Former U.S. Sen. Steve Symms’ manual for hand-to-hand political combat has sold out its first printing and is catching the attention of national conservatives.
Co-written with Larry Grupp of Moscow, the book - “The Citizen’s Guide to Fighting Government” - was the November selection of the 50,000-member Conservative Book Club.
And Symms, who now runs former Marine Col. Oliver North’s Freedom Alliance, has been featured on the radio talk shows of G. Gordon Liddy and Patrick Buchanan, where he touted the book.
With the first 9,000 copies sold, Jameson Books of Ottawa, Ill., is planning a second printing of 10,000 copies, said publisher Jameson Campaigne Jr.
“It’s a pleasant surprise,” Campaigne said. “I attribute it to the reason we published the book, which is basically that citizens of all stripes have decided to take matters into their own hands. The book is a tool that allows them to do it.”
Symms, who represented Idaho for 20 years, first in the U.S. House and later in the Senate, calls it a “shop manual” for political activists. He says that while the book was intended to help conservatives learn the tactics liberals have used for years, it was written for any activist.
Indeed, the foreword to the book was written by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, the liberal lion of the Senate.
“Fighting government is how the United States came about,” Moynihan begins. “This book is more than a manifesto … It is a down-to-earth manual on how to do it yourself.”
Moynihan wrote that while Symms and Grupp are to the right of center, their book’s message is not. “What they are about is at the heart of American government … their lessons are universal, including some lessons liberals might usefully learn if we wish to hold our own with these wild frontiersmen!”
Symms, who formed a warm friendship with Moynihan while serving in the Senate, slipped the manuscript to him as Moynihan was departing for India. During the 12-hour trip, Moynihan read it and then penned the foreword.
In an interview this fall, Symms said people shouldn’t be surprised that conservatives and liberals can be friends and can work together.
“I never attacked anyone personally when I was in the Senate,” he said. “I was always careful to make my arguments based on philosophy.”
The 38 chapters of Symms’ and Grupp’s book are short on philosophy and long on the nitty-gritty details of political action, from Congress on down to the local highway district.
With chapter headings like “Forming a Political Action Group,” “The News Conference,” “Brain Trust,” “Budgets and Calendars,” “Influencing Partisan Politicians,” “Changing Laws” and “Freedom of Information Act,” it could be mistaken for a textbook.
That is, until you get to chapters like “Strange Bedfellows Welcome!” “Going to Jail,” “Using One Bureaucracy Against Another” and “Polling (and other activities that look like polling).”
Campaigne said some of the suggestions in the book, such as organizing a fake poll to spread propaganda about an issue, might raise eyebrows, but that there have been no denunciations of the book.
“Politics are regarded as a blood sport,” Campaigne said. “The stuff I see in the precincts on Election Day is amazing.”
Grupp, 55, who has written dozens of other books for small presses like Jameson, said he originally wrote the book as a workbook for private school activists.
After a meeting with Symms in 1989, Grupp said he gave the book to Symms and asked him to rewrite and shorten it for popular distribution. “We’ll publish it together,” Grupp said he suggested. “Why don’t you also try to get an introduction by some left-wing luminary?”
After Symms retired from the Senate in 1992, the two finished work on the book, Symms snagged Moynihan for a foreword, and it was released Nov. 1 of this year.
Campaigne said even the Moynihan introduction has not been enough to get news of the book past the liberal “gate-keepers of culture” who decide which books get reviewed in nationwide newspapers and magazines. So far, he said, most of the sales of the book have been through informal conservative networks.
Grupp said that’s a shame, because political know-how has nothing to do with partisan politics. “We think of it in terms of people who want to get government out of their lives, but it could be used by those who want more government, too.”