The Republican road to 2016? Nov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By MAX EDEN
After Barack Obama’s reelection, the Republicans went through the familiar soul-searching motions. If they had only been true to their conservative principles, they would have won the argument, and thus the election. Or maybe if they had moderated here and there, they would have swayed more independents. Maybe their policy platform was too radical. Maybe it was too stale. The postmortems covered nearly every angle, but according to David Horowitz, they were all beside the point: Republicans lost because they didn’t fight like Democrats, and in Take No Prisoners, he proposes to teach them how.
To Horowitz, the most significant structural disadvantage Republicans face is ultimately rooted in ideology. The left believes that it can fundamentally reshape society and that anyone standing in the way must be against all that is good and just. The right harbors no such delusions of grandeur: It has more modest expectations from politics and takes disagreements to be good-faith attempts to arrive at the better policy. So when a Republican tries to explain the merits of his policy proposal, a Democrat will neutralize his argument every time by accusing him of greed, cruelty, or bad faith.
When a Democrat goes on the offensive, however, the Republican retort is invariably insipid and unpersuasive. Democrats say, “The Republicans are defending the rich at your expense.” Republicans respond, “The Democrats are trying to divide us.” Democrats accuse Republicans of being anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-minority; Republicans, if they are bold, say that Democrats are liberal. Republicans offer policy points or political theory; Democrats drape themselves in moral authority. Unless they break out of this mold, Republicans face bleak prospects.
The way to win, according to Horowitz, is to take the offensive, to “turn their guns around. Fight fire with fire.” So far, so good. But by flipping the script too literally, Take No Prisoners sometimes falls short as a useful guide. Consider its advice on foreign policy. Historically, Republicans have had the advantage on national security issues, but they lost the high ground in Iraq when Democratic senators (such as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton) turned against the war they had voted for. It became common currency on the left that the Bush administration “lied” while bringing America into war against Saddam Hussein. To turn the tables, according to Horowitz, Republicans should point out that Barack Obama “invaded Libya . . . unilaterally” and “lied about the cause.” Yet while Libya was certainly more than a “kinetic military action,” it was less than an invasion. The problem with President Obama’s foreign policy is not that he’s too unilateral but that he thinks he can lead from behind.
Horowitz devotes the most space to explaining how Republicans can go on the offensive on domestic issues. He’s on firmer ground here. Democrats have enjoyed one-party control of most major cities for the past half-century. So, Horowitz suggests, Republicans should make a moral case study out of places like Detroit: Put faces on the millions of schoolchildren trapped in failing schools by the alliance of teachers’ unions and Democratic politicians. Instead of criticizing welfare spending as “wasteful,” attack it as contributing to “morally repulsive, life-destroying programs that are inhuman and unjust.”
Are there land mines in this approach? The press is ready to use the thinnest pretense to portray Republicans as elitist or racist. “In a culture whose symbols have been defined by liberals,” Horowitz advised, “be careful when you go on the offensive.” It may well be impossible for Republicans to showcase the victims of liberal policies without implicitly condemning those victims. And while Horowitz’s prescription may not always pass the Hippocratic test, his diagnosis is sound: Republicans should set the terms and take the offensive; but rather than relitigate how Mitt Romney should have campaigned for the presidency, or try to flip timeworn Democratic tropes, Republicans should develop tropes of their own, specially designed for their likely opponents in 2016.
A Republican strategist would be well-advised to pair Take No Prisoners with Joel Kotkin’s newly released The New Class Conflict. Kotkin argues that the true class war is between the working class on one side, and the alliance of what he calls the Clerisy (media and government elites) and Oligarchs (tech billionaires) on the other. It would be interesting to see Republicans take up the cause of the oppressed against a self-interested, self-righteous elite. But to do that effectively, they’ll have to pick their targets with considerable prudence.
Max Eden is a research associate at the American Enterprise Institute.
How the Cold War was fought in the salons and on the sidewalksNov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By MALCOLM FORBES
In 2012, The Columnist, a play based on the life of Joseph Alsop, opened on Broadway. In their reviews, critics felt compelled to explain to readers who the main character was. One described him as “a once-feared political pundit,” another as “the most powerful journalist that everyone’s forgotten.”
What, if anything, can be done to save the family? Oct 27, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 07 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
You can tell a lot about a society by its taboos. Several weeks ago, America reeled when Adrian Peterson—the great NFL running back of his generation—was indicted on charges of “reckless or negligent injury to a child.” Peterson is alleged to have disciplined his son by “whooping” him—these are Peterson’s words, not mine—with a “switch.” The child, a 4-year-old boy, suffered cuts on his backside and thighs.
