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Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future
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Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future

by James Carville, Paul Begala
By being too timid and too weak, too hesitant and too confused, Democrats have allowed Republicans to run amok.

Republicans today control everything: the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the federal bureaucracy, the military, and the corporate special interests and their lobbyists. They operate powerful right-wing organizations, right-wing think tanks


By being too timid and too weak, too hesitant and too confused, Democrats have allowed Republicans to run amok.

Republicans today control everything: the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the federal bureaucracy, the military, and the corporate special interests and their lobbyists. They operate powerful right-wing organizations, right-wing think tanks, and a conservative media that serves as an attack dog against Democrats.

Republicans have used their absolute power to corrupt our democracy, degrade our military, weaken our health care system, diminish our stature in the world, damage our environment, reward the rich, hammer the poor, squeeze the middle class, bankrupt our Treasury, and indenture our children to foreign debt holders.

In this important book, James Carville and Paul Begala show Democrats how they can take it back. They offer a clear-eyed critique of their party's failures and make specific, concrete recommendations on how Democrats can avoid losing elections on divisive issues such as abortion, gun control, gay rights, and moral values and start winning them on health care, political reform, energy, the environment, tax reform, and more.

Carville and Begala say that liberal Democrats are right that too many establishment Democrats kowtow to corporate interests and shamefully supported George W. Bush's rush to war. And moderate Democrats are right to complain that too many Democrats are out of step with middle-class values, too removed from people of faith, too enthralled with intellectual and cultural elites.

But the problem with the Democrats, Carville and Begala argue, is not ideological. It's anatomical. They lack a backbone. Take It Back is a spinal transplant for Democrats and an audacious battle plan for victory.

Editorial Reviews

Peter Beinart
Carville and Begala don't name names, but they are smart, funny and ruthless in dissecting the mistakes and idiocies of the Democratic campaigns of 2000, 2002 and 2004. The book is most convincing when it is most elitist—a kind of "why can't anyone play this game" attack on the Democratic Party's inability to find strategists as talented as they are…The best thing about Take It Back is its smart tips for how to update the strategy they employed so winningly in 1992 for 2008 and beyond. But the most telling thing…is its unwillingness to argue frankly for such a strategy—because doing so would lead them into conflict with the increasingly powerful party activists who see the Clinton model as obsolete or worse. Carville and Begala may think they are the ones doing the co-opting, but the truth may be closer to the reverse.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Finally, distraught and disenfranchised people have an audiobook that doesn't just bash Republican corruption and Democratic ineptitude, but addresses the serious problems facing the Democratic Party. What's more, Carville and Begala provide key insights on how to remedy the situation, something most of their contemporaries have yet to do. They strip each issue bare and look at the realistic choices the Democrats face. Continually reemphasizing the devastation of Republican economics, this duo shows how to reframe arguments and topics, so often thought to be Republican-dominated, such as religion, morality and war. Carville reads the introduction, explaining that this audiobook is the ultimate do-it-yourself guide for saving the Democratic Party. Though decent, his voice doesn't prove as engaging as Begala's, for the rest of the book. Begala's energy and mastery of the text makes him the more versatile. His emphasis proves key, as he must sometimes discuss complicated issues in an expedient but clear voice. He makes a sincere effort to keep his listeners following the points he and Carville want to make. Despite their obvious dismay and disappointment at the current state of politics, Begala maintains a jovial tone and an almost childlike excitement in his voice as he progresses through this book. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (reviewed online). (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"Americans don't like what Republicans stand for, but they don't know what Democrats stand for," say Bill Clinton's former advisors Carville and Begala (Buck Up, Suck Up and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room). This book is their prescription for Democrats to fight the Republican campaigns that define them as tax-and-spend elitists with no plans for correcting America's problems. Among the issues the authors discuss are abortion, moral values, gun control, national security, energy independence, effective use of the media, and tax reform. They define the popular misperceptions of Democratic positions on these issues, and then offer strong advice for correcting the image. They offer an especially bold and radical vision for campaign finance reform. In entertaining and irreverent style, they implore Democrats to take the gloves off and be more aggressive in confronting and criticizing the Republicans. They offer five imperatives they believe will define Democrats as "Progressive Patriots": reject the Bush-era ethic of selfishness, rebuild the military, reclaim self-government, negotiate a truce in the culture wars in this country, and promote and stand for bold, big ideas. Readers who have enjoyed the authors' brash, in-your-face style on programs like Crossfire and Meet the Press will appreciate this book. Recommended for most public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/05.]-Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Take It Back

Our Party, Our Country, Our Future
By James Carville

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2006 James Carville
All right reserved.

