First off, I probably should not have tacked on “Abridged”, as that connotes that I also have an unabridged version lurking on my desk somewhere. And that, I’m afraid, is not true.
I think the fundamentals of running for office are very simple. You pretty much start with the same mold and some combination of feisty opponents/skeletal remains in the closet alter that mold.
Away we go!
Chapter 1: Why are you here?
Really folks, there is a finite number of reasons to run for office. Figure out which reason on the following list applies to you, then build a stump speech around it.
- “I’m not a politician.” The political world is one of the few areas where this statement is okay (“I’m not a doctor; now let’s do this triple bypass”). So if you can use it, do it.
- “I’m from a blue collar family.” A lot of office-seekers like this line. And I guess it’s nicer to hear than “Yeah, I grew up wealthy. We had a 3-car garage and ran out of space so we had to park the cheaper Bentley outside.”
- “I’m already in some office & you should vote for me again because I did cool stuff.” I think this is one of the sneakiest ploys but, probably, one of the best. The average citizen doesn’t keep close tabs on voting records, so if you can extract a few votes that positively impacted their lives, they will eat it up. They’ll never find out about those shady votes you made.
- “I’m a wingnut!” You decide you want to run because, well, being wacky all by yourself is getting lonely.
Chapter 2: Make some tough decisions
It’s good to decide early what kind of campaign you will run…mostly clean or mostly dirty. That decision will typically fall into place depending on what consultant you hire. If you’re in SC, there’s probably a 60% chance you hired a dirty consultant.
I don’t like the idea of opposition research. For one, if your opponent is truly corrupt, some outside group will probably do the outing for you. If you can’t win a race on your own merits, what does that say about you?
(Not to say there aren’t a lot of seasoned liars & fluff-aficionados in politics)
Chapter 3: The art of hyperbole
It doesn’t matter how relatively calm things are at the time. I don’t care if every kid in the country has a unicorn. You’re running because there is some kind of amorphous evil blob coming to destroy life as we know it. So write your e-mails and other mailings as such (“The government wants to take your unicorn and tear its magical horn off! But together we can stop it.”)
Chapter 4: “Friends” and gestures
When running for office, everyone is your friend. Everyone. No exclusions. You should refer to voters as friends. You should draw a distinction, though, between “friends” and “dear friends”. Dear friends are the political allies whose opinions you think will get you in office.
Perfect your open-palm gestures. They mean a lot of things depending on the context, and it’s almost always a good thing.
Chapter 5: Decide right now if you are going to pander
“Pander” has a shady definition. In the political world…yeah, it’s still shady. The choice you make here will determine the course of your campaign. Sure, saying different things to different people can be fun (Applause! Appeasement!). But at some point a wise voter may call you on it. “How can you say you support people wearing denim when you clearly said two weeks ago you abhor denim and only believe in pleated-front dress pants?”
Chapter 6: Money solves all problems
Remember that blue collar upbringing? Doesn’t matter anymore. Money makes the politics go round. Money has mysterious powers. It can help deliver us from the evil (circle one: Democrats or Republicans). It can help an average Joe fight the system. It can deliver a hosts of important messages. It also serves as a proper closing to a hyperbolic email (see: Chapter 3).
The rest varies depending on the choices your opposition made. If the opponent(s) drags out one of those skeletons, then consult the Epilogue for a list of stock excuses:
“I was young and stupid.”
“I was not aware that was illegal.”
“This is but a mere blemish on my record of personal excellence.”
“We all have tough decisions to make.”
“Look at what [opponent’s name] did. It was far worse.”
“I believe in freedom.” (Don’t worry if this doesn’t answer the hard question. The crowd will clap & forget about the issue)
“I have no comment.”
Better still, get one of those people gnawing at your pant leg to deal with the dirty stuff while you put on your halo and stump. The gnawing isn’t attractive in front of a crowd, so they need something to do.