Wily winning: A manual of mutating political philosophy, Part four
By Joseph Randolph
Yes we are utopians. The voting public need never hear the word; they only need to know that we can right well nigh every wrong done to them. You see this is our proof to them that we are for them, by the fact that we can do most anything they have need of. Yes we are preaching a possible heaven, but remember where it will be—here, and it is we who will provide it.
The savvy opponent must be carefully dealth with here, for he may charge your utopian dream with elements of fantasy, but this charge is not as formidable as it might seem. You can simply ask him what reality he wishes for us to accept: starving children, soldiers shoveled off to war, conniving landlords, injustice, inequality--you get the idea. You see by this tact you can push him into being seen as an old establishment curmudgeon who will let problems continue to be problems. Further, and as I said before, you can make him look like a cruel barbarian to your voters. Don't miss this opportunity, and it will come along for you, many times, at the very least.
Dreams and visions are your token words, and they will catch the voters, especially after your voters see that the dreams and visions are for them. Of course we cannot do everything, but you never tell the voter what you cannot do for him, but what you can. You see, you can make him look at you as his employee. He pays you with his vote, which costs him nothing, you repay him by providing goods and services. Lest the equation sound too economic, you can simply surmise that you are a public servant, and your servitude toward his needs will become your trademark.
Our opponents must be portrayed as playground bullies who stand between the playground and the people. One of our major functions is therefore to protect and defend our citizens against these bullies. With all the opprobrium with which our opponents are prepared to fight abroad, we will pick and fight our political opponents here at home. This is to our great advantage; the voter is always more cognizant of his own condition and household than he is of the same in a country separated from him by an ocean or two.
Of late we have seen a version of these same postures played out in the case of the so-called "illegal's." In this case, a portion of a neighboring country is in our country and our opponent wants to push and shove them all back to the poverty from which they came, and from which they had hoped to escape. This creates another mammoth opportunity for us in which we show our generosity and our humanity. Remember, the playground bullies must be depicted as manifesting very little of either of these qualities. We therefore welcome the "illegal's," asserting, as some of sloganeering has it, "no human is an 'illegal'." You see this makes our opponent appear to regard our neighbor to the south as having more significance in his status as an "illegal," than in his status as a human being. Furthermore, it places the law above humans; we will have none of that natural law stuff, and will quote the words of one of their own, that the law was made for man, not man for the law. You see, religion is not the enemy, but the resource.
So you see we now are the able defender of the downtrodden who previously used to follow protocol and sail into Ellis Island and do paperwork, but now must swim a river or climb a wall we have erected to keep these humans out. Tell--I mean shout--at your opponent, that it is time for a nation to do some serious soul-searching when it can throw back people who have exerted that kind of effort to come to our land. If he is religious tell him to repent, while we will do the work of welcoming our guests while he apologies and begs forgiveness for not wanting them in the first place.
You see these people are seen by our own, and we must give every indication that we are prepared to put a new leaf in the table to make it bigger for our guests, who are ultimately to be made citizens like ourselves at half the costs. This exuded generosity will stymie our cantankerous opponent, and if he has anything left in his quiver it will be the arrow he always brings out in virtually every debate with us. You know what that is already, because I have told you. He will lament the costs. I have also told you how to respond to a quibble over money when humans are involved. If you do that right the crowd will finish him off because you will have delivered the opponent into arms as unwelcoming as his unextending arms toward our neighbors to the south.
It is not just a border wall we do not acknowledge, we maintain, as it concerns humans, very few dividing lines or judgments. In line with that institution headquartered in New York City, which, by the way, we should be taking orders from instead of our own government, we will not define evil. Meanwhile our opponents group splashes the word around the world describing various countries of the world and incurs their justified wrath. We have many willing accomplishes in the press and various organizations scattered about sharing our reluctance to not judge that we be not judged. This posture can swoon the voter into scrambling to vote in your favor if you give him an exhibition worthy of his vote.
