In June of 1812 the United States of America declared War on Great Briton over a variety of causes not the least of which was the impressment of sailors from American merchant ships into the British Navy (which was at the time involved in a life and death struggle with Napoleon and France). Four months before war was officially declared President Madison decided that the 16 American warships’ that composed the US navy best use were as shore batteries defending harbors. Being that England had 600 ships this was seemingly a rational and logical decision.
On Election Day 2008, Barack H. Obama won the presidency winning states such as North Carolina and Virginia which Democrats had not taken in years and retaining democratic strongholds such as Massachusetts and New Jersey; while in congress Democrats made solid gains winning a large congressional majority in the house and a super-majority in the Senate.
On every major network Pundits proclaimed it the start of a new democratic Era. Books poured out about the president, T-Shirts were selling briskly, a massive crowd turned up for the inauguration, and off in England Russell T. Davies was writing a script for the final episode of David Tennant’s run as the 10th Doctor Who’s with the climatic event of the first part was to take place as the world awaited a plan by President Obama to solve the world wide economic crisis. Pundits a plenty reasoned that the era of Reagan was over. Republicans such as Chris Buckley and David Brooks talked about the power of Obama and David Frum began his Frum Forum determined to take the Republican Party away from what they considered the conservative extreme and back to the middle where it could one day triumph.
In February 1812 two American Captains in Washington on separate errands heard of the decision of the President and naval department; Captain William Bainbridge and Captain Charles Stewart went in before Naval Secretary Hamilton and made their case, they were so persuasive that he arranged a meeting with President James Madison.
Shortly after the election Rush Limbaugh, unapologetic defender of conservatism and the single most popular person on Radio declared that it was not the time to stop fighting. He maintained that the election was not a mandate against conservatism, indeed it was only the inclusion of Conservative Republican Sarah Palin that gave the campaign any energy and accounted for the only brief lead in the polls the campaign enjoyed. As Governor Sarah Palin returned to Alaska where Democrats, mindful of the energy she brought to the Republican side; unleashed a string of frivolous ethics complaints determined to neutralize her once and for all, Rush declared publicly on his radio show about President Obama: “I hope he fails”. In February he was scheduled to be the keynote and final speaker at CPAC where he would face a crowd of conservative activists at their lowest ebb of their political lives.…
In their meeting with the president Captains Stewart and Bainbridge made their case, insisting that 8 times out of 10 in an equal fight American seamanship, discipline, technical innovations and the quality of our ships would win the day:
“We may be captured and probably shall be…because their numbers are much greater than ours, But the American flag will never be dishonored, seldom, if ever, struck to equal force.”
“You’ll give us victories then, you think?” asked President Madison.
“We do, and not upon irrational premises.” answered Stewart. Madison decided to bring the matter the very next day to the full cabinet.
On another February day 197 years later and just a few miles away from where Stewart and Bainbridge made their case Rush Limbaugh stood at the podium at CPAC to make his case. Fox News knowing Limbaugh’s popularity with their viewers and CNN knowing he was a ratings magnet both decided to cover the speech live. Limbaugh’s “First public address to the American People” was a scheduled 40 minute speech but went nearly 90 covering conservative ground, explaining why he believed the Liberal Obama agenda would be disastrous to America. The liberal media roundly condemned his speech and the White House was delighted at the opportunity to make Limbaugh the face of the Republican Party confident that the quality and charisma of Barack Obama was more than a match for him.
Two centuries earlier Bainbridge and Stewart both were getting push-back of a similar nature. The very next day a meeting of the cabinet took place and the case was made that it was useless to resist the British Navy. Not only were numbers involved but England’s maritime power had been tested in battle over and over again. Over the previous twenty years the record of British victories was long and distinguished while the number of defeats in anything resembling an equal fight could be counted on the fingers of one hand…without the thumb. Madison was persuaded again. The previous decision was upheld. The ships were to be laid up.
Three thousand miles away in a territory that in the days of the captains was a Russian Possession on July 3rd 2009 Sarah Palin called a news conference and shocked the world by announcing she was resigning as Governor of Alaska. She maintained that the constant barrage of frivolous complaints was costing the state money and time. Pundits around the country added “quitter” to their less printable pejoratives and pronounced her power and influence at an end. Rush Limbaugh didn’t think so. He believed that this freed her from the constraints of office and allowed her to advance the conservative cause nationwide. Limbaugh’s ratings had increased as his visibility as the president’s chief opponent emerged and thousands of people who had never listened to his show before tuned in to see what he had to say, but the media and pundits dismissed this saying it was good for Limbaugh’s pocketbook but meant nothing in terms of the election or in terms of the power of the Nobel winning president.
