Published on TheHill.com
For too long, conservatives and independents have let themselves be bound by any number of Saul Alinsky’s twelve “Rules For Radicals,” and the coming election requires that we learn to break them well.
A canon we must understand is not one of the fabled twelve, but a corollary of Rule Four (“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”) and Rule Twelve (“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.”), and it goes something like this: No matter what the issue, insist that conservatives and independents be fair.
And what does “fair” mean in Alinsky world? Conservatives must admit that criticisms by liberals about our philosophy/party/position/candidate are to a degree correct. So, what’s ’s wrong with this definition of “fair”? In politics, almost everything. Why? Because liberal media reps rarely give oxygen to anything critical about their side. If they do, it’s about something inconsequential, and only so they can insist that we be “fair” by acknowledging their critiques of us.
Let’s illustrate: In recent weeks, liberal news outlets—print, network, cable—have been rife with stories taking shots at the Clinton and Bush Brands, and conservative outlets have joined in. Practically speaking, liberal media reps, being “fair,” have smudged Hillary but slightly (never Bill), while doing their utmost to smear the Bush name and let it all splash on Jeb. This writer is no Jeb Bush apologist, but application of the corollary is becoming annoyingly obvious, and conservatives need to wise up. By appearing to be impartial in their one-sided dissection, liberals have managed to draw in conservatives, who, to be “fair,” have accepted views that GHWB was just an ineffective rich guy who raised taxes and GWB was a “disaster” for going into Iraq. So, why would we want another Bush, everyone now demands in unison.
Most historians might agree that GHWB was one of the most decent and honest world-diplomats as president we’ve yet had, while GWB actually looked after U.S. interests, and Jeb hasn’t done anything except serve as an effective governor of a major state. Yet, we listen to a chorus of, “Enough with the Bush Brand!” Wouldn’t most of us now give a great deal to have any Bush guiding our foreign policy and dealing with ISIS in lieu of Obama’s fiascoes?
With the Clintons—and they must be paired as lawyers, businesspeople, and politicians—we get Whitewater, Bimbogate at the state and federal levels, HillaryCare, the Lincoln Bedroom sales, Ed Mezvinsky, the Marc Rich pardon, Benghazi (“What difference does it make, anyway?”), foreign money donations, email security self-dealing—just to hit the lowlights. No liberal outlet mentions any of these CV blotches, and neither do they highlight Mrs. Clinton’s storied lack of campaign prowess.
Despite the liberal media’s lover affair with the Clintons, Hillary’s serial ineptitude may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of a pre-anointed victory. If so, the Left will have accomplished its primary objective: eliminate a principal opponent and bet on right-wing squabbling to firm up a left-wing election win in 2016.
Conservatives must refuse to be engaged by the Alinsky playbook, but make the Left lose on the high ground of good ideas. Our Rule One: Refuse to be “fair” using the rubric of the Left, but rely on universal truths, honesty, and objectivity to make our points. Two: Be ready to take a slice or two if you can’t get the whole loaf; if we bake the bread well, people will hunger for what we offer. Above all, there’s Rule Three: Abide by Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment for Republicans: engage in robust debate but critique only the position, never the person. We need to march together even if we don’t sing our song in the same key.
Warren is an author, observer, and commentator writing from western Pennsylvania's Amish country.