What Democrats can learn from General Patton

The 1970 movie “Patton” is best remembered for its opening speech by George C. Scott as General George S. Patton, standing in front of a giant American flag (see audio above). The speech, primarily written by Francis Ford Coppola and based largely on snippets by Patton himself, could serve as an inspiration to Democrats for the upcoming 2014 election:

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

This is classic Messaging Maxim #1: Go on Offense. Democrats can’t unilaterally disarm, whether on judicial nominations or otherwise. Nor can Democrats win by being offended at all the things Republicans say and do. Democrats must take the fight to Republicans, so that it is the Republicans who are objecting to things Democrats are saying and doing.

Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle…. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser… because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

Replace “Americans” with “Democrats.” Remember that the Republicans are waging war against you every day, on cultural, financial, rhetorical and many other battlefields. Democrats, get yourselves on a war footing and engage your opponents, or prepare to lose the war.

An army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team.

This shows the importance of unity for Democrats, especially in the face of the civil war taking place inside the Republican Party.

We’re not just going to shoot the bastards. We’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel… The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Shoot them in the belly.

Replace “bastards,” “Hun bastards” and “Nazis” with “Republicans.” This is the type of attitude it takes to win political battles. (Of course, this is just rhetorical. Democrats, unlike Republicans, do not and should not advocate real violence against their political opponents.)

I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re going to kick him in the ass. We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re going to go through him like crap though a goose!

Again, it’s Messaging Maxim #1: Go on Offense, as well as Messaging Maxim #2: Rinse and Repeat. Democrats won’t win simply by trying to hold back the Republicans’ offensive maneuvers, whether on the Affordable Care Act, voter suppression or other issues. One example where Democrats are doing a good job on this is in pressing for marriage equality around the United States.

Now, there’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now, when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, ‘What did you do in the great World War II?’ — you won’t have to say, ‘Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.’

That sounds a lot like Messaging Maxim #5: Make it Personal.

General Patton won great battles and helped America win World War II. Of course, Patton was a controversial man, and this is not intended to endorse all his views or actions. If Democrats want to win in 2014 and beyond, they would do well to heed some of the rhetorical lessons from this “Patton” movie speech.






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