Like Limbaugh and Palin, Bainbridge and Stewart were people of action, the very evening of the decision they drew up a letter of protest that was considered so intemperate that they were asked to re-write it before it was presented to the President. They refused making their case directly to the president in terms that he could not dismiss, ignore or misunderstand.
Unlike the letter which burned in the torching of Washington two years later. Sarah Palin’s Facebook page attacking the president’s priority, the healthcare bill, is still available online but it was no less blunt decrying the government role in rationing care as “death panels”. It produced more consternation by the MSM, but she would not yield an inch. Message after message would be penned by Palin that would reach millions of readers through her Facebook page and her Book. Rush Limbaugh trumpeted her methods and her embrace of the Tea Party movement. He had her as a guest to promote her book which would sell millions of copies totally bypassing the media that held her and them to such scorn while MSM. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC continued to deride him as an entertainer, her as politically irrelevant and the tea party as racists.
After the Stewart/Bainbridge letter the president for the first time since his election overruled his cabinet, the ships would be allowed out for a single cruise, as an experiment to see if the Captain’s pronouncements would hold true.
On September 12, 2009 hundreds of thousands of tea party activists gathered on the mall at the Capital protesting the Obama administration. Conservative leaders spoke to the largely blue collar crowd to proclaim that they were going to take their county back. The media took note but scoffed, the numbers were astroturf and the Nobel winning president still held vast majorities in both houses. Elections were two months away in Virginia and New Jersey for Governor, a special election in New York’s 23th district saw the republican party embrace a liberal candidate named Dede Scozzafava and in January a special election would be held to replace the late Ted Kennedy who had held the seat since 1962. Let’s see what would happen THEN.
On August 19th 1812 Captain Issac Hull was cruising the North Atlantic in the Frigate U.S.S. Constitution where he encountered the frigate H.M.S. Guerriere that had been part of a fleet he had escaped from mere weeks before. Hull had sailed out of port without orders and a reprimand releaving him of command was even then on its way to Boston but within two hours he would transform that reprimand into a promotion by transforming the Guerriere into kindling at the cost of only 14 casualties in a battle that would shock the world. Two months later Jacob Jones in Brig U.S.S. Wasp would defeat the H.M.S. Frolic causing a 9-1 ratio in casualties before they would both be captured by a 74 gun British Battleship two hours later. A week later Stephen Decatur in the Frigate U.S.S. United States would defeat and capture the H.M.S. Macedonian that would shortly become the U.S.S. Macedonian
On Election Night the news astounded the nation. In Virginia Republicans had retaken the governorship previously held by the DNC Chairman Tim Kaine by a wide margin, In New York 23 Sarah Palin followed shortly by Rush Limbaugh endorsed the Conservative party Candidate Doug Hoffman over Dede Scocafava who eventually dropped out of the race a week before the election, the victory was Pyrrhic as she, despite tens of thousands of dollars of support by the NRCC, threw her support to the democrat Bob Owens who would edge Hoffman in a squeaker. In New Jersey Chris Christie would shock the political world by winning the Governorship of the state a shock that would be exceeded on January 19th 2009 when Scott Brown down 15 points according to the Boston Globe would defeat Martha Coakley in a race that would energize the entire Republican Party nationwide.
The results of these battles were explosive, Congress suddenly voted for 6 more frigates of the Constitution Class and four battleships of the line when the country had none before. Fleets were being built to contest the British on Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake Champlain, privateers were fitted out in ports around the nation to raid British Commerce and England found itself forced to divert significant resources from vital areas in Europe to deal with the upstart American fleet.
The results of the election were explosive although Obamacare passed with the help of democrats such as Bart Stupak he and others such as Chris Dodd and Bill Delahunt decided that this was the year to retire. Rush continued to push for conservatism and Sarah Palin campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates all over the country targeting 20 specific democrats for defeat and raising money to help support others. The effect was electric in states such as Massachusetts, where uncontested seats were a fact of life, suddenly found almost every race contested from 9 of the 10 congressional seats all the way down to auditor. Candidates like John Olver, Richard Neal and Barney Frank who had spent previous elections campaigning and donating to fellow democrats all over the country found themselves spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend seats that had never been at issue before. Nervous Democrats opened the spigots, funding 3rd party candidates to siphon off voters that might otherwise go to republican challengers. Media decried republican funding sources even as Democrats outspent their GOP counterparts, some like Jim McGovern by ratios as high as 30-1.
Likewise the American victories at sea produced outrage among the British Public After a second British Frigate the H.M.S. Java was taken by the U.S.S. Constitution (commanded by Bainbridge himself) England dispatched additional ships to blockade the American coast. British Frigates were forbidden to engage American Frigates except in pairs and fleets were built up on the lakes to keep the American bottled up and contained. One newspaper commented anyone predicting such results previously would be considered a madman or a traitor.
