Matt's Blog
...religion, politics, and other things you should never discuss at bars (but probably do anyways).
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I haven't read the book. But this came in e-mail form and I thought I'd share...

Carville's Ten Rules for Progressives to Live By

1. Stop Apologizing for Everything. You are a member of the party that beat the Depression, won two world wars, cut elderly poverty by two-thirds, and is responsible for the greatest periods of economic growth since World War II. Democrats wake up and start looking for someone to apologize to. Stop it. You've got nothing to apologize for.

2. Quit Conceding That the Other Side Has a Point. I taught school for a little while, and guess what? There is such a thing as a stupid question. The same goes for opinions. Not everyone has a valid point. The next time a right-wing nut tells you that the Bush plan gives the poor a lot of incentive to get rich, don't say, "Well, you've got a point." They don't have a point. What they're saying is stupid. Sometimes a mind is like a mouth: you just got to shut it.

3. Be Big: Think only of, and talk only about, big things. When I advise candidates, I tell them it is okay to have an opinion on everything, it is just not okay to render said opinion on everything. I may favor a transgender amendment. But if I were running for president, I would not make that part of my core platform of ideas.

4. Be Positive. I grew up in the town of Carville, Louisiana—so named because my family provided the town with its most indispensable federal employee, its postmaster. When I was growing up, my daddy convinced me that I was living in the best place in the world. He always made sure I remembered that we had the best climate, the best people, the best family, the best soil, the best peaches—the best everything. “Of any place that you could live in the world,” he’d tell me, “you’re living right here in Carville, Louisiana.” Man, I thought it was the garden spot of the universe. Did I know that there were places where the heat index wasn’t a hundred gazillion on an August day? No. Did I know that there was a Broadway or a Michigan Avenue or a Rodeo Drive? No. And I didn’t give a damn. Progressives are genetically inclined to talk about how bad things are. We’d rather be the skunk than enjoy the garden party. We need to be able to see the good—and make a case for making it better. In short, we need more of my daddy’s Carville attitude in Washington and less of our liberal activist carping one.

5. Use Their Weapons Against Them. Republicans love to talk about right and wrong. They do so with an absolutely religious fervor—and that makes sense because more than a small number of them use their religion as a justification for their policies. If they’re going to do that, it’s fair for us to ask questions like “Is cutting funds for the schools that educate the kids of the people fighting for us in Iraq a bad, stupid right-wing policy, or is it an affront to God?” “Is rolling back clean water protections so your rich contributors can blight the environment bad policy, or is it a sin for which you can burn in hell?”

6. Attack Their Lack of True Patriotism. There are actually some people who will buy a used car from the dealer with the biggest flag. He’s usually the guy with the biggest mouth, too. The same goes for politics. We shouldn’t look for the biggest flag or listen to the biggest mouth—we should look for the real patriots, the ones who are willing to tell the truth and make America stronger. It is completely antithetical to the American ideal of generational promise to burden future generations with a massive amount of debt. Every American child has heard the story from his or her parents or grandparents about how they worked hard to make things better for the next generation. They struggled to be the first in their family to finish high school, so that the next generation could be the first to finish college, so that the next could be the first to finish graduate school. And whether our family came here on the Mayflower in 1620 or from Manila in 2003, we all share the belief that America is not just a good place today, but is going to be a better place tomorrow. Republicans have destroyed that. Being an American, honoring the flag, is much more than some trumped-up staged landing on an aircraft carrier. Just having a lot of red, white, and blue bunting at your convention isn’t patriotic. Their lack of understanding of what this country is really about demonstrates a total lack of patriotism. We need to call them out on it.

7. Never Just Oppose, Always Propose. I can tell you with absolute certainty that back in 680 B.C., the first sentence of the first speech in the first campaign of the first Athenian running for City-State Council was this: This election presents a choice. Every election is a choice, and as progressives, our goal must be to ensure that the choice isn’t between bad and nothing; the choice needs to be between bad and good. We progressives need to define our vision of America, not just react to the right wing’s vision of America. We don’t like the America they want to build, we need to show Americans something better.

8. Don’t Let the Little Crap Get in the Way of the Big Shit. You have to pardon my language, but I just don’t know a better way of saying it. As progressives we need to do more than fight symbolic battles, we need to be driving toward a larger goal. For example, the big shit is energy independence. The little crap is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I once asked a friend of mine who was very active in the environmental movement, “Would you trade off a fuel standard that freed us from Middle Eastern oil for drilling in ANWR?” He said no. To me, that’s an example of the little crap getting in the way of the big shit. Would you trade off late-term abortions for universal health care? To me, the great gain of universal health care is far more important than the largely symbolic battle over a little-used procedure. Don’t get me wrong; symbolic fights are periodically worth fighting. I have nothing against them, and I’m not saying we should abandon our principles. What I’m saying is that we should be willing to make trade-offs to advance them.

9. Sometimes You’ve Got to Be Willing to Fight. Period. Why is it that Democrats were calling on Al Gore to concede the election when no Republicans called on George Bush to concede? Why didn’t we want to fight as badly as they did? Why didn’t we call on Bush to concede? Because our nature is not to be tough. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. American will never trust a party to defend American that fails to defend itself.

10. Stop Brown-nosing the Elites. I believe that in the 180 days prior to any election, candidates should be required to stay away from cocktail parties, dinner parties, or any social event that occurs in the following areas:

-Spring Valley
-Old Town Alexandria (where Mary and I live)
-Chevy Chase …
… and other bastions of stupidity inside the Washington Beltway.

[On the following page, Carville provides a helpful map of the Beltway.]

One of the reasons Tom DeLay is so successful is that he doesn’t give a damn what any people in any of these neighborhoods think. Democrats tend to become completely paralyzed by it. I can’t tell you the number of times in a Democratic meeting where someone says that such-and-such was said at so-and-so’s dinner party, and that the deputy assistant to the associate editorial page editor at The Washington Post rolled her eyes. Everybody freaks out. For reasons not completely understandable to me, the effect is far greater on Democrats than on Republicans. This is a disease we must cure ourselves of.

God writes a lot of comedy...
the trouble is,
he's stuck with so
many bad actors
who don't know how
to play funny.

-Garrison Keillor


archive index