly, every nomination should be put forth and, so far as is humanly possible, fast-tracked. It should be a shock-and-awe performance. The media will howl. The political establishment will squeal. But they will have been rendered irrelevant before they knew what hit them. It will be a spectacle worth watching.



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