In Shakespeare’s legendary play, “Henry V,” the English army is outnumbered five to one by the French army just before the Battle of Agincourt. One of the English nobles wishes that they had “but one ten thousand of those men in England/That do no work today!” Overhearing this, King Henry responds with one of the most famous speeches in the English language. First, the king says that he doesn’t want help from anyone else:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
Then he goes on to explain that he’s willing to let any man leave who has no stomach for the fight:
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
Finally, he reminds his army that they are fighting on the feast day of St. Crispin, and that whoever survives and makes it home will remember all of the great feats done by the English on that day:
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Of course, we know that the English would go on to win the Battle of Agincourt. But in the play, Henry doesn’t know that they are about to win. In fact, the odds are very much against England. Shakespeare’s point isn’t that the English are about to win a great victory — but that in the future, win or lose, everyone will want to know what you did on St. Crispin’s Day. Were you in the army, fighting against overwhelming odds? Or were you asleep?
Shakespeare was a genius, and in this speech he touched something very deep in human nature — a sense of loyalty and camaraderie that is not shaken or undermined by defeat, but strengthened by it. Anyone can fight for a winner — but those who fight together in a losing cause share bonds that no one else can understand.
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This is what happened to the Republican Party after Barry Goldwater’s landslide defeat in 1964. That defeat was supposed to break the conservative movement, but it did not — the conservatives who had worked on that campaign refused to give up the dream of overturning New Deal liberalism. Twelve years later, they brought Ronald Reagan to the brink of the GOP nomination — only to lose by a handful of votes at the 1976 convention. That defeat was supposed to not only break the conservative movement but end Reagan’s career — instead, it spurred his supporters to keep trying even harder. We all know what happened four years later.
Today, there are a lot of professional “conservatives” and former Bush consultants who are very excited about the prospect that Hillary Clinton will crush Donald Trump on Nov. 8. Many of them have managed to become very rich despite being part of losing campaigns for years. Openly rooting for Hillary for months — bragging about her lead in the polls — they have threatened recriminations against those still trying to defeat her. In a sickening exercise of wish-fulfillment, they’ve been the toast of cable TV, proclaiming that the race is hopeless for months.
This cadre of mainly Establishment Republicans seem to think that if things play out as they predict, and Hillary is in the White House, the tens of millions of conservatives who will vote for Trump will happily accede to their leadership.
Some folks never learn.
The entire reason Trump won the nomination in the first place is that the GOP base wanted a different leader — and a different set of policies — than they had been offered over the last 25 years. They didn’t want Jeb Bush, or anyone like Jeb Bush. They wanted a more populist, more nationalist, approach. And since none of the other candidates ran on such a platform, they voted for Donald Trump.
The vast majority of Republicans have now joined the Trump cause. They don’t necessarily agree with him on every issue, nor are they pleased with all of his comments or actions. But they understand that he is a patriot who is risking his reputation and his fortune in an uphill battle against one of the most corrupt and wicked political machines in the history of the English-speaking world.
Watching as Trump is smeared day after day by the Clinton media apparatchiks, these voters feel that they’re being smeared right along with him. These are the “everyday Americans” whom Hillary and the “Acela Corridor” elites despise, dismiss, demean, and ridicule behind closed doors. They are evangelicals and Catholics and other people of faith who feel the government has broken faith with them — and now there is an email chain, courtesy of WikiLeaks, to prove it.
They see Hillary Clinton trying to ride to power behind an enormous wall of money — money that she raised from the very plutocrats who benefit from an economy that helps dictators in China, but hurts most Americans. They see that she will trample the First Amendment and the Second Amendment, that she will drag the country into unnecessary wars, that she will spread her pay-to-play mentality throughout the government, and that she will treat her political opponents as conquered peasants, not free and equal citizens.
They see that even though the battle appears hopeless, millions of Americans are still trying to beat her — not for Trump, but for themselves, their children, their churches, their home towns, and their future. With their eyes wide open, these Republicans have joined the effort to defeat Hillary Clinton, and end her disastrous career once and for all.
The Republican effort may or may not succeed. The good guys don’t always win. Sometimes the odds are too great to overcome. But win or lose, everyone who has been a part of this cause — everyone who has spread the truth about the Clintons on social media, defended Trump against the attacks that were hideously unfair, knocked on doors, posted signs, prayed for the country, or even just checked their favorite links day after day for the latest news — will remember who fought with them. Just as importantly, they’ll remember who wanted them to lose.
This experience, these battle scars, these “war-time” memories, will have a major impact on the future of the Republican Party, and the history of the United States.