How to Write Yourself Into the Great American Novel

A couple years ago, a lot of folks believed that victory in 2010 would be a cakewalk. Led by Tea Party activists, the GOP picked up over 800 legislative seats, state and federal, in the 2010 off-year election. Rumors of the Republican Party's death had been greatly exaggerated.

Or so it seemed.

Novels and action movies involve a hero's quest. The main character hopes to accomplish something. Dorothy wants to return to Kansas. King Arthur seeks the Holy Grail. Dirty Harry hunts the psychopath Scorpio.

But in every plot, something goes wrong. The protagonist adjusts. Something else goes wrong. Then something seems to go wrong, but really doesn't. Then something really big goes horribly wrong.  Then the protagonist rallies and seems sure to achieve the quest.  And just when everything seems fine, the monster comes back to life, the ex-wife shows up with a million-dollar lawyer, the hero's father dies and leaves everything to the evil twin.

This biggest setback always comes just when victory was so close, when the hero has nothing left in the tank, when the last bullet's been fired, when the sidekick's dead.

Does the hero fold?

Never. The hero finds a second wind, a super energy pill, or a powerful new ally. Sure,the monster came back to life, but its bullet-proof shell is compromised. The sidekick we thought was dead was only stunned.  The hero took a bullet for the ex-wife's lawyer in Afghanistan in 2002, and the lawyer withdraws. Dad's will is a forgery.

The hero and his team get a new life and they make it count.  They put down the monster for the last time.

Writers don't create a long series of setbacks and recoveries to meet some arbitrary  word count requirement. They do it because that's how life works. They do it to keep us reading, because stories without conflict and resolution, setback and recovery, disaster and resilience, are boring. The story is in the resurgence. The victory is sweeter for its enormous costs.

Todd Akin's "six seconds of foolishness," as Newt Gingrich says, was such a setback. It was a setback for Todd, of course, but also a setback for conservatives, for the Tea Party movement, for the heroes of this tale.

We improvise, adjust, and overcome.

When Romney says something crazy or a judge suspends a voter ID law, we brace ourselves and soldier on.

Dorothy didn't give up her quest to get back to Kansas. Arthur didn't give up his quest for the Holy Grail. And Dirty Harry didn't give up on his quest to bring Scorpio to justice.

We wouldn't have watched the movies if there'd been no resistance, no setbacks, and no anguishing, desperate moments. Americans live for the challenge, the fight, the hard-won victories.

In 2012, we have the chance to craft an epic novel. We have worthy, ordinary heroes, a vicious and committed foe, and noble quest.

Our quest is restoring the republic. Our foe is Barack Obama and his Committee of Evil Czars.  Our heroes are . . . well, one of them is reading this blog post right now.

With only a few weeks to go before the election of our lives, let's pick up the plot in this novel. The big monster hasn't shown himself yet. The really bad thing hasn't hit us.  But it's coming soon.  And we're ready.

Want your character to play a role in the climax and celebrate in the denouement?

You can write yourself into the action:

Chapter 1:  Grand Opening of St. Louis Tea Party/Madison Project GOTV HQ, 9966 Lin Ferry Rd., St. Louis, MO 63123 on Saturday, September 29.

Chapter 2:  Canvassing for Conservatives any evening or Saturday. Stop by the GOTV HQ to get started between noon and 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Chapter 3: Dialing for Voters.  You can do this from home with a phone and computer, but we need you to first stop by the GOTV HQ to get started.

Chapter 4: The After Party, October 18 at 7 p.m. at Pio's in St. Charles.  Guest speakers is one of the HOTTEST social media conservatives in America, Raz Shafer.

Chapter 5:  Election Day.  We will need to help people get to the polls.

Chapter 6:  Election Night Watch Party--more to follow.

Afterword: TBD

P.S.  Like the Freddy Kruger movies, the monster always returns. So does the hero. Our mission doesn't end on November 6, only this quest. There will be more.

The Bain of Newt’s Existence

Truth is, not all companies, not all business ideas, can make it on their own. 

It’s easy to say that a good idea will automatically lead to a successful business. But it’s a lie.

Apple did not become Apple without investors.  Sure, there are some examples of businesses that flourished without financial help.  But not many. We’ll never know the wonderful ideas that died in their owner’s garage for lack of financing. 

Markkula offered to guarantee a line of credit of up to $250,000 in return for being made a one-third equity participant. Apple would incorporate, and he along with Jobs and Wozniak would each own 26% of the stock. The rest would be reserved to attract future investors. The three met in the cabana by Markkula’s swimming pool and sealed the deal. “I thought it was unlikely that Mike would ever see that $250,000 again, and I was impressed that he was willing to risk it,” Jobs recalled.

Isaacson, Walter (2011-10-24). Steve Jobs (p. 77). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

A lot of people with ideas turn to government for investments. Why a business person with an idea would go to government for funding is obvious: poor scrutiny, below market interest rates, and (seemingly) unlimited funds. Ideas requiring big investments and heavy risks tend to seek out government help.  (See Aerotropolis.)

