BOOKS/Alvena Bieri

Take It Back


The Democratic Party and the country both desperately need strong backbones. That is the message of James Carville and Paul Begala in their new book, Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future [Simon and Schuster]. They write from years of experience helping shape the messages of the Democrats. They were both crucial in the victory of Bill Clinton in 1992. Carville says he has managed more political campaigns than anyone in history. And Begala worked in the Clinton White House on policy, politics and communication. It is obvious they write and talk with enthusiasm.

And they love analyzing where we go from here.

Now when they severely bash Republicans as corrupt and powerhungry, they are not talking about Abraham Lincoln, or Henry Bellmon of Oklahoma or Bob La Follette of Wisconsin. They are attacking Bill Frist, Tom Delay, George Bush and dozens of others to whom they apply that old Lord Acton statement that "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The Republicans now have that kind of power in every single branch of government, and Carville and Begala want some of it back to further a more democratic -- small d -- country.

The authors have loads of material on lesser-known Republican politicians. One is Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma who consistently calls the fact of global warming "a hoax." Carville and Begala come across as serious environmentalists who say that if we want our children and grandchildren to have a good life we better start now on the oil problem. They have a chapter, "Energy Independence," in which they say, "We need to get away from an oil-based system of energy because it threatens our national security, because it weakens us economically, and because it is destroying our planet." There would be a wonderful side effect of change on oil policy too. To use new, environmentally clean technologies would create lots of new jobs.

Now about that tired old line that the country is suffering because of the "liberal media." They think a simple and good way to prove the opposite, that the media in general are far from liberal, is to cite the bashing of both Clinton and Gore, as we remember that the press for the most part was pro Bush in the campaign of 2000.

They think that maybe Bush seemed more down to earth and fun than Gore and that is the reason the press favored him. Eric Alterman, who writes for The Nation, they call "a oneman truth squad."

They also support the Center for American Progress, started by John Podesta. To counter the distortions of the media, Carville and Begala strongly suggest using local newspapers and the Internet.

The trouble is that Democrats and other progressives seem to want to be "all things to all people, so we wind up being nothing to anyone." How about deciding on some fundamental issue to emphasize? A good place to start would be fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction. Who are and where are the real conservatives when it comes to managing money wisely? It is not the folks who call themselves conservatives. Raising the minimum wage nationwide and making the tax code fair to everyone would be a good next step. Carville and Begala say Clinton saw tax laws as "an extension of America's moral code."

Then there is the health care crisis. Keep it simple, they advise. The Clinton plan was 3,700 pages long. And how about a better plan for helping those hurt by natural disasters? Protection of the environment should be at the top of the list as well as support of international diplomacy to prevent war.

The last chapter, "Progressive Patriotism," points out that Democrats are heirs of some of the greatest leaders in history. It is a call to action. We at the grassroots can do better. We can take back our country!

Finally, I like their advice: Be a populist, not an elitist.

Contact Alvena Bieri, 2023 W. 11th Ave, Stillwater OK 74074 or email

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2006

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