ISBN: 074327752X


Lord Acton was right.

The British historian and philosopher of the late nineteenth century is most famous for his observation that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The Republicans in Washington today have absolute power. They control the White House. They control the Senate. They control the House. They control the federal bureaucracy. They control the military. They control the federal judiciary. They control the money of corporate special interests. They control powerful right-wing grassroots organizations. They control a conservative media that includes radio, television, print, and websites. They control an array of right-wing think tanks.

About the only thing they can't control is their lust for power.

This absolute power has corrupted the Republicans, absolutely. This tremendous concentration of power has corrupted our democracy, degraded our military, diminished our stature in the world, damaged our environment, bankrupted our Treasury, and indentured our children to foreign debt-holders.

There is one reason and one reason only the Bush Republicans enjoy this unchallenged power:

Democrats let them win it.

By being too timid or too weak, too hesitant or too confused, Democrats have allowed Republicans to run amok. Most important, Democrats have not clearly and courageously stated what they stand for and what they stand against.

It is the goal of this book to do just that. We've spent our adult lifetimes toiling in the Democratic vineyards. We love our country and we love our party and we're determined to take them back.

If you're looking for a book that merely bashes the Republicans, this will disappoint. We take a backseat to no one in our contempt for what the GOP is doing to our country. And this book catalogs the damage in some detail. But more important, the purpose of this book is to look unflinchingly at what Democrats must do and say in order to take back our party, our country, and our future.

To be sure, we don't have all the answers. But we've got a good start on them. Not because we're geniuses -- rather, because we're not. Too many Democrats over-think things. This is politics, not organic chemistry. Success has less to do with brains than with guts. The concepts are comparatively easy; it's the execution that's hard. Democrats have failed at the basics: defining their message, attacking their opponents, defending their leaders, inspiring their voters.

When we set out to write this book, we took a hard look at what the Bush-Cheney team did right and what the Kerry-Edwards team did wrong in the 2004 campaign. The short answer is, everything. Researching and writing that chapter was painful. We had to confront the reality that, in some cases, people we've considered friends for decades made terrible strategic and tactical decisions -- and their failure has given us four more years of the Bush-Cheney policies we believe are ruining our country.

Some of our friends in the progressive movement believe the answer is for Democrats to rally the base, to move more squarely to the left. They see a Democratic Party that is too close to corporate special interests, too eager to please big money, too willing to sell out working people, too quick to go along with an unwise and unjust war.

On the other hand, some of our friends in the center believe the answer to the Democrats' problems is to move to the center. They see a Democratic party in thrall to Hollywood bigshots and cultural elites. They see a party too beholden to liberal pressure groups like the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, too contemptuous of people of faith, too dismissive of the middle-class values moms and dads try to pass on to their children.

They are, in our view, like the proverbial blind people examining the donkey (hey, we're Democrats; we can't very well use an elephant analogy). They're both right and they're both wrong. They each have a point and they both miss the point. Sure, we want the Democrats to stand more forcefully against corporate greed and we are still angry that so many leading Democrats believed Mr. Bush's falsehoods and supported his march to war in Iraq. At the same time, we believe some liberal pressure groups have too much influence, that some left-wing intellectual elites truly do have contempt for traditional American values. We believe Democrats should be the party of family, faith, and flag.

Here's what both sides of this false choice get wrong: the problem with the Democratic Party is not ideological, it's anatomical. We lack a backbone. Consider this book an attempt at a spinal transplant.

It's not that people know what we stand for and disagree; it's that they have no idea what we stand for, and so they think we're too weak to lead. The Bible says no one will follow an uncertain trumpet. The purpose of this book is hand the Democrats a trumpet and teach 'em to blow like Gabriel himself.

This book is focused on a set of issues that we believe have cost Democrats elections -- issues that we believe we can Take Back. We believe we can Take Back national security, social issues, and taxes. We believe we can Take Back the issues of energy and the environment; we can Take Back the fairness of the media; we can Take Back the issue of health care; and we can Take Back our political system from the lobbyists and power brokers. We can Take Back all of those issues -- but to do so we've got to stand up and speak out.

