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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘Rules for Radicals Turned Realists’

Kevin Sullivan has an interesting RealClearPolitics.com review “Stan Greenberg & The Art of War” of TDS Co-Editor Stan Greenberg’s “Dispatches from the War Room: In the Trenches with Five Extraordinary Leaders.” Sullivan writes,

…Greenberg helped build the disciplined, message-oriented campaign that catapulted Bill Clinton into the White House in 1992. Offering clear choices and a deliverable platform to the electorate, Greenberg and his colleagues created a blueprint for running and winning tough campaigns for left-leaning candidates.

But Sullivan believes that Greenberg’s “most salient examples” flow from his work with Nelson Mandela, Ehud Barak and Tony Blair. “Greenberg soon found himself advising candidates at the highest level of national politics, based on his success at turning a long-shot southern governor into the President of the United States.” Regarding Mandela:

…Sought out by Nelson Mandela’s advisors and staff, Greenberg helped turn the successful reform movement of the African National Congress into a governable body with clear goals for all South Africans. Along with his colleagues, Greenberg helped to develop the “People’s Forum;” events akin to town hall forums that allowed the people to speak out and be closer to the iconic Mandela. These forums also aided the ANC in creating a feasible economic platform that met the needs of South Africans. “Apartheid is a trap,” wrote Greenberg, as the campaign team struggled with a way to create a message that didn’t box Mandela in as a dated reformer. Focusing instead on jobs and education, Greenberg helped the ANC translate ideals into action.

Sullivan sees the merit of Greenberg’s book thusly:

At times, “Dispatches” reads like a campaign manual: a peek inside focus groups, behind closed doors, and inside the pages of strategy drafts and campaign plans. The campaign, as Greenberg explains it, is a chaotic collection of interests, ideals and good intentions. These can all be respectively good things, Greenberg argues, but it’s ultimately the “tyranny of message” that helps organize and coordinate good campaigns. The book, therefore, is as much about leadership and the allocation of resources as it is about polling and survey research. If leadership, as Vice President Cheney argues, is about making tough decisions, than it is Greenberg’s contention that those tough decisions require the information, organization and clarity of message to pierce the clutter and resonate with the public.

And he sums it up:

…”Dispatches from the War Room” serves as a good manual for prospective candidates and campaigners alike. Intent on making the case for public opinion, Greenberg provides substantive examples for why this kind of consultation is important for making the tough – and even the not so tough – decisions that go along with democratic leadership. Organizing ideals into action, Greenberg offers young activists and consultants an inspired how-to on smart campaign strategy; a sort of Rules for Radicals Turned Realists. Anyone can simply take a poll, but not everyone can use that poll to inspire and lead. There’s a difference, and it’s a difference Stan Greenberg successfully advocates in this work.

A good plug for a good book, and one which deserves a thorough read by Democratic candidiates and campaign managers, especially those looking for victory in ’10.

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