What Shakespeare saw in Montaigne’s reflectionsOct 27, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 07 • By DANNY HEITMAN
Although he’s revered as a great classic writer, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) is an author we read because we want to, not because we have to. He’s intimate, erudite, chatty, and expansive—qualities well suited to the peculiar genre he essentially created. While puttering around his tower library in 16th-century France, Montaigne crafted conversational observations into familiar prose, inventing the personal essay as a new literary form.
Winning and losing, and whether to play the gameOct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By MICHAEL NELSON
Concussions that lead to degenerative brain disease. Domestic violence committed by oversized men against women and young children. Rampant use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Bullying of the crudest sort.
The second act in the drama of Clare Boothe LuceOct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By AMY HENDERSON
With this second, and concluding, volume of her biography of Clare Boothe Luce, Sylvia Jukes Morris completes the tantalizing saga of a woman who helped define the “pushy broad” in a century when men made the rules and women made the coffee. The result is an impeccably researched and thoughtfully written epic that crackles with the energy that defined her subject.
Exploring moral dilemmas on the good ship McEwanOct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By GRAHAM HILLARD
In his brief and fascinating essay “Subversion: Teaching a Blue Novel in a Red State” (2006), Professor Jesse Kavadlo identifies a shift in our cultural attitude toward the subversive—particularly among those stationed in the academy. In the 1950s, Kavadlo writes,
When it comes to error, machines are only human.Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By MARK BAUERLEIN
On a cold February night in 2009, a turboprop commuter plane out of Newark was only a few miles from Buffalo when the “stick shaker” suddenly triggered. The plane had slowed to 135 knots after the crew had lowered the landing gear and extended the flaps, and the plane threatened to enter an aerodynamic stall. (That’s not when engines stop working, but when the wings cannot maintain lift.)
The unintended consequences of reading George EliotSep 22, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 02 • By JAMES BOWMAN
Let’s face it. Should Rebecca Mead, a New Yorker staff writer, offer us her mere, unadorned autobiography as something to pack along with our pail and shovel as a good beach read, she might risk the odd sarcastic comment from a friend or accusations of presumption or arrogance from those less well-disposed toward her. And yet, she’s proud of her life and has the professional writer’s urge to share.
Facing the unexpected, and inexplicableSep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By PETER WEHNER
Bret Baier, host of the popular Fox News program Special Report with Bret Baier and an accomplished journalist at a young age, has an interesting professional story to tell. And in Special Heart he tells it, if only in a few chapters. Born in New Jersey and raised in Atlanta, Baier attended DePauw and from there, worked at local stations in Hilton Head, Rockford, Raleigh, and Atlanta.
The Dane who perfected the art of enchantmentSep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By EDWIN M. YODER JR.
What’s not to admire bout the Danes, a people honored for their rescue of endangered Jews in World War II and an astonishing linguistic facility?
Doth this ex-Ivy Leaguer protest too much?Sep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By WILLIAM H. PRITCHARD
It's polemical title leaves us in no doubt of what to expect from this book. William Deresiewicz has written a passionate attack on everything that’s wrong with today’s elite universities and colleges and the credentialed students who attend them. He terms it “a letter to my twenty-year-old self,” who would have benefited from hearing about such matters.
Sherlock Holmes and the case of the serial chucklerSep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By JOE QUEENAN
It is always strange to stumble upon seemingly modern turns of phrase in books that are quite old. It proves that catchphrases and colorful expressions believed to have entered the vernacular in recent times have actually been around for decades, even centuries. What’s more, they often originated in places one would not expect: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, for example.
The fault, dear moviegoers, is not in our starsSep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By SONNY BUNCH
The multiplex in the age of brands—an era of sequels and prequels, of movies derived from comic books and board games, of repackaged and repurposed “intellectual property” that comes with “high pre-awareness” and appeals to “all four quadrants”—isn’t the friendliest place for movie stars.
The sun never set on Winston Churchill’s allegianceSep 8, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 48 • By ROBERT WARGAS
"Imperialist” is a dirty word, one of many clubs with which to beat one’s opponents beyond the margins of society. And it is too easy to forget, in our solipsistic age, that the language of empire once aroused pride and dignity rather than guilt and shame. Lawrence James, a historian of unusual fairness, is in masterful form with this study of Winston Churchill’s adoration for (and service to) the British Empire.