Have you ever felt like tuning out, giving up, and just riding out whatever storm comes down the pipe next?
I have. Many times. Every week. Sometimes more than once a day.
I think we can both give ourselves a pass on that feeling. In fact, I think we can both give ourselves a pass on acting on that feeling. It’s okay to check out occasionally. Everyone needs a break now and then.
The problem is that when we get back in the ring, nothing has changed. Every day a new crisis. Every day a new battle. Every day a new outrage. Every day a new meeting, a new organization, a new email thread, a new illegal executive order.
And, in the ring, we’re always fighting a defensive battle. We react to what we hear on the radio or see on the internet. We react to the border crisis, to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, to Gaza’s unholy war on Israel, to the Muslim mayhem in Libya, to North Korea’s arms deal with Hamas, to the Ebola outbreak spreading through Africa, to this crisis, to that war, and on and on. While we me not have collapsed, yet, every round makes us weaker and weaker. Eventually, we will go down and stay down for the count.
The Maginot Line #
After World War I, France built a string of fortifications across its border with Germany. The string of forts was called “the Maginot Line” after French politician Andre Maginot. Had the forts been in place before World War I, the war would have been much shorter and much less deadly to the French.
A “monument to man’s stupidity” according to Patton.
World War II, however, was not World War I, and fixed fortifications only limited French maneuverability when the German Panzers shot through gaps in the Maginot Line. It took the Germans less than a month to overwhelm the line. Patton said, “Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity.” He was right.
The Tea Party movement has been, mostly, a defensive battle. And we’ve been somewhat successful in delaying losses of freedom. Obamacare was supposed to pass the all-Democrat Congress by the August recess in 2009. But we managed delay until March 2010. Cap and Trade limits on coal were supposed to go into effect by the end of 2009, but Congress never authorized the laws. Instead, Obama used executive action to impose the measures earlier this year. And on many smaller issues, we’ve managed to push back the tide of tyranny.
But our “wins” are actually just delays. Unless we go on offense, the enemies of freedom and the murderers of liberty will eventually win. They will wait until we are distracted by many crises of their own creation and slip through our line of fixed fortifications. We might show more resilience than the French army in 1940, but that’s nothing to hang our hats on. We have to take the fight to them.
And Rand Paul seems to get it.
Rand Paul Addresses Eisenhower’s Golden Quadrant #
I’ve tried to figure out what makes Rand Paul so different from all other Republicans. And I think I’ve got. I think Rand Paul learned a lot from another World War II figure. Senator Paul didn’t look to France for his inspiration; he looked to Kansas, home of Dwight D. Eisenhower. And Paul found the Eisenhower Method of prioritization.
You probably know the method. It was at the heart of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits method. Here’s what it looks like:
I’ve added my own observations of how most of us tend to treat the various kinds of problems that fit into the square.
** Everyone reacts to the Urgent Important stuff ** Most react to the Urgent Unimportant ** Everyone does (or thinks about) the non-urgent, unimportant (think cat videos) ** No one thinks about the non-urgent, important work
The upper, right-hand square a 2x2 grid is usually called “the Golden Quadrant” for a reason: it’s where the most important difference-makers hang out.
Maybe I’m wrong, but my theory here explains why we face so many crises day after day after day. And nothing ever seems to get better.
I get the feeling that Rand Paul has mastered the art of focusing on the Important while all about him lose their heads over the Urgent.
And his focus on important, non-urgent matters makes him a formidable threat to the political establishment, left and right.
Political Parties Increase Their Power With Crises #
The one thing the Republican Party has learned well from the Democrats and progressives is crisis creation. As we learned in Self-Governance training, the political establish wants to keep us bound up with crises. There’s an election crisis every two years. There’s a healthcare crisis even in the country with the best medicine in the world. There’s a border crisis manufactured by Barack Obama. On and on.
These crises are either phony or manufactured. In fact, there are few true Urgent and Important matters in the United States. But if people take their eye off the manufactured and phony crises for a month, we might start working on important, non-urgent matters which would cut the establishment’s power.
We established government to handle crises. That’s why we allowed Congress to raise and Army and keep up a Navy. That’s why we let Congress declare war. But the founders were smart enough to realize that people like to tinker. If crisis management is government’s only purpose, government will end up creating crises when there’s none arise organically. Or they’ll start calling thunderstorms “climate crises.” They’ll look for something to do.
