How the left fights the right
The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Mon Jan 7 2013
Section: COMMENTARY; BOOK REVIEW
Byline: Michael Taube
When it comes to modern politics, the left and right know less about each other now than ever before. That’s a huge tactical error. As Sun Tzu wrote in “The Art of War,” “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.“
Hence, it’s important to learn how the members of an opposing political ideology think, act and strategize. It will provide some insight in advising candidates, conducting efficient campaigns – and, with hard work and good fortune, winning elections. It will also ensure that good electoral strategies and solid ground games are in place to combat different political parties and candidates.
That’s why Warren Kinsella’s book, “Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse,” is of vital importance for American conservatives and other right-leaning individuals to read, learn and understand.
Mr. Kinsella is a liberal political consultant, political pundit, author and Toronto Sun columnist based in Canada. He’s well known in my country, but isn’t a household name in the United States. His political consulting firm, Daisy Group, probably doesn’t ring a bell with most strategists. So, what does he add to the debate? Plenty. Mr. Kinsella may be a Canadian, but his political style is perfectly suited to the rough-and-tumble world of U.S. politics. He’s an intelligent and talented individual with a vast understanding of Canadian and American politics. He believes in fighting his opponents tooth and nail, and has no fear to go for the jugular. He recognizes that the political arena can either be a genteel environment, or resemble something more akin to a blood sport. He will do what he has to do to achieve victory.
Full disclosure: I’ve known Mr. Kinsella for years, and we get along very well. Our association has puzzled more than a few observers, because we think so differently on so many issues. That’s true: I’m right, and he’s wrong - rather, left. Like many other pundits and columnists, we share a mutual interest in areas like politics, history, strategy and communications. Hence, we’ve always been able to find things to talk about rather than wasting time to find things to fight over.
When it comes to conservatives, there’s no question Mr. Kinsella has strong opinions about his rivals. He’s had conservative friends, colleagues, employees – and even married one. He feels conservatives are “fine, as dinner companions or even life companions,” and doesn’t believe they are all “evil,” but they “cannot be trusted with power.” He even vigorously points out significant differences between conservatives and liberals on issues like abortion, the economy, education, gun control, global warming and the war on terror. All of these political descriptions are fine in love, war and politics. It’s part of the way information and misinformation are funneled to the general public.
Alas, Mr. Kinsella often falls into the trap of believing myths about conservatism’s true meaning – and has acquired a skewed vision. For instance, he feels conservatives are good at “masking their intentions … it’s hard to pin them down; it’s hard to see who they truly are.” He subscribes to George Lakoff’s controversial thesis in “The Political Mind“: “In conservative thought, people are born bad - greedy and unscrupulous. To maximize their self-interest, they need to learn discipline, to follow the rules and obey laws. [The system] rewards those who acquire such discipline and punishes those who do not.” While President Obama “may call himself a Democrat,” he has “shown the instincts of a Republican, a conservative.”
Yet the author has learned lessons from conservatives, including Canada’s Conservative government. He respects their success in winning over the electorate “by being smart,” even if the results drive him nuts. In Mr. Kinsella’s view, “conservatives have quite literally burglarized the liberal homestead, and made off with populist values and symbol-laden language. Because, make no mistake: While liberals and progressives slept, conservatives did indeed break in and swipe the recipe to the political secret sauce.”
Hence, Mr. Kinsella wants to “Fight the Right” and bring progressives back to their former glory. He speaks fondly of the days of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and President Bill Clinton, when progressives ruled the roost. He examines successful strategies run by a diverse group of conservatives, including Canadian political consultant Patrick Muttart and U.S. pollster Frank Luntz. He details personal conversations with James Carville, Mike McCurry and even President Gerald Ford to analyze the left-right divide. He has crafted a strategy to revitalize the left.
Will it work? That remains to be seen. However, if Mr. Kinsella’s call to arms in “Fight the Right” succeeds, there will once again be a need to fight the left for the hearts and minds of voters.
Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a columnist with The Washington Times.
FIGHT THE RIGHT: A MANUAL FOR SURVIVING THE COMING CONSERVATIVE APOCALYPSEBy Warren KinsellaRandom House Canada, $22.95, 277 pages