Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eric Cantor and the Military Professional

The huge upset we saw last night where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was defeated in the Republican primary by an Economics Professor from Randolph-Macon College seems to have caught most people off guard - myself included. No sitting Majority Leader has been defeated in a primary since 1899.

Stay with me you members of the, "stick to naval matters" caucus - there is a lesson here for the military side of the house. First though, I want to put this out. 

I like Cantor. Always have. His strange push towards amnesty concerned me, but I don't ask for perfection in anyone. However, for his constituency disconnect and his poorly run primary campaign combo, he now finds himself in the embarrassing position of being primaried by a neophyte and losing.

Why? Simple. He became "of DC" instead of serving "in DC." He lost touch with the people who sent him there; he broke sync with their needs, concerns, wants, and desire were. He used up his good will to the point that they looked past their selfish instincts - the Majority Leader has the power to take care of his district more than most - and decided to say, "No more. You're fired."

Only Cantor can say how he lost his way, but one can make an educated guess. The core of the problem is in DC itself. 

I make my way to DC on a regular basis - mostly for business, but as I will for my next trip - sometimes for personal reasons. I do love the town, third only to Paris and Amsterdam - but I do love the town.

I live well out in the provinces now days, back to the family responsibilities the anonymity of naval service kept me away from for a couple of decades. I do my best to keep myself well grounded in my soil - in fits and starts I think I'm achieving that goal after playing Sailor for so long.

I am always a bit humored when I visit our Imperial City. I almost feel like some minor Freiherr from Lower Silesia coming to beseech the Holy Roman Emperor ensconced in Vienna on behalf of his burdened serfs. Don't get me wrong, again I love DC like an overly educated and slightly arrogant son of Medieval Liegnitz would love that glittering city on the Danube with its society and distractions.

Alas, like the Imperial City, our city on the Potomac is absurdly disconnected from the rest of its hither lands, and that humors and troubles me. The whole concept of what makes the economy grow, what good, hard working people have to do just to try to create a better start for their children is little more than a focus grouped sound-bite that those "of DC" think that it is.

DC is a city, not unlike Rome, where the citizens publican, plebeian, and patrician go about their days served by, cleaned up by, and pampered by a suffering underclass of mostly foreigners. Most of our nation's richest counties straddle the Beltway. The Imperial City produces nothing but patronage and power. For a nation that thinks of itself as a mercantile republic, that is not healthy.

Go out to dinner one night in DC and see how many of the servant class - outside a block or so from the various Universities - where the servants do not have English as their second language. This quasi-feudal stew is not the reality of the nation.

Like the old Imperial City, the concerns in DC are mostly power, position, and privilege. They are not, with the rare exception, service or trade. The leading families marry each other, protect each other, and do their best to keep the money coming in for their use - and their power/influence going out.

In our Imperial City, you see that dynamic happen in one area that led to Cantor's downfall. On the right, you see the Chamber of Commerce desire to keep wages low by the influx of low skilled workers who will work for wages Americans won't. From the national self-loathing Left, you see a sneering desire to replace the present voting public with their frustrating ideas of self-government and individualism, with one that is more pliant and culturally comfortable with a quasi-feudal top-down system, folded in with a tendency to stay as a group - easier to control and manipulate.

Yes, we are talking about the rolling train wreck that is immigration policy. Cantor was not just out of step with his constituency here and in other places, he was pushing back against them. Well, last night they pushed back.

Hard working middle-class Americans have seen the job market shrink and wages stagnate so much that millions have simply stopped looking for work at all. Meanwhile, their elected representatives want to expend their political capital on people who are not their constituents, not even citizens, yet will put downward pressures on the lower end of the wage scale while at the same time increasing demands on an already broke social welfare system.

No one was as shocked as he was that he lost. He has no one to blame but himself. He most likely was too influenced by the Republican Beltway consultancy class, the DC media, the "proper" social circles, the intellectually inbred conferences and think tanks - flooded with the right money - to the point that his reality, that of being "of DC," made the actual reality of those he was to represent seem to him, well, unreal and unrelateable. His constituency figured that out over the last few months - disconnected DC did not.

That gets us to our Navy. I jokingly call the huge mass of USN within a commute of DC the Potomac Flotilla. There are a lot of people who, to be blunt, spend too many tours there. Some can survive, some thrive - but most have their intellect warped by the priorities of DC, which if not properly adjusted, can soon get your priorities out of phase from the priorities of the Fleet.

From ships that no one really knows what to do with, to aircraft with no range, limited armament that in the end we cannot afford in the numbers we need, to personnel policies that act like it is still 1973 - we see it all reflected in people who have become "of DC" from spending too much time "in DC."

If you want to know where the disconnect is between policy, leadership, and the Fleet - start there. Look at the Potomac Flotilla and its annex in Millington, TN.

As the problem with a dirty, poorly run ship is not the Sailors but their leadership, the problems we are having aren't with the Fleet - the problem is with the civilian and uniformed nomenclatura of the Potomac Flotilla.

The Fleet cannot vote for its leaders, but as CDR Snodgrass has been banging the drum about - it can vote with its feet.

Make no mistake - the cohort of our leadership who has spent the balance of the last decade in DC are as out of touch with the Fleet as Cantor was with the 7th Congressional District of Virginia.

From the "you can't make this stuff up" department, let's take a little peek in to what happens when the reality meets the DC make believe.

I'm not sure what the Navy version of this will look like - but odds are the only thing that would impact our ossified leadership would be a sinking of a major combatant. So laugh at Cantor in a schadenfreudeistic manner if you wish ... just not too hard.
Cantor addressed his supporters for about four minutes at a suburban Richmond hotel ballroom, then boarded an SUV without taking questions from reporters scurrying after him.

Then it got really rambunctious. In the room of downcast Cantor allies, a new energy suddenly erupted — but not the kind they wanted on election night. A group of immigration activists stormed the ballroom, screaming and waving a flag. “What do we want? Immigration reform! When do we want it? Now!”

A few Cantor supporters tried to block the protesters’ entrance into the ballroom, and pushing and shoving ensued. And before they reached the microphone, one Cantor supporter threw his glass of wine at a female protester. She swore at him in return.

A hotel employee took the microphone Cantor had used and told the protesters in Spanish that the police were on their way.
Another Spanish-speaking man who was with the protesters told them that they had made their point and should follow the police direction to leave.

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