Ten pages into David Horowitz’s new book Take No Prisoners: The Battleplan for Defeating the Left (Regnery, 2014), I realize putting dog-ears on pages with important quotes for this review is hopeless. I’ve placed a dog-ear on every page. By the end, the whole book might be dog-eared.
If there was a single book to add to the swag-bag for the attendees at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Take No Prisoners is the book. Not only is the book helpful in understanding the modern political battlespace, as Horowitz makes clear throughout, the delegates who will be in Cleveland are sorely in need of help.
Many still think elections are won or lost because one side has better ideas than the other. Election losers convinced that they had better ideas harbor all sorts of excuses for their loss — the media, economic earthquakes, silly character attacks.
Recall in 2012 the relentless and unopposed effort to define Mitt Romney as beholden to the richest of the rich, out of touch with most Americans. Republicans delivered wet noodle complaints that the attacks were “class warfare” and “divisive.” Horowitz:
These were weak and whiny responses, all too familiar from previous Republican campaigns. Common to both was failure to address the specific charges . . . The term “class warfare” is a polite way of discussing a real problem, namely leftist agendas in national politics. But politeness protects others – in this case, opponents who are busy defaming you as mean spirited and selfish. . . it fails to hold your adversaries accountable for what they have actually done and are likely to continue doing if elected.
And what of the zinger that Obama was “divisive?” Horowitz:
Complaining about “divisive politics” is not only futile, it is incomprehensible. Elections are by nature divisive. They are competitions between winners and losers. They are about defeating opponents. Why wouldn’t they be divisive??
The strongest part of Take No Prisoners, is how Horowitz matches his skill as a word-smith with real campaign choices. Every Horowitz book is characterized by brilliant writing, and sharp word choices. Take No Prisoners is about how Republicans have dropped the ball on writing the national narrative, and how they can get it back by crafting words and tactics that counter the left’s mastery of the process.
Many in the GOP and conservative movement might not like the taste of Horowitz’s medicine. A party raised on the primacy of ideas and policies will feel uncomfortable with the smashmouth suggestions in Take No Prisoners. I’ve heard the complaints — ‘we don’t want to become them’ — a complaint more convenient when the threats to liberty were less advanced. It’s also a complaint that misses the mark as a matter of fact:
Behind Republican failures at the ballot box is an attitude that reflects an administrative rather than political approach to election campaigns. Republicans focus on policy proposals rather than electoral combat and the threat posed by their opponents. Administrative politicians are more comfortable with budgets and pie-charts than with the flesh and blood victims of their opponent’s policies and ideas. When Republicans do appeal to the victims of Democrat’s policies, those victims are frequently small business owners and other job creators – people who in the eyes of most Americans are rich.
At the root of this strategic mistake is the belief among many Republicans that the two parties still share the same goals, but have divergent ways to get there. News flash: Democrats like John F. Kennedy and Scoop Jackson no longer exist. The Democrats have been taken over by messianic progressives seeking to craft the world in their own image. “Republicans do not hope to change the world. They are too mindful of the human catastrophes that have been brought about by those who do,” the former Communist Horowitz writes because he knows it all too well.
As a result of this attitude, conservative’s emotions are not inflamed as progressives’ are when confronting those with whom they disagree. The conservative instinct is to search for common ground and to arrive at practical measures to address public problems. That is why they take a lot of time explaining to voters how their proposals might work. But by the time they reach them, many voters are not listening.
This may be the central dividing line between the establishment and the Tea Party — a division Horowitz notes is more a question of tactics than goals.
I regularly encounter this aversion to the fight, despite the fact I receive emails and expressions of thanks from lawyers across Holder’s Justice Department. Lawyers trapped inside DOJ are filled with gratitude that I (and a few others) aggressively shine a light on Holder’s misbehavior and radicalism. Some GOP alumni of the DOJ grumble that it hurts the institution or goes too far. But the good people still trapped inside a radicalized Justice Department, who see the disappearance of standards which governed the place for decades, are thankful. Even leaders of the Department of Justice during the age of Reagan are on the side of sunshine, not in the camp of those giving Eric Holder quarter. Horowitz didn’t name his book Take no Prisoners by accident.
Horowitz’s prescription: 1) Put the aggressors on defense. 2) Throw their victims in their faces. 3) Start the campaign now because they already have.
Horowitz dissects the left’s machine — not just the electoral tactics from the 2012 election and the inadequate GOP response, but the interplay between narrative, words, tactics, and ultimately questions involving race.