This book won't change your life.
If you buy this book and read it, you will not make $1 million -- at least not because you bought this book. This ain't the New Testament or the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the Talmud or the Koran. Buying it won't cause the Today show to do a one-hour special on you, and the opposite sex (or the same sex if that's what floats your boat) will not suddenly find you irresistible.
Here's what you'll get: good, sound advice on how to win. You'll get techniques and tactics that are battle-tested and proven in the white-hot crucible of politics.
In writing this book, we've learned a lot. As intuitive, trust-your-gut political strategists, we're a far cry from the political philosophers or political scientists who have dissected political strategy in scholarly texts. Nor are we corporate turnaround artists, self-help gurus, motivational speakers, retired CEOs or former coaches. All of them have written books that offer unique insights into the game of life as played on their turf.
But our turf is different. American politics at the dawn of the twenty-first century is a brutal, bloody, winner-take-all game. As it should be. The stakes in political combat are not multibillion-dollar mergers or championship rings. Those things are nice, and we're sure they're important to the folks who have a stake in them. But America and the world will not long remember or care whether Ford or GM had the bestselling family minivan, much less whether the Lakers can "three-peat" or Tiger Woods shanks a drive.
There are no higher stakes than determining who runs the only superpower on God's earth. Politics matters. It determines in large measure whether the Dow Jones Industrial Average goes up or down. It determines whether unemployment goes up or down. Whether the welfare rate and the crime rate and the prime rate go up or down -- whether America itself goes up or down. Politics, as John F. Kennedy Jr. used to say, is the only game for grown-ups -- and too important to be left to the politicians.
And the best thing about American politics is that, on Election Day, you matter more than all the special-interest groups and all the pundits and all the corporations. Because with your vote you decide the fate and future of the greatest nation in human history. That's why, while we never take ourselves seriously, we always took our work in political campaigns very seriously. Candidates have entrusted us with their life's dream, with their fondest hopes, their deepest ambitions, their darkest secrets.
The two of us combined represent nearly a half-century of involvement in politics. From local judicial races to the presidency, we've won some, we've lost some and we've blown some. And along the way we've learned a lot. A Carville-Begala campagin had certain attributes, some of them accidental, but most of them intentional, that reflected our approach to our craft.
We believe our approach is different from most of what you'd find in corporate life for one very simple reason: in business a 49 percent market share means you're rich. In campaigns it means you're through. In our business there is only absolute victory and abject defeat -- and both your victories and your defeats are played out on the front page of newspapers. That kind of zero-sum game, with those kinds of stakes, sharpens your approach.
Will political lessons translate to your corporate culture, your life, your work, your country? You'll have to judge for yourself. But we think so, and here's why: Having run campaigns on three continents and in too many states to mention, we recognize how very different each unique set of circumstances is. So we've tried to focus these rules on the eternal verities, on the stuff that works anywhere.
And that itself is a lesson: Focus on the big picture. When James went to Israel to help get Ehud Barak elected prime minister, he joked that after months of research he'd concluded that the election was going to be decided by one factor: the all-important Jewish vote. But behind that joke was a larger truth: It really didn't matter so much whether the Sabbath was on a Saturday or a Sunday; the same principles apply. Speed, a culture of aggressive action, openness, empowering people, rapid response -- all work across all borders.
And if the audience you're trying to reach is smaller than the one hundred million voters we spend our time trying to reach, we believe these lessons are even more important because your target audience is even more sophisticated, even more interested, even more up-to-the-minute. You should take note of the differences between our world and yours, but do not become enmeshed in them. The principles apply. The precise method of how you apply them is just one more test of your talent and creativity and flexibility.
The bottom line is that if you're faster, smarter and more aggressive than the other guy (or gal), you're going to win more often than not. The purpose of this book is to make you faster, smarter and more aggressive.
We aren't attempting to rewrite Machiavelli or Sun-tzu; no one will be studying this book five hundred years from now. But we do hope that we can give you practical, applicable strategies that will help you close a deal, land an account, get a raise, earn a promotion, win an election. And, most of all, beat your competition.
Copyright © 2002 by James Carville and Paul Begala