Doing it is not all that difficult. Refuse to look upon any adversary--except your political opponent of course--as not convertible to your way of thinking. To do this, we must exhibit no fear of frankly human monsters, and the audience that witnesses this undertaking will see that you have something that few in the world--maybe none--can claim. So whereas our opponent will call out his soldiers to wreck havoc on belligerents, we treat them as if they have no history of misbehaving. We treat them as the gentleman they are not, to cause them to become the gentleman we want.You see to our opponent we look stupid, but to our belligerent we look like a saint. Stymied by your effort to console rather than condemn the belligerent, he becomes a saint like you, and now you can both work together against your political opponent. So the man who would identify evil, and have the temerity to address it by name, finds himself with another opponent--your convert. If you play this hand skillfully, you may even get him--though he be separated by an ocean or more from you and maybe putting out his own soldiers against those of your country--to endorse you as the preferred candidate in your bid for election. So now the enemy of your enemy, your political opponent, has become your friend.
Meanwhile, do not worry if this creates too much mess; we cannot win every election, and we need our opponent to clean up the messes sometimes. Thus, the fact that he wins an election every so often is needful for us. In effect, we cannot lose, even when we lose. Only we are not going to lose the one coming.
Our opponent must have an opponent, so he sees this need as being fed by his foreign policy, from which he habitually looks for reasons to go to war. In addition, it enables him to swagger about, as he talks about the need to go into all parts of the world to bring his gun against evil. We, who recognize no evil in the world sufficient to stir up any army over, appear always ready for reconciliation rather than annihilation. We therefore come across to the voter as likeable and friendly, and able to resolve various crises in the world without so much as raising our voice. Instead of killing him, we befriend him and his whole nation.
Another advantage to us in this matter is that our opponent's opponent is never seen up close by the voter; he is not, for example, stalking and peeking in the homes around the city. He remains therefore an abstraction to the voter who is warned about him by your opponent. The belligerent might as well be in another world--which he is. There is therefore no need to confront him. We therefore would wait until the last minute, but it need never come to that.
Yes, that time may come, but when it does, we can still work that to our advantage. Like one of our own did not so many years ago, he employed the tactics I suggested, bought off evil with a little aid, enough to keep the "peace" on his watch, which erupted quite otherwise very soon into our opponent's watch. Therefore he is saddled with it.
Yes these matters can get very delicate at times, but do not fret. There is always a way to shift your burdens onto someone else's shoulders, for them to be borne down with them--to the point that the voter will yearn to go back to the peaceable years, and we can be reelected.
And too. Of course we have an enemy, but he is not some foreign despot, but rather our political opponent. Combat with him requires no weapons but a few pithy phrases and jokes and lifted eyebrows and skewered tone of voice on occasion. Make him look the fool that he is, or better, make him agonize in the knowledge of how easily you have defeated a man defeated by his own incomprehension of your tactics. As I said some time before, save for losing elections more than we actually do, one would wish for a political race in which one's opponent presented more of a challenge. At times the sliding board is just too easy. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.
Yes, the riches of religion, or I should say, it's potential for our use is beyond measure. You see this is where the unknowing among us go wrong. They perceive that because we are striving for a state that is not only secular in terms of law or form, but one that is filled with citizen sympathy for our secular aims, the religious amongst them cannot be courted, and indeed must be counted among the enemy. No. Religion is our enemy, but the religious can be converted to our thinking with a bit of ingenuity on our part. First, and above all, and never forget it, we must present ourselves as the culmination of the Christian religion. This may sound odd to you, but in fact it presents us with extraordinary persuasive powers, nearly as good as those miracles of religion of old. Because of it, we have no need to unconvert the converted. Rather, through our deeds and sometimes in our words, we can bring a recalcitrant religious population--I mean voters--around to the view that our view of the doings of people and our country is indeed the fruition and furthermore, their own religion in action.
Initially, it may be hard going--but, be advised, we are winning. In the beginning, however, one must find one's way into their pulpits, because this is where these people are at--they are not out on the pavement, as we and ours are, tending to the powerless, from which we ultimately derive our power.
