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Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump--and Democrats from Themselves Hardcover – January 14, 2020
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From the Publisher
“‘Florida Man Chooses Country Over Party!’ It appears that the Democratic Party’s 2020 election briefing book has been written by a lifelong Republican strategist, and you’re looking at it.”—Brian Williams, MSNBC
“No one understands the nature of Trumpism better than Rick Wilson. He also knows how the Democrats can blow this election. This may be a hard book for some of them to read, but it is a message they absolutely need to hear if they want to beat Donald Trump. In this passionate, witty, insightful, and often hilarious book, Wilson brings tough love and sharp elbows to his urgent warning about the difficulty of defeating a man with no bottom, no shame, and no limits.”—Charles Sykes, author of How the Right Lost Its Mind
“Wilson brilliantly explains how Democrats could lose to Trump’s ‘racist and blisteringly stupid’ campaign message yet again unless they change course now. Drawing upon Wilson’s insights, Americans can take back their government and send the reality-TV host back to Mar-a-Lago once and for all.”—Joe Scarborough, MSNBC
“Readers who enjoyed [Rick] Wilson’s first book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, will be pleased to know that he is in hilarious form. [The] manuscript is packed with the same punchy, straight-to-the-jugular humour that has made him a sought-after television guest and columnist in the Trump era. . . . It’s a step-by-step guidebook to defeating Donald Trump, written by ‘a Republican who knows how and why the Democrats often lose big elections they should win.’ And Wilson explains it all. Chapter by chapter, he debunks the myths, wishes, and pipe dreams which have led previous Democratic presidential nominees down the garden path to the runner-up’s position. . . . Any Democrat looking to beat Donald Trump—or really, any Democrat looking to beat any Republican—or anyone who enjoys reading and learning more about how politics really works would do well to crack the spine of Wilson’s sophomore effort.” —The Independent
“Running Against the Devil is pugnacious and profane . . . blunt and funny . . . relentlessly irreverent and breathtakingly brutal.” —The Guardian
“Snappy, breezy, entertaining, passionate . . . The book delivers sobering insights that must be heeded.”—Foreign Affairs
About the Author
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Wilson makes it clear that--as a long--time Republican strategist-turned-#NeverTrumper--he isn't trying to change Trump supporters with this book. He's written it for Democrats--and he doesn't think they're going to like it. The first third of the book he describes--with sometimes biting humor--why Donald Trump has already put American democracy in danger, is promoting a dangerous white nationalism, and is a racist. Preventing him from having a second term should be a priority, Wilson argues, including for conservative Republicans like himself. To give you an idea, he describes Trump's first term as a "kleptocratic festival of crony capitalism, lobbyist giveaways, consumer-screwing protections for predatory lenders, environmental rapine, immigration cruelty, and fiscal insanity..." Yet this, he believes, is just "the warm up act. In the second [term]. all political restraints are off."
The first third of the book expands on his thesis about the harm Trump has done and will continue to do: dangerous judicial appointees changing the courts (including the SC) for generations; destruction of the environment, irresponsible and ultimately harmful economic decisions, abuse of immigrants, destroying relations with America's allies while strengthening relationships with dictators and undermining the image of American ideals abroad. All this and more--"the madness, the narcissism, the eccentricities, the pathological lying, the delusions of both perssecution and grandeur...." The relentless bullying and attacks on anyone who criticizes or opposes him. The effort to suppress and intimidate a free press. No, Wilson is not a fan. And he makes no bones about how Trump is a terrible role model for young people learning that rudeness, disrespect for differences, bullying and even outright hatred of fellow Americans who are "them" vs. Trump supporters' "us". Trump may say he's done more than "any president in history" and boasts of his foreign policy. But Wilson disagrees, writing, "We're suffering from diminished credibility, influence and security in the world."
Wilson knows that Trump supporters have already stopped reading, and Trump's critics have enjoyed Part 1. But this has only been a set-up. He is reinforcing and amplifying his message that Trump is a danger who must be defeated. Must not be reelected. It's up to Democrats to make that happen and Wilson, the political strategist, worries that Democrats will blow it. That's what this book is mainly about: Wilson's advice for defeating Donald Trump. He is not at all sure that Democrats will take it, including the controversial recommendation to not elect Bernie Sanders as he believes it would give Trump a win in "45 states"
I don't want to give away too much of Wilson's book--Democrats really should think about his ideas, including the idea that--running against Trump--it's a mistake to emphasize politics, since that creates a vulnerability that the GOP is expert at exploiting (and usually can't be done unilaterally by a president anyway). He believes "Democrats are fighting a cult and a cult leader, and until they realize that the referendum against Trump is about TRUMP, he has the winning hand." In other words, it's not about exciting the base with new policies--its about talking about Democrats' policies in comparison with what Trump does.
"This race must be a referendum on Trump, or the Democrats will lose." Who could deny that Democrats' messaging is notoriously weak, while Republicans like Trump know how to stay on the attack, keeping the message SIMPLE and knowing the importance of REPETITION--and doing it? Wilson thinks simple, fact-based messages are key to voter turn-out. Democrats may not agree with all that he says--it is hard to say new policies, idealistically presented won't be enough to win--but they should read this and really think about it. Wilson's got expertise in this--messaging--and Republicans often do it better than Democrats even when the messaging isn't true (like, as Wilson says, "I'll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it!")
Democrats should read this. Hopefully, someone will give copies not only to the candidates, but also to Tom Perez.
DIsclaimers: I'm a RW fan from his TV appearances and enjoy his twitter page (although I've never created accounts on social media - for the most part it's the only thing on social media I read with regularity) and find him to be honest, extremely funny, brilliant and unapologetic. These qualities are becoming quite rare these days and I certainly gravitate toward him, even though I acknowledge the GOP/Trump predicament we now are facing is at least somewhat a byproduct of his particular set of skills...
RW's writing is quite enjoyable. Witty, entertaining and unabashedly direct. Part of me wishes he were a sci-fi author.
There's no mystery what this book is about. ETTD was filled with plenty of finger pointing and detailed trash-talking that this book isn't really saddled with; instead it is an essay in expanded form and repeatedly hammers on a few main pillars that deliver exactly what I wanted it to. RW doesn't waste pages with exhausting filler and I appreciate the focus he maintains throughout his explanations of campaign-exploit practices.
Anybody with an interest in granular-level campaign theory should absolutely read this (and ETTD) for themselves. However, my favorite concept was when RW stressed the importance of (paraphrasing) the tempo of Trump's 2020 opponent (and their staff's) consistent counter-punching. Just attacking DT's attacks with multiple attacks every single time to not only smack the bully in the nose but establish some continuity in firing back at a soft target - which his opponents in the 2016 primary weren't wont to do.
I've left this review vague but my aim is to avoid spoilers...
Overall an informative, easy read about both tactics and strategy with great intelligence and insight and a rapid cadence I truly appreciate. Highly recommended!