The Ten Commandments of Partisan Warfare
From Chapter 4: "Basic Training"
Here is your guide to becoming a model partisan.
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
A long-winded, nuanced, complex argument is a guaranteed ticket to disaster. Just ask John Kerry or Al Gore or Michael Dukakis. To be effective, you need to be able to fit your basic message on a bumper sticker.
2. PERSONALIZE THE ISSUE
Don’t talk about issues in an abstract way. Persuade by talking in terms of how issues affect people, relate your own experiences, and highlight your opponent’s self-interest (e.g., show them how Republican policies mean more money in their pocket, more personal freedom, and more jokes from the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, at the expense of Republicans).
3. FRAME THE ARGUMENT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Make your case by presenting each issue according to your own beliefs and values, not theirs. Never, for example, let a sanctimonious liberal elitist lecture you about values or the meaning of tolerance. If you let them frame the debate, they win.
4. FIND COMMON GROUND
Build your street cred with liberals by badmouthing a despised conservative—say, Ann Coulter or Pat Robertson. That way you’ll defy stereotypes and demonstrate that your allegiances are not blind. Continue to rope them in by appealing to shared values and common interests before unleashing your Trojan horse–style sneak attack.
5. EXPOSE HYPOCRISY
Nothing undermines an argument faster than exposing hypocritical behavior, contradictory statements, and wholesale fakery—either on the part of your opponents or the politicians they’re defending. There are few sights as satisfying as watching exposed hypocrites grasp at fig leaves to cover their shame.
6. EXUDE CONFIDENCE
Always project the courage of your convictions. Like bees and dogs, your opponent can smell fear and weakness. How you say something is just as important as what you say.
7. DON’T SERMONIZE
No one likes to be lectured to, and no one likes a self-righteous windbag. Ranting from atop your soapbox will only harden your opponent’s position and make him or her more hostile. If you’ve made an enemy, you haven’t won an argument.
8. MAKE YOUR OPPONENT LAUGH
Humor can be a potent weapon in political debate. Making humorous observations—and demonstrating an ability to laugh at yourself—will help disarm your opponents and keep them engaged. If funny isn’t your thing, quote professional quipsters like Dennis Miller or unintentional comedians like Howard Dean.
9. BE OPEN-MINDED
It’s the civility, stupid. Be prepared to listen respectfully and concede a point or two before moving in for the kill. You can learn a lot from people with whom you disagree—even those you believe to be outrageously misguided—and fine-tune your arguments in the process.
10. PICK BATTLES YOU CAN WIN
Don’t expend too much energy trying to win over a
staunch liberal. You’d have better luck trying to coax
a rock to grow. Target the fence-sitters and the more
easily converted. It’s a strategy that has worked for
religious missionaries for centuries, and it can work
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