The Machiavellian Hypothesis: The Fox, Lion, Archer, Mask and Fortuna

***This poem is inspired from a lecture Professor Abbott gave at Wayne in “American Political Institutions: The Presidency” (me being a student).

Left: Professor                                     Center: Student                                    Right: Gadfly

  1. The goal of tonight’s class,
  2.   Is to illuminate the path,
  3.    That Machiavelli set for us.
  4. For some strange reason,
  5. The professor imagined,
  6. The calling of a Raven.
  7. Let me begin with this quote from;
  8.    The Prince, by Machiavelli.
  9. The professor’s tone of voice,
  10. Consumed the classroom.
  11. “…the fox and the lion; because the lion
  12.    Does not defend itself from snares and,
  13.    The fox does not defend itself from wolves.
  14.    So one needs to be a fox to recognize snares
  15.    And a lion to frighten the wolves.
  16.    “Those who stay simply with the lion
  17.     Do not understand this. A prudent lord, therefore,
  18.     Cannot observe faith, nor should he, when such observance
  19.     Turns against him, and the causes that made him promise
  20.     Have been eliminated.
  21.    “And if all men were good, this teaching would not be good;
  22.      But because they are wicked and do not observe faith with you,
  23.     You also do not have to observe it with them.”[1]
  24. What do you think?
  25. I’m sure there is,
  26. Plenty of empirical evidence.
  27. Let me now paraphrase other sections from The Prince,
  28.    To illuminate a path for political analysis.
  29. First, a public official—such as the President,
  30.    Must understand how to disguise,
  31.       When s/he is a Fox.
  32. This is called the Machiavellian Mask.
  33.     Yet if one is unmasked, ‘tis wise,
  34.         To be a Lion that shocks.
  35. The Fox may act under pretext,
  36.    see Severus,
  37. And the Lion displays powerful tactics,
  38.    see Severus again.
  39. Archers design to hit the mark of a predecessor.
  40. But without knowing the limits of the Bow’s strength,
  41. They aim much higher than the mark already set.
  42. The Fox and the Lion are necessary for a leader to imitate,
  43.    But what is, in America, necessary for emulation?
  44. An American Political Development (APD) student
  45. Took the stage and never planned,
  46. To let it go back—to be an exemplar;
  47. He imagined,
  48. Of Machiavellian magic.
  49. George Washington turned to the Lion,
  50. When he took a standing army,
  51. To disperse a fragmented Whiskey Rebellion.
  52. The Lion is most apparent when,
  53. The President takes unilateral action.
  54. Truman flicked his pen,
  55. And General MacArthur was dismissed.
  56. Truman scribbled a bit,
  57. And nationalized the Steel Mills that second.
  58. Reagan pushed his plans,
  59. Via reconciliation.
  60. Ike sent in federal troops,
  61. To enforce Brown v. Board of Education,
  62. Even though he was personally against it.
  63. During the Patco Strike,
  64. Reagan stopped the air traffic control union,
  65. From striking to earn more benefits.
  66. Perhaps of more salience,
  67. Are the foreign interventions,
  68. Wholly implemented by the President;
  69. Whether it be Vietnam,
  70. The Iran Contra-affair,
  71. Combating the Evil Empire,
  72. Or employing the CIA to overthrow,
  73. Foreign nations.
  74. The Lion roars and takes command!
  75. And the Fox?
  76. Persuasion and wise manipulation:
  77. To see what’s on the horizon,
  78. And to control the legitimation,
  79. Of the information and orientations.
  80. The Fox does wear a mask,
  81. For no man is perfect.
  82. The Mask that the early American leaders valued:
  83. Twas a statesman upholding republican virtue.
  84. Lincoln was a Fox in his first 90 days;
  85. Leaving Congress at home and ruling alone,
  86. Calling for troops to block-aide ports,
  87. And suspending the Great Writ of Habeas Corpus.
  88. Well, he was a Lion there too.
  89. The Mask reveals the public image displayed
  90. For the people as the reason for action day by day.
  91. For example, critics claimed that Lincoln
  92. Violated the constitution. And Lincoln replied,
  93. Without the Union, there is no need to save,
  94. The Constitution.
  95. Yet when the Mask falls off,
  96. A bitter taste abounds,
  97. In the population’s mouth.
