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Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight – and Other Rules to Writing Political Commentary

As with any other kind of genre-specific book-composing efforts, writing political commentary has its guidelines and rules.

This only makes sense since, otherwise, it wouldn’t be a defined category. Just a haze of smoke and really weird mirrors… rather like some people’s political opinions.

For the record, that’s not a good thing no matter which side of the aisle you fall on. Take the time to actually know something about the stances you take.


When your presentation isn’t properly defined as a Republican, you leave room for Democrats to take advantage of your unformed and unfocused presentation. And when your presentation isn’t properly defined as a Democrat, you leave room for Republicans to take advantage of your unformed and unfocused presentation.

That was the whole entire premise behind yesterday’s post, “Know Thy Enemy”: taking advantage of poorly structured arguments…

Consider it as opposition research – what the online English Oxford Living Dictionaries describes as “investigation into the dealings of political opponents, typically in order to discredit them publicly.”

Or here’s another political term to consider: echo chamber – what that same source describes as “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.”

Echo chambers are unhealthy in general. But they’re especially unhealthy for anyone writing a political commentary book with unsullied facts meant to educate their political base.

Note those four last words. “Educate their political base.” Those will come into play with tomorrow’s Writing Rule.

Well, it’s “tomorrow’s” Writing Rule, so let’s put it into play.

Here’s the absolute honest (i.e., non-partisan) truth about writing political commentary… at least when it comes to writing whole books:

Don’t kid yourself. You’re preaching to the choir.

If you’re writing a Democrat, liberal or leftist political commentary book, understand that the vast majority of your readers will be Democrats, liberals or leftists. Likewise, if you’re writing a Republican, conservative or right-wing political commentary book, recognize that the vast majority of your readers will be Republicans, conservatives or right-wingers.

You’re not changing the world. You’re engaging the base. So write accordingly.

“Write accordingly” doesn’t mean to lie. (Though, as we also discussed yesterday, you can probably get away with it if you want to.) “Write accordingly” means to speak directly to your political side.

The small segment of other-side readers who actually pick up your book can deal.

Therefore, if you’re writing political commentary about some freedom that’s at risk, make sure to appropriately paint the other side as freedom thieves.

This in no way means you have to call them Nazis – a ridiculously overused term these days. It’s time to get a bit more creative than that. How about calling them “dumb bricks” instead? You know, like the kind of people who think they’re defending freedom when they’re actually tearing it down.

After all, there are plenty of people out there who fit that description.

“Write accordingly” also means to make the read worth your base’s while. Sure, it’s great to jazz them up with rhetoric. Rhetoric does sell, but only to a certain degree and only for so long. At some point, you want to give them more than a pre-battle pep talk.

You want to give them the ammunition necessary to actually fight.

When writing political commentary, that means presenting facts. It means offering figures. It means showing statistics and primary sources (i.e., stuff straight from the horses’ mouths, not mere hearsay or commentary about someone else’s commentary).

That way, the next time your political base finds itself engaged in verbal combat – or even just polite disagreement, which I’m told can actually happen – it won’t so easily find itself backed into a corner.

That’s your job writing political commentary. Even if you’re not changing the world.

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