Joe Biden, Super Tuesday and Missionary Ridge

super tuesday

I watched the aftermath of Super Tuesday yesterday, and was astonished at the sheer imbecility of our pundits and talking heads. Then I read the navel gazing of our print mavens, and I have to say:


Let me tell you a story, about WHY General Douglas MacArthur spent his entire life trying to live up to his father, Arthur MacArthur, who won the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, in Chattanooga, Tennessee in November of 1863.

When we’re done, you will understand what the pundits (and most Civil War historians) missed.

The Union Army of the Cumberland, under General Rosecrans, had retreated to Chattanooga following their disastrous defeat in the bloodiest two-day battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Chickamauga.


They had ALMOST been destroyed, save for the grit of General George Thomas, who has forever been known after as the “Rock of Chickamauga.” My great-great grandfather and his brother — respectively Benjamin Franklin and George Washington Williams served in the Indiana artillery directly under that ad hoc command, along with Eli Lilly, who would return to Indiana after the war and found the pharmaceutical company that bears his name.

Thomas held off the Confederates until the Union army could retreat, and through September, October and November, the Army of the Cumberland was besieged in Chattanooga until there was not a stray stick of firewood, picket fence, old barn or mule left in the city.

U.S. Grant, who had taken Vicksburg that July, was put in charge of relieving and lifting the siege and for months, that was done.

Finally, with Joe Hooker from the East, and Sherman from the West, and amply resupplies, Grant took the offensive, culminating in the famed “Battle Above the Clouds” on Lookout Mountain.

All that remained of the siege then was Missionary Ridge, a steep, heavily fortified and seemingly impregnable mountain/hillside bristling with Confederate artillery and rifle pits.

Grant ordered a tentative attack, to take the first line of rifle pits, but for once, his legendary concentration failed him and he didn’t think the attack through.

General George Henry Thomas “The Rock of Chickamauga”

The troops were under General Thomas (who had replaced Rosecrans in command of the Army of the Cumberland) and included my GG-grandfather and his brother. Thomas’ troops TOOK the rifle pits.

And then Grant’s oversight became apparent: they were directly in the line of fire of the rifle pits above them and above them and above them. Remaining was impossible. Retreating was suicidal (they’d simply be shot in the back as they ran) so, spontaneously, without orders, one of the most amazing moments in American military history ensued.

The Army of the Cumberland charged up the hill. Arthur MacArthur, an 18-year-old Wisconsin lieutenant grabbed the regimental colors and charged up, shouting “On Wisconsin!” and sprinted into immortality.

flag (3)

The attack was so unexpected and so rapid that the Confederates were caught completely off guard. Their artillery at the ridge couldn’t shoot DOWN the hill and was useless.

Grant, who was watching, with Thomas, asked “Who gave the order to advance?”

Thomas replied truthfully that he did not know.

In fact, DEMOCRACY called the shots. The men of the Union, without orders, simply took the initiative and routed the Southern forces, ending the siege of Chattanooga and sending the entire Confederate Army of the Tennessee into a disorganized and chaotic rout that the Union (as was its custom) failed to take advantage.

Think about that: the “collective” of that army took that impregnable fortress without orders, on its own, without any “general-ing” or “fancy tactics.”

We, the People, took that hill.

Battle of Missionary Ridge Kurz_&_Allison

And THAT is what happened on Super Tuesday.

It’s not about Joe Biden. It’s not about Bernie Sanders. It was about taking the Orange Monstrosity and his seemingly-impregnable death-grip on re-election.

Spontaneously, and almost without leadership, the army of “We the People,” pulled off one of the most stunning electoral displays in American history. On a par with “Dewey Defeats Truman.

And Arthur MacArthur in this case, was Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. He grabbed that flag and charged up the hill and whatever the equivalent of the Medal of Honor is in politics, he ought to be awarded it.

Jim Clyburn official portrait 116th Congress
Rep. Jim Clyburn – official portrait

And the pundits didn’t know what to do with that. So mostly they ignored it.

But to attack Joe Biden and the DNC (as sour grapes Bernie Bros spent yesterday doing in the most explicit of terms) is to utterly miss the point.

We, the People took that hill (assist: Jim Clyburn).

There was no Machiavellian DNC plot. No oligarchic “corporate Democrat” plot or marching orders. If you believe that, tell all Black Democrats in the South that they were stooges marching on Tom Perez’s orders or Wall Street’s orders or whatever bogeyman that the paranoid Conspiracy Fantasy Looney Left wants to come up with.

Good luck.

[I love how “democrats” think, that they can vilify their own worse than they vilify (deservedly) Donald Trump and never once think that they’re actively campaigning FOR Donald Trump.]

My point is that throwing all the opprobrium at Joe Biden is not only counterproductive, but pointless. He won where he had no offices, no ads, never appeared at a rally. He won across most all demographics. He was the OBJECT of huge turnout (where Bernie’s ‘youth army’  conspicuously stayed home).

If you want to blame somebody, blame We, the People, who chose Joe Biden as their standard bearer, at least across a swath of states from Maine and Minnesota to North Carolina to Texas.



Biden won Texas, which is a sucker bet that no political observer in America would have made as late as Tuesday evening.

That stunning outcome is how democracy works. It isn’t the precisely machined political strategy, the ground game, the polling or the pundits. It is as chaotic as the dandelion.

Last night, (Director Rob Reiner’s father) Carl Reiner tweeted:

@carlreiner Mar 2
Tonight most of us good citizens will go to bed wondering what in almighty heck is going on with the democratic party and their search to nominate Trump’s successor.

To which I responded with Will Rogers and “It’s called democracy.”

I wasn’t being a smartass.

Democracy isn’t pretty. To paraphrase Churchill, it sucks, until you realize what’s in second place.

The Republican Party is run as though only one heir to the Peacock Throne were available, and all available resources must be marshaled to his (yes, HIS) potential Reign.

As Will Rogers said:

I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.

I am a Democrat because I believe in the power of the dandelion. It is not neat, orderly, or even rational. But somehow, no matter how much it is weeded, disparaged and snuffed out, it arises anew each time.

dandelions-1337890603DjW PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Democratic Party, often behaves as a dandelion behaves: chaotic, self-conflicted, no rhyme or reason, floating on the breezes of fad and fashion, but it succeeds from sheer strength of (ofttimes stupid) numbers.

If you had been raised with a bias towards “elegance” (in the engineering sense of least means for greatest effect) then it is bewildering to suddenly immerse yourself in the chaos of Democratic politics.

That’s what took me awhile to get used to when I switched parties in 1988 (having—as it now turns out, QUITE ACCURATELY — seen the handwriting on the wall).

But remember this: no lawnmower ever engineered, no defoliant ever formulated, no organization of human industry and coordinated action has EVER yet defeated the humble dandelion.

They’re good in salads, too.

super tuesday takeaway




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One response to “Joe Biden, Super Tuesday and Missionary Ridge

  1. KP

    Great writing. “Never retreat. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl.” Benjamin Jowett

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