Chris Matthews on “Up Late with Alex Baldwin”

Something he said spoke to some half-ideas I began fielding in “Mulling Over“, when I was citing “What is Your Water Talent“.

“You know when a small business guy is elected President, because he’s used to doing it all himself. Reagan was a corporate person, he knew he needed a director, a scriptwriter, he knew he needed a PR guy. […]” Reagan knew his limitations, and he needed people to fill the jobs he couldn’t do. Chris Matthews argued that Obama only really did that in the economic sphere. By contrast, Carter the engineer wanted to do it all- he would load up on 80-page memos in the morning.

“Every time you get a job, you turn it into your job. So I [Chris Matthews] would turn every job into a communications job. No matter what it is, I would find a way to turn it into speeches and PR and image […]” Carter turned the Presidency into an engineering job, “how many decisions can I make, how can we reorganize this”. Reagan turned his role into “the Great Communicator”, assisted by index cards and careful, pre-scripted personal appeals.

“Infrastructure is Not Progressive”

Frankly, I have a hard time understanding what goes on in the heads of “progressives.” On the one hand, they constantly complain — and rightfully so — about the power of big business and corporate domination of our society and economy. But on the other, their rhetoric is full of nostalgia for the government policies that made corporate domination possible in the first place.


Rather than celebrating the relocalized, post-capitalist p2p economy made possible by new technology, progressives want to perpetually maintain a Rube Goldberg state machine, keeping as many people as possible running in the hamster wheel.


Building Institutions to further the cause

Fundamentalism is a paradox. Its partisans—of any faith—call for the return to an imagined arcadia in which God’s voice boomed plainly from scripture. Yet as a historical phenomenon, fundamentalism is wholly modern. It is a set of reactions against the aftershocks of the Enlightenment and the evolution of global capitalism: the breach between faith and reason, the rise of the secular public square, and the collapse of traditional social hierarchies and ways of life. Creatures of modernity, fundamentalists have happily availed themselves of modern technology. Fundamentalists ranging from separatist Baptist preachers to Al Qaeda propagandists have demonstrated a genius for employing the latest media and political (or military) weaponry to spread their message and accomplish their aims. To fundamentalists, history, too, is a technology: a trove of data to be strategically deployed.

Nowhere have the uses of history been clearer than in the clashes between conservative and progressive evangelicals for control of their denominations throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In the Southern Baptist Convention, many conservatives would have objected to the “fundamentalist” label as a Yankee epithet, a synonym for a barefoot bumpkin sorely lacking in southern grace. But if their self-perception was not fundamentalist, many of their goals and tactics were. The decisive battles over the meaning and role of the Bible in modern society did not, primarily, unfold in the form of dueling proof texts or Sunday pulpit ripostes, but in skirmishes for control of the machinery of intellectual authority: seminaries, missions boards, denominational presses, and authorized church history. The personal magnetism of gurus was not sufficient to stanch the secularist tide. Just as thousands of volunteers at Billy Graham’s crusades worked to settle new converts into local churches before their enthusiasm could evaporate, conservative activists knew that the fervor wandering sages left in their wake would fizzle unless channeled into institutions and sustained by an infrastructure built to teach and train future generations.


Rules for Radicals

Read the book a few years ago. Short, directly applicable read. I’ve been thinking about it again lately.

From the tactics chapter of Rules for Radicals (list from wikipedia):

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
  11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”