To purchase David Horowitz’s new book, Take No Prisoners, click here.
The Republican presidential ticket was animated, with both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan finally ripping President Obama’s foreign policy to shreds. Pity that it happened nearly two years after they were soundly beaten in the 2012 election.
The too-little-way-too-late indictment occurred during a Fox News interview days after Islamic State jihadists decapitated an American journalist. It was a stark departure from the campaign, when so scathing a critique might have made a difference. Take, for example, the third debate between the candidates, a session on foreign affairs. All of America, it seemed, waited for Romney to unload on Obama’s shameful malfeasance before, during and after the then-recent Benghazi massacre. Alas, the Republican standard-bearer decided the winning debate strategy was to permit no daylight between Obama’s approach and his own, the better to focus the election on the economy. Quickly seeing that Romney had no intention of attacking, Obama reverted to the default Democrat strategy of ridiculing his rival as an out-of-touch rich guy who hadn’t heard the Cold War was over and wanted to hunker down in Iraq for a thousand years. Romney, to the contrary, seemed by debate’s end to be on the verge of endorsing Obama, whose foreign policy outpaces even Jimmy Carter’s in sheer destructiveness.
Romney, Ryan and their GOP leadership colleagues might not be the nice guys who finished last if they’d taken a few lessons from David Horowitz in the art of political warfare. Yes, warfare: The exercise in aggression in which the object is to defeat your adversary, not demonstrate how much you admire and have in common with him.
Political warfare is the subject of Mr. Horowitz’s latest book, Take No Prisoners: The Battle Plan for Defeating the Left. It is a particularly fitting topic for the bestselling author – the publisher of FrontPage and president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is, after all, an unparalleled expert in the Left’s tireless and transformative political activism having learned it, lived it, escaped it, and dedicated his career to defeating it.
But warfare? Must it really be so cut-throat? Well, perhaps not … but let’s not kid ourselves. The old saw that “politics ain’t beanbag” predates the modern Left. Today’s timid consultant-class cautions about avoiding political “divisiveness” – the only schooling to which Republicans seem attuned – is nonsensical. Politics is innately divisive. People in a democratic society have vastly different policy preferences, and politics is the process by which we choose. One doesn’t get to govern, to apply policy preferences, without first prevailing in the sharp-elbowed electoral arena. As Horowitz demonstrates, moreover, good policy can be bad politics – the skill sets are different, and while voters may say they want policy that works, they elect candidates who care, or at least give the appearance of caring, even if such treacle translates into ruinous policy.
The inevitable divisiveness of politics has become more akin to warfare because, Horowitz explains, the modern Left is out not merely to defeat but to annihilate its opposition. Today’s Democrats have transformed the proudly pro-American party of Cold Warrior John F. Kennedy into the post-American party of the radical, antiwar, anti-captitalist and anti-Constitutional Left. It is not so much a political party as a missionary movement suffuse with apocalyptic zeal. It does not have opponents; it has enemies. Its grandiose aim is to elevate government as the “social savior,” transcending human history and experience, transmogrifying the United States into a remorselessly egalitarian society based on forced equality of results, not vibrant equality of opportunity.
For the Left, those who stand athwart their utopia rate not reasoned opposition but seething contempt. Democrats blithely portray Republicans in bracing terms: racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, greedy villains – defenders of the parasitic “top one percent” who luxuriate on the backs of decent working people.
Republicans are ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught because its driving convictions lie outside their worldview. Guided by history and experience, they are all too conscious of human failing, very much including their own. They are skeptical of grand schemes to perfect our nature, particularly those orchestrated through the notoriously imperfect vehicle of government. And their basic assumptions about caring – steeped in self-sufficiency and personal responsibility – do not sound-bite nearly as well as extravagant promises to provide for your needs by spending other people’s money.
We are left, then, with a serious passion gap. Republicans depict Democrats as wrong; Democrats decry Republicans as evil. Republicans deconstruct Democratic policy as well-meaning but misguided or “liberal”; Democrats counter that their mean-spirited opponents are the oppressors of women, children, minorities, the poor, and the environment.
