01.08.2013 08:39 AM

Fight The Right reviewed in Washington Times: “of vital importance”

How the left fights the right
The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Mon Jan 7 2013
Page: B4
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.






  1. GPAlta says:

    I regret that I haven’t read the book yet, but since the review discusses differences between Conservatives and Liberals, here’s my preferred way of telling them apart.

    People who are truly conservative, even if they are trying to hide it, seem to me to have great difficulty in identifying who has the power in any given situation.

    They are always most afraid of the most powerless- look at their views on Palestinians, Iran, immigrants, women in need of an abortion, children in poverty, people on welfare, prisoners, and of course First Nations. Conservatives are deathly afraid of people who completely lack any means to harm them, and I don’t think that it is because of their fear of losing their ivory towers, because there are conservatives in every social class.

    The money that is behind the movement is definitely more evil than it is conservative, just seeking advancement of the oil, firearms, or private prison industries, but the voters are motivated by irrational misunderstanding of power dynamics. I feel that there must be some way to exploit this weakness of their to take back the government.

  2. John Matheson says:

    Once you start talking about ‘exploiting weaknesses’ you descend to their level, and they will always out-shout you, out-advertise you, out-Tweet you, and out-organize you.

    I move in many political circles and have found that labeling people based on what political party they currently support is microbial thinking. If you are in Alberta provincial politics and you want to Fight the Right, you might be a Progressive Conservative. In Ontario you might be a Liberal, and in Quebec you might be Pequiste. Or even NDP. Even within the provinces of Canada, you have to align yourself differently depending on what you wanted to do and what province you were in.

    The minute that you say that all people in political grouping X are Y, I have got you by the throat.

  3. Pipes says:

    Wow man, I am not sure which one you are going to get first-the Pulitzer Prize or a Grammy:)

  4. Reuben says:

    Fight the Right is an excellent book that reveals the nature of Canadian conservatism, which is equivalent to knowing the enemy.

    The burning question is why don’t Liberals know themselves and define where they stand; on the left or in the mushy middle that has been obliterated by crafty conservative Stephen Harper? Liberals are in a Twilight Zone with no light coming from the end of the tunnel.

    Perhaps conservative Harper is better at knowing his Liberal enemy and knowing his extremist Conservative right, and will thus always win, according to Sun Zsu.

  5. Blogged in Berlin says:

    Any upcoming events in Toronto? This week or next?

  6. Freddie says:

    Warren, you’ve defined the enemy in Fight the Right, but will you now write another book defining the liberal left in Canada. It seems the NDP and Liberal parties are flailing about and even set to fight each other in the next election. A house divided cannot stand nor win an election.

  7. Vankleek Hill says:

    I haven’t read your book Warren, so I can’t comment on it directly…. But I think a problem the Liberals and liberals have, is perhaps, over-blowing things….. Is Canada less liberal then it was since Harper took power? No, it isn’t. People see that. So when you portray Harper as the second coming of Adolph Hitler, people roll their eyes…… Gay Marriage? Abortion? Huh, still there, legal, and widely accepted…. Liberals need to come up with a platform that reads the 21st Century Canadian public. My $0.02? Socially liberal, and fiscally conservative. What the Chretien Libs were. Stop being the NDP.

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