The Expectations game had shifted for 2010 as well. The conventional wisdom went from a 30 seat pickup for the GOP to a 40 and then from 40 to fifty and before Election Day came, some pundits were predicting as many as 75 seats for the GOP. Likewise in the senate the conventional wisdom went from small gains to larger gains to even the chance of picking up the full nine seats needed to flip the Senate. Pundits who had previously declared Rush Limbaugh a blowhard and Sarah Palin irrelevant and ineffective how were reduced to stating openly that if the candidates they supported in deep blue states such as California and Delaware failed to win, they would be considered failures no matter how many seats were won elsewhere.
The disasters were not done for the British Navy. On Lake Erie Oliver Hazard Perry took an entire British Fleet for the first time in centuries and later that same year Thomas MacDonough duplicated the feat taking a British Fleet that outgunned him heavily on Lake Champlain on September 11, 1814 stopping a British invasion force dead in its tracks. Meanwhile upwards of 500+ merchants fell to American privateers on the high seas. Smaller ship actions such as U.S.S. Enterprise vs H.M.S. Boxer, U.S.S Hornet taking H.M.S. Penguin and U.S.S. Wasp defeating H.M.S. Reindeer continued to shock the world. The British consoled themselves with the H.M.S Shannon capture of the U.S.S. Chesapeake, and two actions first where the U.S.S. Essex was taken by a pair of warships after wiping out the British Whaling industry in the Pacific and second where the U.S.S. President was captured by a fleet as it tried to run a blockade smashing the H.M.S. Endymion to near uselessness in the process.
On Election day the results were in and they were a slaughter, not since 1920 had so many seats fallen into republican hands and not since 1932 had either party managed to Capture the 63 seats that republicans did. 18 of the 20 democrats targeted by Sarah Palin were defeated and 6 Senate seats were taken by the Grand old party. In consolation Blue states such as Massachusetts and California remained blue Massachusetts after millions upon millions of dollars were spent and Union Activists given the day off by the state manned every polling place to insure that every possible democrat voted. Close calls were dodged by in districts such as ny-22 and Va-11 but only two seats La-2 and on in Hawaii formally held by republicans fell to the Democratic Party.
The British after final victory over Napoleon had initially proposed draconian peace terms on America; suddenly they were willing to talk about easier terms and after consulting with Lord Wellington. the man who humbled Napoleon at Waterloo, who bluntly told negotiators that they had no basis for any claims based upon the war record, agreed to what amounted to practically a cease-fire. This outraged London Papers until news of the Battle of New Orleans combined with a victory by Captain Stewart commanding U.S.S. Constitution on February 20th 1815 taking both H.M.S. Cyane and H.M.S. Levant in a single battle. England got the hint and never again would the British fight or provoke a war against the United States.
On November 3rd President Obama talked about learning the lessons of the election and spoke of compromise and working with the newly elected Republican house. Thursday November 4th 2010 on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough scoffed at Sarah Palin’s victory proclamation pointing out that candidates she backed failed to win in Delaware (held by democrats since 1973) Nevada (held by democrats since 1987 ) and California (Where a republican had not held the senate seat since the Johnson Administration) Politico derided her saying that less than half of her candidates (regardless of strength) won election, ignoring significant victories by Palin supported candidates in North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire, all states that had voted for Barack Obama just two years before.
Even before the war was over the leadership of the United States understood who deserved credit for their good fortune at sea. On December 28th 1812 a Gala ball hosted to Honor Captain Issac Hull. The guests ate, drank and danced as the battle flag Hull took from the H.M.S Guerriere hung on the wall. At midnight a young midshipman entered the room bringing the first news of the capture of the H.M.S Macedonian by the U.S.S. United States and laid the captured flag at Dolly Madison’s feet. Secretary Hamilton called for the attention of the room and perhaps remembering his shock at the brusque words written 10 month before made an announcement to the assembled crowd: “Never forget that it is to Captains Bainbridge and Stewart that you really owe these victories”
Not all fell for MSNBC and Politico’s spin. CBS news pointed out Sarah Palin endorsed 43 house candidates of which 30 won while winning 7 of 12 Senate endorsed candidates. Senator Jim Demitt said “she’s done a lot of good for the Republican Party, and for our country.” And Rush Limbaugh, having none of the spin of the majority of the Mainstream media on the 4th said: “If anybody is an obvious winner here, aside, of course, from me, it would be Palin.”
So to conservatives who are basking in the joy of a historic question I say to you : “Never forget that it is to Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin that you really owe these victories.”
This essay owes a debt of Gratitude to Fletcher Pratt and his 1950 Volume Preble’s Boys
Update: For some reason the actual last line of the post was in the wrong place moved it to the end.
Update 2 The Hoffman race was the 23rd NY rather than the 25th corrected.
Update 3: Minor grammatical errors corrected