In warfare, Horowitz observes, you cannot win “when the other side is using bazookas and your side is wielding fly swatters.” If they are to be viable competitors, Republicans must regard politics as warfare because that is what the opposition is doing. Horowitz explains that for the Left, “the issue is never the issue”; each controversy that arises, each crisis that is manufactured, is fit into an overarching narrative, like the “war on women,” based on its serviceability to “the socialist future and the revolution” by which it is being ushered in.
The narrative is designed not so much to win the day as to drive this transformative agenda. A good-and-evil narrative needs a scoundrel – recall the most infamous of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” To gin up the hostility necessary for such a campaign, an abstraction will not do. Best to have a flesh-and-blood enemy that can more realistically be cast as a threat to society. That is the role of the Republicans, one they often seem only too willing to play.
Horowitz contends that Republicans must fight fire with fire. Importantly, he is not suggesting that the GOP should slander its opposition with lies. That, in fact, is the power of his argument. Horowitz wants Republicans to throw at the Left the abysmal failures of a half-century’s social welfare policies, and to do it with righteous passion, not apology.
Horowitz elaborates that this is crucial because the “racial Teflon is the reason Republicans lose elections.” Even though it foolishly narrowed the campaign to the economy – to the exclusion of national security, a defining issue in nearly every presidential election won by Republicans since 1952 – the Romney campaign still had a very strong case in light of Obama’s non-recovery, 23 million jobless, and millions more underemployed. Yet much of the voting public never heard the case: Democrats spent $200 million on a television ad campaign that smeared the candidate as a rich, heartless, untrustworthy job-destroyer who was cruel to his dog.
The consultant-driven campaign did not respond in kind despite the fact that a true response was ready to hand. As Horowitz puts it:
Obama is undoubtedly the most obvious and determined liar in presidential history. He is an absentee executive, notably missing in crisis after crisis or busy complaining he was uninformed about matters of crucial concern. While Egypt and Syria burned, he golfed and attended campaign fund-raising events. His endless dithering, misguided interventions, and steadfast support of the Muslim Brotherhood helped to set the Middle East aflame. Meanwhile, he and his wife carry on like royalty, consuming tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on their family vacations and dog, while tens of millions of Americans suffer historic levels of deprivation because of his policies.
Cutting to the chase, Horowitz observes that Republicans were petrified to paint this portrait of Obama because he is black – or, more accurately, half-black and staunchly leftist. In our hyper race-conscious political environment, this qualifies him as a man “of color,” insulated from the “standard to which others are held.” To break through this paralyzing political correctness, Republicans must not be afraid to show that the poor and minority groups are the victims – the human face – of Democratic programs that cheat them out of education, employment opportunity, quality healthcare, security, and stable families.
Horowitz upbraids Republicans for tepidly describing these programs “wasteful,” or sugar-coating them in a wrong-headed and self-defeating concession of the Democrats’ noble intentions. Instead, they are “morally repulsive, life-destroying programs that are inhumane and unjust,” and must be attacked as such. And attacked with real-life images of blight, such as once great American cities like Detroit – a global industrial jewel in living memory, but half of whose population (i.e., over a million people) has now abandoned the wreckage wrought by generations of exclusively Democratic rule.
Modern politics, the author counsels, is about inspiring fear as well as hope. And it is an art of war in which the aggressor usually prevails. Thus, if the opposition’s objectives will imperil the nation, it is essential to convince the public that they are to be feared. Hope can work, as it did for the 2008 Obama campaign, “but fear,” Horowitz writes, “is a stronger and more compelling emotion.”
As we are seeing day after day, Obama and his allies are to be feared. Will that be enough for the Beltway GOP and the grassroots conservatives of the Tea Party to concentrate on what unites rather than divides them? As the author admonishes, it better be. An America that is free, secure, and a positive, decisive leader on the world stage – the America that David Horowitz fights for – hangs in the balance.
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