When the current President Bush's father was running for president in 1988, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed that if we can't beat these guys, we need to find another country. Of course, in 1988 Democrats couldn't beat Bush Sr.'s team -- and we didn't find another country. We know how Moynihan must have felt, however. After all the damage of the first term of George W. Bush, it was hard to imagine how the Democrats could have lost to those guys. And yet a combination of the Bush campaign's strategic brilliance and the Democrats' lack of a clear message and a strategy for delivering it sent George W. Bush back to the White House for a second term.

We wrote this book, in short, because we're sick of watching Democrats lose. We're also sick of Democrats whining about the Republicans' hardball tactics. We want our party to toughen up, smarten up, and listen up.

The stakes could not be higher. President Bush was re-elected despite the fact that a near-majority of Americans believed he was not doing a good job. Since then his position with the American people has only deteriorated. And yet Democrats seem unable to capitalize on the Bush/GOP collapse.

The debacle of the 2004 election gave birth to this book. As we prepared to write it, we met with some of the smartest, savviest people in American politics. We talked with them about the issues that were hurting Democrats. And we thought about how to take those issues back. Those conversations were enlightening, but the one light-bulb moment Paul had actually came from his twelve-year-old son, John.

Paul and John were driving out to their farm in the Shenandoah Valley in October, 2004. It was a beautiful fall day so they decided to take the backroads to enjoy the scenery. They passed a trailer on the side of the road. It was a little old, a little rundown. And it had a brand-new Bush-Cheney sign in the window. "Dad," John asked, "why are those folks for Bush and Cheney if you say they only care about the rich? And why are we for Kerry and Edwards if you say Democrats care about the poor? We're not poor."

We had a long talk about it. We discussed why, for many people, values trump economics. And we talked about how wrong some Democratic intellectual elites are when they denigrate working-class people who vote Republican. They condescendingly argue the Republicans have pulled the wool over their eyes; that they've been tricked into voting against their economic self-interest. We think that analysis is overblown. It just might be that these folks know full-well that the GOP doesn't represent their economic interests, but they've come to think the Democrats don't respect their culture and values and religion. Just as many rich liberals proudly vote against their economic self-interest, that working-class family living in that trailer is doing the same thing. When forced to make a choice, they go with their values, not their wallets. Why is it we celebrate prosperous progressives for voting against their economic self-interests, but denigrate poor and middle-class people who do?

The conclusion of that talk was the realization that rather than patronize poor people who put their principles ahead of their pocketbooks, Democrats need to make that choice unnecessary. We can and should represent both. Democrats need to show respect for voters' cultural concerns, while fighting for their economic interests. The problem is the values debate has been limited to a bizarre and tiny set of issues -- principally abortion, gay rights and gun control. But poverty is a values issue. Lack of health care is a values issue. The minimum wage is a values issue. Lying about a war is the ultimate values issue. In this book we suggest ways both to Take Back the more narrow values issue -- engage rather than ignore God, guns, and gays -- and to expand the range of issues values voters should consider.

This book is a blueprint -- a call to arms -- for Democrats to give voice to their beliefs. To stand up proudly and speak out strongly that both our economic ideas and our moral values are more in line with those of most Americans than the Republicans are. Most of all, this book is an effort to take back so much of what we've lost: not just power and position in Washington, but something more important -- the soul of a great party and the future of a great nation.

Copyright © 2006 by James Carville and Paul Begala


Excerpted from Take It Back by James Carville Copyright © 2006 by James Carville. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

James Carville is the best-known and most-loved political consultant in American history. He is also a speaker, talk-show host, actor, and author with six New York Times bestsellers to his credit. Part of a large Southern family, he grew up without a television and loved to listen to the stories his mama told. Mr. Carville lives with his wife, Mary Matalin, and their two daughters in New Orleans.

Paul Begala was a chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, which carried thirty-three states and made Bill Clinton the first Democrat to win the White House in sixteen years. He served as counselor to the president in the Clinton White House, where he coordinated policy, politics, and communications. He is the author of four books, including Is Our Children Learning?: The Case Against George W. Bush; It's Still the Economy, Stupid; and Buck Up, Suck Up...and Come Back When You Foul Up (with James Carville). Begala is a CNN political commentator and a research professor of public policy at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. Paul earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas, where he was student body president. He and his wife live quietly in Virginia with their four boys and a German shepherd. (Okay, so they don't live too quietly.)

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