So the founders gave Congress and the executive some other stuff to do: important, non-urgent things to manage like a post office and postal roads and establishing national commemoration days for weighty matters like Frozen Yogurt.
The founders also put a limit on what government may to do. They gave Congress a list of areas of concern and a prohibition from working off the list.
We all know how that worked out.
When the nation puts its mind to important but non-urgent work, Congress because nothing but a rubber stamp. Given a few years to put together a plan, the American mind will put together a fantastic plan, and all Congress has to do is take on some “whereases” and “heretofores” and pass the damn thing. That makes Congressmen feel less important, and they hate that.
But that’s the basic battle between the people and the political class: the people react to crises manufactured by the politicians and the politicians suck up more power every time we react.
But Rand Paul isn’t playing that game.
Rand Paul Works the Golden Quadrant #
Last week, I heard Rand Paul talking about his speech at the Urban League in Cincinnati. Unlike most Republicans who approach black voters sounding like an ad for Pander Lite, Paul addressed a quintessential liberty issue when he met the hostile crowd: America’s insane and destructive war on drugs.
Via the New York Times:
The speech in Cincinnati was his latest before a mostly black crowd, and it was a demonstration of how Mr. Paul — however improbably — has become the only major figure in his party who seems eager to keep going back to African-Americans to appeal for support even if his approach unsettles some fellow Republicans.
To me, America’s drug war and drug sentencing rules have created far bigger problems than the one they intended to solve. One of the biggest problems is the destruction of black neighborhoods and the trivializing of black lives. Even worse, the political class’s infatuation with tougher drug laws has rendered the destruction of human lives a non-urgent matter. For some reason, the government treats a kid smoking a joint as a more urgent matter than kid living in war zone in North St. Louis or South Chicago.
Rand Paul isn’t trying to make us believe that the destruction of African-Americans is urgent. That would be a losing battle. Progressive professors and meddling journalists have fed poison to the black community for half a century. Fixing the decay in black communities is about as urgent in Washington as a World Series is in Wrigley Field. “Maybe next generation.”
Instead, Paul leaves the issue of our misguided war on drugs in Eisenhower’s neglected upper-right corner where our whole society wants to keep the plight of African-Americans: important but not urgent. What Paul does differently, though, is to focus on that important matter, leaving the urgent crises to everyone else.
That’s Why I Push for Cannabis Law Reform #
My friends on the right cringe when I bring up cannabis legalization. (And, yes, I’m for legalization.) The most common reaction is, “Bill, do we have to deal with this now?”
My answer is “Yes!” for all the reasons Rand Paul is dealing with this now. The political establishment will NEVER stop manufacturing a crises. The parties will never say, “everything’s cool. Let’s work on the Important stuff.” They can’t. They’ll lose power if they do. The perfect time to fight our idiotic obsession with refer madness will never arrive. Just like there’s no perfect time to rid the GOP of crony capitalists. The important always falls prey to the urgent, unless someone grows the discipline to leave the damn crises to others.
I never thought of Rand Paul as particularly disciplined. I see now that he is. He has managed to leave the crises to others while works with Harry Reid, Eric Holder, and anyone else he needs to in solving important matters that never rise to the level of crisis.
It’s too early, of course, to tell if Rand Paul’s focus on the Golden Quadrant will win over black voters. Attendance at his
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved. Source: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/randpaulforsenate/4226701305/
Urban League speech was weak. But the GOP’s decades-old Democrat Lite strategy has only alienated black voters further from the party. Mitt Romney received only 6 percent of the black vote in 2012, a third less than Reagan got in 1984.
The Tea Party movement started in a deficit and has fought a defensive battle ever since. Like the Maginot Line, someone will eventually breech our fortifications. Then it’s all over. You might wish Senator Paul would play herd-soccer like the rest of us, but I’m glad someone is focusing on the important, non-urgent problems that we’ve been kicking down the road most of my life.
Marine-like discipline is Rand Paul’s secret superpower. And, if the establishment doesn’t watch out, Senator Paul’s discipline just might return a lot of power to the people and force more politicians to work on important matters.
You might also want to read: