Wily winning: A manual of mutating political philosophy – November 24, 2008
By Joseph Randolph
Thank you for your note, and I am glad that you enjoyed yourself at the festivities on election night. The results of your campaign did not surprise me in the least. You had, after all, some superb advice. Recall what I said in my first correspondence with you about keeping these letters for your reelection bid next time.
We are of course standing on an historical threshold in the history of this nation, and though our time has been of long duration in coming, we shall not be disappointed now that it is here. The trauma of history is its snail's pace, but occasionally it gallops, and more is changed in the twinkling of an eye than many a millennia. Of course we shall not know for some weeks how much of our agenda we can reasonably expect to achieve, but if the past weeks are any indication I expect nothing less than our wildest dreams to come to pass. The election results confirm a shift in the political culture of the nation, and with the inches we have been given, we will be prepared to take our miles. Truly historic.
Now is our time to consolidate our gains and for you to take account of why you were victorious. We need our voters of course, but only for as long as their votes are needed. The vote, moreover, is more important than the voter; and if we can get a vote without a voter, we will always take it. The fact of the matter is that voters are fickle, and a further fact is that the longer we stay in office, the harder it gets to stay any longer. The voters grow tired of us, and thus incumbency after a while almost insures that our opponents will be able to mount a significant challenge against our political future. The only way to avoid this problem is somehow to dispense with the voter or the vote. Until we figure that one out, we have to meet the challenge of our opposition. Democracy is the larger problem here, but that is an issue for another time, for we now have a job to do. After all, we are the choice of the people's choice—for now anyway.
Lest you think the tone of this letter too dour, given the problems with voters, the rest of the letter will simply serve to remind you of the tremendous advantages we have over our opponents when we oppose them at election time.
We prey upon the weaknesses of voters, and because the vices of people almost always exceed their virtues, we have chosen the stronger suite, which is to say their weaknesses. We therefore use and exploit envy, fear, selfishness, and self-pity for our political gain. Of course there are other human vices, but these are our strongest because they are the ones to which people are most prone and therefore exceedingly susceptible. They are also vices capable of infinite manipulation by us. Our trick is to present policies to the voter which will satisfy these vices, at least in part, with of course a careful wording which will make the policies look not only just and fair, but of course also respectful of equality. In truth most of our policies will serve the opposite purposes.
We do not have to have all the votes, so we figure on losing certain blocs of voters, but we have to know who these votes represent, so that we know at all times the voting habits of the company we keep: thus, whom we can afford to offend and when, and as the opposite situation requires, when we need to genuflect. Added to this is the fact that we never write off any block of voters, until there is the nearly certain belief that to do so will bring in a larger block of voters. This is why, for example, we can assail the rich relentlessly--as a group they are very small, and the amount of loathing directed toward this small group of voters by other voters is sufficiently huge to show that by castigating the smaller group we can garner the votes of the larger group. This calculation is mere arithmetic.
That being said, and as you can see, we divide and conquer; we do not, therefore, unite but fragment. The trick is simply to have the largest fragments when the voters go to vote. We of course continue to talk about unity and you have seen our nationally elected leader already connoting to those voters who did not vote for him that they really did as he will be their President too, though they mistakenly did not vote for him. Thus we talk about unity when it is to our advantage and its opposite when that is to our advantage. With a ratcheting up of your political skills you will be able to do both in the same political speech, in fact, in the same sentence.
Finally, keep your voters happy, and by the fact that you won your election, you will be keeping the majority of voters happy. The best way to do this is to present a few presents to them—legislation long in waiting will do—within your first days in office. Lest their enthusiasm for you dim after the last present is given on that occasion, simply remind them that in the very near future, there will be many more where those came from.
Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.