  98. When the Mask falls off; many fear,
  99. A revolution is near.
  100. Which really means,
  101. There will be a landslide election that year.
  102. So…
  103. Did America save Kuwait to save a nation?
  104. For that Mask is appealing and familiar—alas,
  105. The Mask dropped for many as oil operations,
  106. Appeared to be the reason for the lethal clash.
  107. And the same is thought to be true about his son’s advance,
  108. In 2003, in Iraq.
  109. When the Mask fell—it was never about WMDs,
  110. Or freeing a people from a dictator, and
  111. Instituting democracy.
  112. Oil was the reason the U.S. military visited Iraq,
  113. Just how much is for you to determine:
  114. ‘Tis one hypothesis.
  115. The other is revenge.
  116. Masks…
  117. Margaret took control:
  118. Masks are necessary to advance policy,
  119. Since the face of truth is disgusting,
  120. To the polity.
  121. And the Archer?
  122. APD regained a calm footing:
  123. Imitate; but don’t try too hard
  124. Aim high—like Adams tried to follow Washington.
  125. And never imitate a leader whose,
  126. Mask fell off once in office.
  127. Otherwise, your party will appear as fools.
  128. And will sustain many losses.
  129. For the prudent Archer can play policy,
  130. According to the past aspirations,
  131. Of those s/he is governing,
  132. Without republican violations.
  133. And Fortuna?
  134. Fortuna is like whitewater rafting a Class 6:
  135. Sometimes it’s slow and one can relax;
  136. Then, very suddenly, there are rapids,
  137. And you may suddenly smash,
  138. Into huge waves, huge rocks or huge drops.
  139. Worse, there are many invisible dangers,
  140. Like an inescapable hydraulic Hole,
  141. That will swallow up your dreams,
  142. Forevermore.
  143. Yes. That’s right!
  144. And what does it mean,
  145.   For the nation’s rite?
  146. First, everyone does go down river,
  147. And though the river never ends,
  148. Paths can be traced and remembered;
  149. Useful to future experiences.
  150. Further, political scientists already examine,
  151. Previous paths not taken.
  152. Thus they create knowledge,
  153. For future experimentation.
  154. Wasn’t Obama sworn into office,
  155. When the bolder of the economy hit?
  156. Wasn’t closing Gitmo a necessary promise;
  157. Kept by a Lion through executive order,
  158. But without force—or serious political pressure,
  159. Since Gitmo’s still there—and what about torture?[2]
  160. For the Ship of State has yet to turn,
  161. From the Hole of foreign war!
  162. That George Washington addressed,
  163. In his Farewell!
  164. Our national debt skyrockets,
  165. As Democracy Masts are blown over!
  166. All this is Fortuna’s Lore!?
  167. No one knows Fortuna’s role,
  168. In the 2012 election—for sure.
  169. What if the economy plunders in October?
  170. Or the Tea Party’s freedom mantra shoulder’s
  171. The median voter?
  172. I think I’ve got it.
  173. But what of this republican Mask?
  174.  Why is “republicanism” the task?
  175.    That is approved by the voting mass,
  176.     Of electors in a Republic; by chance?
  177. The Framers were concerned with the function;
  178. Of the President.
  179. All agreed that the constitutional frame should induce;
  180. A Cincinnatus.
  181. ‘Twas why the people were not allowed to vote;
  182. For the President.
  183. The system was set-up to prevent;
  184. A direct line from the Executive to the Inhabitants.
  185. Republican thought as propellant:
  186. Republican government must be transparent.
  187. See Federalist 67-77 as the explained role,
  188. Of the single, not plural, executive;
  189. With energy and duration for his or her show.
  190. Well done. But let us remain,
  191.    With the present.
  192. Republicanism means that the Patriots prioritize,
  193. Mechanisms to increase societal virtue,
  194. Once in public office.
  195. Here is Arching; when researching—be cautious.
  196. What is virtue?
  197. Today, republicanism scholars’ generally agree,
  198. ‘Tis republicanism which eradicates,
  199. Arbitrary interference to,
  200. Denizens of the state,
  201. In society.
  202. ‘Tis become to mean positive individual freedom.
  203. And it means that a society
  204. With un-virtuous people,
  205. Will need many rules.
  206. This positive virtue is what makes a Republic possible,
