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5.0 out of 5 starsMasterful
Reviewed in the United States on August 6, 2020
Paul Begala masterfully lays out how democrats should campaign in the era of Trump. This book perfectly illustrates every possible coalition and messaging strategy that can be used. I have had the privilege of meeting Mr. Begala and listen to him break down campaign strategy, and I expected nothing less than what this book has to offer.
5.0 out of 5 starsAn Imperfect Guide to Beating Trump — But way ahead of most others
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2020
Paul Begala is down to earth — not an ideologue. That’s refreshing after the Democratic Primary. He does try to cover every angle of every strategy but livens these up with informative anecdotes.
The book’s second greatest strength is Bill Clinton’s First Law of Politics, which Begala admits he forgot to apply in 2016: Elections are about the lives of voters, not about the candidates. He reminds us of this in every chapter, and he’s right to do so.
Surprisingly, the book is full of examples of him forgetting this law, even as he reminds us not to. For example: “In keeping with a central theme of this book: make it about the voters, not Trump. 'He’s only in it for himself.' How’s that for a six-word message?” Nice six-word message — Trump’s only in it for Trump. But how is that not about Trump? It is about Trump and it’s not very effective. He should’ve followed his First Law.
A page later he spells out his message in more detail: “Attack Trump’s image. Portray him as the weakling he is: a spray-tanning, cross-combing, country-clubbing, bone-spurring wussy who wets his pants ...” Not about Trump?! To me, these slips don’t undermine his “central theme,” they just prove how easy it is to forget. You’ll find quite a few slip-ups, and catching them is a great way to learn to apply the First Law of Politics.
The book’s greatest strength is its subtext: Think like Pelosi! He’s completely convincing that she’s a master strategist and sticks to our Democratic principles. This makes it hard for Trump to “caricature her party as a pack of rabid partisans,” a concept he illustrates with Rep. Rashida Tlaib blurting out “We’re gonna impeach this m——f——.”
Begala presents a different strategy in each of 14 chapters, but I would rank three as most essential: Ch. 8. “This Chapter Will Beat Trump” — Trump wants to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. If he’s right that we can make that clear from Trump’s 2020 budget, then this could be the magic bullet. Ch. 9. Healthcare — Trump is out to destroy Obamacare, which is now popular. Defend that along with a public option, which is also now popular. Ch. 2. Corona Virus — Begala gives us a clear and simple list of dreadful mistakes that Trump made, and the damage to voters is obvious.
These give you the flavor of his thinking. Go for kitchen-table issues and tell stories about how they impact swing voters. Chapter 4 shows how we won in 2018 and 2019. This proves there actually are a lot of swing voters and shows that his approach really works.
But Begala does not seem to understand Trump voters. His analysis is almost entirely economic — which shows part of the picture. But you have not understood Trump’s base if you don’t see how driven they are by cultural differences with progressives. That needs to inform our thinking.
A second omission, which may be a good book-selling strategy, is the rift within the Democratic Party. This lies behind his subtext — the book’s greatest strength. But, except for the Pelosi-Tlaib example, he hides this split.
For those interested in an analysis of how the Democrat's rift endangers our chance of following Begala’s “Perfect Guide to Beating Trump,” may I suggest my short, recent book
How Democrats Win: Resisting the Dark Side of Radicalism
The greatest danger to this book is the new complacency about winning that seems to be settling into the Democratic Party. Don’t fall for it. There’s no telling what dirty tricks will be played in the last week or if voter suppression will hand Trump victory on election day. The stronger we are before some calamity happens, the better our chances of survival. Chapter 3, “But Trump Is Different” and Chapter 7, “Banana Republicans” do an excellent job explaining these and related dangers.
Because of these dangers, this book is essential reading for every Democrat.
5.0 out of 5 starsFinally a book that's not just whining and moaning about everything we already know.
Reviewed in the United States on August 11, 2020
One of the hardest things about watching the news, reading Twitter, reading news papers is that the stories of corruption and dishonesty out of the Trump WH are endless and disheartening. Because what are we supposed to do about it? Personally I'm incensed but I already wasn't going to vote for him. This books lines up a very simple strategy, point by point, on how we as the electorate, and Democrats as the candidates, run against Trump. How to steer away from attacking him and instead focus on why his policies are terrible and how they effect our day to day life.
That was the best part for me. The author points out that the Trump Trap is so make all the conversations about him. But if the people who voted for him cared about what body parts he was grabbing, or how inappropriate his conversations with Russia were, or how well he defends white supremecists as "very good people" they would have voted against him or he would have lost support from them by now. That hasn't happened and isn't going to. His supporters simply do not care about these things. Instead we need to point out how his policies hurt rural America. How his policies hurt our long term health, our viability in the world markets. How his policies will do nothing but cost America jobs, not create them. It's a valuable lesson and I loved reading about how to handle those things strategically, not just from a place of despair.
5.0 out of 5 starsPractical, funny & not too wonky
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2020
A timely book, with 40 years of election and policy knowhow. And jokes. And love of country, especially Texas.
A strong case why Trump is a terrible President: lies, selfishness, fondness for dictators, trashing confidence in election integrity despite microscopically small voter fraud, and more lies. But Begala gets why a lot of voters supported Trump. Candidate Trump promised better, cheaper healthcare – “we’re going to have insurance for everybody." But President Trump has no Obamacare replacement, famously saying “nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.”
Candidate Trump promised to “get rid of the swamp.” Begala shows how that’s turned into a record number of lobbyists joining government to “oversee” (do favors for) the industries they came from and will go back to.
Candidate Trump, “I just want to stay in the White House and work.” ““There won’t be time for golfing.” Sounds good right?
Promises made, promises broken. Infrastructure. The wall. The budget deficit and debt. Etc.
This book isn’t dour. It’s easy reading and funny. Begala stresses that Trump is a great communicator. And he gets Democrats’ failure to communicate: they’ve “drifted away from being the party of the factory floor and become more comfortable as the party of the faculty lounge.” Their message is too wordy and talks about position papers and mumbo jumbo and loses people.
Read this if your version of America appreciates the dignity of Bush Sr’s “thousand points of light.” Read this if you agree “Democrats must not be the party of something for nothing.” Read this if you think the Electoral College leads to outcomes that shouldn’t happen, and want a surprisingly doable solution. Read this is you’re tired of an onslaught of things that disturb you and want optimistic ideas to build a better and more unified country.
I want to be able to debate with people. People who might vote against Trump. I want to keep my S.S. ; I want everyone to have health care (that's healthier for me). I don't want to die from Covid-19. So I will finish this very good book and be ready.