But the private sector has its own method of bringing great, but risky, ideas to market: venture capitalists and private equity. 

Venture capital and private equity firms pool their money together and invest in start-ups or small businesses seeking to grow, or salvage existing companies that suffer from bad management.  These firms employ experts and risk-takers who help push ideas over the top. 

Most importantly, private equity firms are like Bailey’s Building & Loan—they give us an alternative to the Mr. Potter of government.

bain-mitt

It’s absurd to criticize Bain Capital for its practice of salvaging failing businesses.  It’s absurd and silly to criticize Mitt Romney for laying off people from dying companies. Even some Democrats get this:

Should bad, poorly-managed companies be allowed to destroy value?  Should fast-growing, innovative businesses receive capital and support to accelerate their growth?  And should hard-working pensioners and retirees be allowed to invest their savings in an asset class that outperforms nearly every other one available?  Private equity has an important role and should be lauded, not lambasted.  The WSJ does a nice job of making this case here

I am a strong proponent of business considering all stakeholders, not just shareholders, as vital corporate interests.  I’ve written about Creating Shared Value in the past. I believe that mass layoffs shouldn’t happen simply to boost quarterly or annual numbers. 

When Bain Capital bought a business, the damage had already been done.  Bain didn’t buy thriving companies and gut them; it bought failing businesses and saved them.

Sometimes layoffs are necessary to avoid outright closure.  That’s why business leaders get paid big dollars—because we rely on them to save as many jobs as possible by making brilliant strategic decisions. 

While I have a lot of difference with Mitt Romney and with business executives who treat employees like pawns in their personal empowerment games, I believe that Romney’s actions at Bain were necessary and compassionate, not callous and self-serving.

Were it not for private equity firms like Bain and venture capitalists in general, ideas like the Apple II would die in Steve Jobs’s garage.  Entrepreneurs, inventors, and troubled companies would have nowhere to turn except government.

Newt Gingrich made a big mistake attacking Romney’s role in saving failing companies. In fact, his error was so big it might have sealed the nomination for Romney.

Debunking the 11th Commandment

The Gipper didn’t always follow his own commandment. I’ve appreciated Newt Gingrich’s attitude during the 398 Republican Presidential debates. You know, his approach of refusing to attack his opponents.  

He will, necessarily, change that approach a bit on the stump, but it’s been very effective so far. As Gingrich might put it, anyone on this stage will do a better job than Barack Obama.

And he’d be right. 

But being right about that doesn’t mean candidates don’t have an obligation to show voters why they’re preferable to their opponents.

Since Ronald Reagan handed down the 11th Commandment—thou shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republicans—every Republican seems to hide behind it. 

“You can’t talk about the people I poisoned!  It violates the 11th Commandment.”

First there’s a practical problem with that approach.  Some candidates have serious baggage that needs to be vetted. If a candidate doesn’t disclose his or her potential issues, who will? 

The press?  Well, the press might, but only if the candidate with the baggage is to the left of the others. In other words, you’ll hear about Romney’s baggage only if his remaining opponents are to his left. 

But there’s also a theoretical problem with the 11th Commandment.  Reagan blew it to smithereens in 1976. At least, Reagan violated the modern interpretation of the 11th Commandment.

In that year, Gerald Ford, a Republican, was struggling to hold together a party ravaged by Watergate. Ford, an Establishment Republican and good man, took over the White House after Richard Nixon resigned.

Reagan had just ended two wildly successful terms as governor of California.  And Reagan was fed up with Ford’s handling of the Soviet Union:

Disgruntled with Ford’s pursuit of détente with the Soviets, Ronald Reagan in 1975 decided to seek the seemingly impossible: to challenge the incumbent president from his own party, thereby breaking Reagan’s own “Eleventh Commandment:” “Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Another Republican.”

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/219603/pair-history/paul-kengor

Nothing speaks more ill of another Republican than running for President against that Republican who already occupies the Oval Office.

Nor was Reagan mild in his attacks on Ford.

Reagan hit détente so hard throughout the campaign that there was a consensus that President Ford stopped using the term because Reagan had made it a dirty word. So successful was Reagan that the New York Times, in a May 14, 1976, editorial titled “Mr. Reagan’s Veto,” claimed that the former California governor had “won something approaching veto power over the Ford Administration’s foreign policy.” As Reagan did, Ford dropped in the polls. In another editorial, titled, “President Under Seige,” The Times opined: “Governor Reagan has become a credible candidate while President Ford has slipped from almost certain victor to underdog.”

In fact, Reagan even carried politics beyond the water’s edge. He challenged Ford largely over foreign policy. 

In reality, Reagan’s 11th Commandment was far different from the modern wounded Republican’s definition.

Reagan referred to personal attacks, like Pat Brown calling Reagan a dumb actor.  Reagan never opposed airing of policy differences.  And, based on his fury at a debate in Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1980, campaign tactics were in play, too:

Reagan Wins Debate Before It Starts

 

Never let blind allegiance to a misunderstood principle prevent the people from knowing their choices.