You see these people live under the tutelage of their pulpiteers, so you must find some way to get yourself to that bully pulpit. This may be the hardest thing to do, and in many cases it requires an inside connection. That being said, get yourself to that pulpit by hook or crook, but in your talking take them away from where they are at, to where you are. That is, speak of the dispossessed, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the have-nots, the disenfranchised. You see these words are in their revered book; quote some of its snippets to make your point. Tell them one cannot simply talk the talk, but one must walk the talk. And then ever so carefully coax them into seeing that their Bread of Life is bread itself. Show them that bread matters because life matters, and life matters so we have opportunity to go about providing bread. Tell them that the communion table matters, but the kitchen table matters more. Exercise extreme caution here, because your reward may be bountiful, if you phrase your words ever so carefully. Undoubtedly, some of your listeners may be thinking of a roast they have in their oven at that very moment, and the feast that is theirs after you quit talking and they can go home to eat it. But because you have talked about empty tables, and they know how full theirs will be in a matter of minutes, their gushing guilt, if your speech is working, will draw them to you and what you are saying about the way they live, which is ultimately about the way they vote.
Now you are poised to change them. Tell them they are already thinking about their full tables; you have simply reminded them of the empty ones.
The devil has been made flesh, and dwells among us--the political opponent
Yes, different tactics are necessary among the different religious. Amongst the smaller group, but one certainly growing itself in this country in the past half century, your message of materialism will catch hold easier. This is because deacons in their church have been prominent, and so they are as used to waiting on tables as they are wailing beneath their crosses. As long as you get their vote, nothing else really matters. Nevertheless to strengthen your group on the voter in this group, one must move him off his religious knees and put him on his secular feet. To do this his spirit talk and focus must be brought to a juggernaut, table of judgment: the kitchen table. If no tables are supplied, no crosses.
The other group may be harder going, but they are slipping in our direction, and better yet, have hardly noticed. To begin with, from this group in former decades and years representatives would come who could pick away and some even destroy our argument for his institution reversing the traditional ordering of preachers and deacons. Part of his ability to do this was imparted by the training and knowledge in their touted book. Some time ago, however, when others among them decided their institution resembled more a marketplace than a sacred place, they made it into the former, and prodded it more and more in a secular direction, though of course unintentionally. Even their precious pulpit, previously the fount of endless touting of afflictions of men estranged from God, have become therapy sessions, and their god made to serve them.
Yes we are the party of the belly, the kitchen table as I said before. That is a thing and a place taken care of and visited three times a day, and every lack of missed opportunity is one in which your potential voter can think of your promise that this his lack is your reason to be.
Yes every time our opponents intimate or even suggest going on the warpath again, bring up the shameful colonialism of our past. Of course our allies across the water have a more shameful record than us, but they have for some time now shown no interest in resurrecting an old sin, whereas our penchant for meddling in the affairs of others continues unabated. Of course our opponents drape all their ventures in a flag, or worse that word freedom, but we have chastened them for some time now with their dismal record of war, after all their warmongering. We, for our part, don't mind if some of our voters burn the flag; it shows our respect for the independence of our voters to do what they will, and gives them the impression that we will support and defend radicals.
In that sense, we are the true Americans of this vast piece of real estate between the Atlantic and Pacific. Americans have always shown their radicalness and their outrage; the sixties was an all-American decade. For the opponents, of course, the sixties were a meltdown. Of course they were, but in the sense of advantage to us. Now that warmongering of our despicable past is protested in the street, and in mass. By it, we can bring whole armies home, shamed of their shameful fight with pretended aggressors. You see, and as the latest critique of warmongering goes, it is just a matter of time before war becomes a thing of the past and that piece of new cultural property and achievement will belong to us. No mother here, unless perhaps she is Islamic, wants her sons traipsing off to killing fields. What her grandmother, indeed her mother, had to witness, will never be seen again, and the bounty of that blessing will be our political philosophy in permanent power--or nearly so; of course there is more work to do.
Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.
Other related essays:
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!