  207. And must be enabled for the Republic’s survival.
  208. Yet there are a thousand indicators for when,
  209. Public policy [by the President],
  210. Warrants the label:
  211. “A burnt bridge with republicanism.”
  212. As a political language, in America, it fights:
  213. Liberalism, exceptionalism, biblical thought,
  214. Populism, and conservative thought.
  215. So we can record the significant battles,
  216. And determine why one is stronger within
  217. And between Party R-can and/or Party Dem.
  218. There is a record.
  219. There are super-events.
  220. There have been critical advances.
  221. Of course, the reality is that,
  222.   The languages also get along.
  223. Yes. They’ve been around,
  224.   For as long as I’ve been researching political science.
  225. Light laughter helped this dance,
  226. As the professor took a firmer stance:
  227. Republicanism has always been popular,
  228.    As an American political language,
  229.      Concerning how to administer,
  230.        A wiser government.
  231. There is a real Republican Mask.
  232. The actor as President does act.
  233. This is witnessed by every generation,
  234. As Tocqueville said: Equality in America
  235.    Is a Providential fact.
  236. APD stealthily regained control:
  237. However, this Mask may be torn from,
  238. A representative’s face; and beneath,
  239. Only pretext!
  240. So by Machiavellian standards applied to America;
  241. The President is an Archer with a wise platform,
  242. The President puts on a political Mask,
  243. You thus hypothesize the language to be born,
  244. The admixture of American languages,
  245. You delineate when the Executive acts,
  246. As a Lion or a Fox according to Fortuna; meaning,
  247. Context.
  248. And the weakness of the Lion?
  249. It almost always pays to be a Fox,
  250. Says Machiavelli,
  251. And not a Lion.
  252. Why?
  253. Because the Lion has no Mask.
  254. See the rebuke of Truman by the Supreme Court,
  255. For nationalizing the Steel Mills.
  256. See the Jeffersonians insisting,
  257. That Washington had a diadem sparkling
  258. On his brow; indeed.
  259. But I heard that Washington,
  260.   Was an exemplary Fox—
  261.     That he never dropped the Mask.
  262. Where would I get that idea from?
  263. Washington was a master of obtaining power,
  264. Which is the point of this exercise;
  265. By rejecting it—as republicanism;
  266. Optimized.
  267. For example, (1) as a plantation owner,
  268. Advancing his career meant western development.
  269. Through political connections, he became Colonial,
  270. Of the Virginia Militia.
  271. 1st he endeavored to scout West Virginia.
  272. In the West he finds French—he is surrounded,
  273. He is given 24 hours to surrender—
  274. He signs a document that says he killed French people.
  275. Demoted to Captain—he soon writes Braddock.
  276. Braddock takes him on as a volunteer, and then,
  277. Braddock is mortally wounded.
  278. Washington rounds everyone up and wins.
  279. In Virginia he is recommissioned,
  280. But doesn’t get what he wants and,
  281. Resigns the position!
  282. Washington relays a message:
  283. The British will do to us,
  284. What we have done to the Blacks.
  285. And in fact…
  286. George Washington goes to the Continental Congress,
  287. Designs uniforms and,
  288. Asks to have an army at his own costs;
  289. For the country’s benefit,
  290. For the Patriot’s cause.
  291. The rebellious states are looking for a leader.
  292. Washington says he’s not worthy of the job—
  293. Won’t take a penny—
  294. After the revolution, he resigns.
  295. This astounds—fellow citizens.
  296. The resignation greatly enhances his status,
  297. Of course; Washington has Cincinnatus’s Mask!
  298. Washington turns down offer after offer.
  299. For example, (2) How about that long travel,
  300. After unanimously being elected President,
  301. From one’s homestead—through the country,
  302. To his new office.
  303. Wouldn’t any other path,
  304. Be a dereliction of republican duty?
  305. Do the math.
  306. This is a Man of virtue!
  307. (3) Question: Would you serve as President?
  308. Answer: I haven’t been elected yet.
  309. All were flabbergasted!
  310. (4)  Final one—Washington refuses a third term.
  311.  The Mask is his face–an ideal to learn!
  312. And the Machiavellian Hypothesis:
  313. Would you enlighten us?
  314. Washington thus as Archer,
  315. Blazed the path of Cincinnatus,
  316. And for all time;
  317. Is honored.
  318. This is part of American political development.
  319. This is why we find Presidents,
  320. Openly after Roosevelt, Teddy;
  321. Publicly proclaiming a future political platform,
  322. Holding a republican Mask for the people to yearn.
  323. S/he will solve large collective action problems,
  324. S/he will strengthen the Union!
  325. I hypothesize thus:
  326. The President must
  327. Transcend past Party learning,
  328. Abide by the constitution,
  329. And create, empirically,
  330. A better State of the Union.
  331. And if the republican Mask falls,
  332. The President will be ill remembered,
  333. By all.
  334. For the constitution that was under
  335. The astute direction of,
  336. George Washington,
  337. Shall not be desecrated,
  338. Or torn asunder.
  339. Well thank you.
  340. The professor acts,
  341. Like one who is about to crash,
  342. Over Class 6 rapids:
  343. Thank you Mr. Beard for your excellent speech.
  344. Now class, from your current understanding,
  345.   Compile a Machiavellian Hypothesis.
  346. How have Presidents,
  347.  O’er the centuries acted,
  348.   As a Fox or a Lion,
  349.     As an Archer in the midst of Fortuna?
  350. Then in ten minutes we shall see,
  351.  Where the holes are in our collective perception,
  352.   Of this Machiavellian investigation.
  353. Twelve minutes passed.
  354. A plain spoken one:
  355. Yes, Macy, what do you say?
  356. Of course,
  357. ‘Tis rare in the American culture,
  358. For any one President to be so widely remembered.
  359. Change is so rapid, in America, a Class 6;
  360. That no one shall deny:
  361. The Founder’s would completely,
  362. And would completely not,
  363. Recognize 2012 American political times.
  364. For there is clearly a dissimilitude in,
  365. How the President is elected.
  366. Yes, excellent. Find Hamilton’s,
  367.    “Dissimilitude” from 69 there too:
  368.        Those “Commander-in-Chief” details.
  369. Anyone else?
  370. Albert held:
  371. I hypothesize that John Adams deviations,
  372. From the arching lines of George Washington;
  373. (1) were a result of lowering his aim, and,
  374. (2) The amount of Fortuna, in both,
  375. Were about the same.
  376. This would help us understand,
  377. American political development.
  378. Very good.
  379. More suggestions?
  380. Walter explored:
  381. I suppose that Lions’ actions,
  382. Create long-term negative opinion,
  383. And that this impacts public cynicism.
  384. Frank wondered:
  385. I hypothesize that Presidents,
  386. Who never lost their Mask,
  387. Are remembered as great Presidents.
  388. And, the more often Masks were removed; then,
  389. The lower the President is ranked.
  390. Well you could complete,
  391. A presidential ranking system,
  392. With the answer to those hypotheses.
  393. Lawrence said:
  394. I hypothesize that creating a database,
  395. Of Lion decisions,
  396. Will show when American political development,
  397. Harmed or healed republican virtue.
  398. Harmed or healed liberalism’s credentials…
  399. Well done. Don’t forget, class,
  400.    To post your hypothesis.
  401. Notebooks started to shut.
  402. All was chatter.
  403. This class, many thought,
  404. Was fun.

[1]Mansfield. 1985. The Prince, by Machiavelli. The University of Chicago Press. Page 69. Also see “Taming the Prince” by Mansfield. Further, I have simply transposed much of the content in this poem from a lecture by Professor Abbott, Distinguished Professor, Wayne State. Any mistakes are my own.

[2] According to Seattle Times, July 4, 2012, “The Pentagon has decided to lay an estimated $40 million underwater fiber-optic cable from Guantánamo Bay to South Florida, The Miami Herald has learned, in the latest sign that the military is preparing for detentions and other operations at the Navy base for the long term.” Article title: Gitmo may get $40 million fiber-optics cable.

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3 thoughts on “The Machiavellian Hypothesis: The Fox, Lion, Archer, Mask and Fortuna

  1. Pingback: Poetry: American Politics « Political Pipeline

  2. Pingback: Is Obama acting like Cincinnatus? | Political Pipeline

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