Wily winning: A manual of mutating political philosophy
By Joseph Randolph
I was very pleased to receive your call. In this day and climate, however, I will have to send my consultations by snail mail, as all the electronic and digital media provides too much possibility for interception. And with the matters I will be advising you, we can ill afford for anyone to be looking over our shoulder. Furthermore, I should not want people even of our own political persuasion to have this sort of stuff for free, nor should you. I will ask you to destroy these letters as soon as you have understood them.
Now for the prolegomena. Though you have thought the venture you are about to engage in difficult and complex enough to enlist my aid as consultant, the road to where you want to go is an easy venture. This is not to say that it is easy of a kind which anyone on their own could manage. I mean easy in the sense that once having figured this whole political enterprise out, our work is quite easy. People say knowledge is power, and this my friend, knowledge of politics I mean, is ultimate power. It is like having figured out the laws of nature, with which you may now subdue nature herself. We have no such pretension, however; the electorate will do well enough for us.
What however has taken me years to learn, I can distill to you in a few weeks, though it may take more time for you to grasp every detail.
First of all, with our way of thinking we have distinct advantages not shared by our opponents. Also, having figured out what our opponents have not figured out is of inestimable value against them. We have the support of virtually all academics and actors: both the smartest and dumbest people in our society. Of course the masses generally despise the former and have adulation for the latter. That is no great matter, however. What one has to watch nevertheless is the sheer number of those who are left. Even this however is not as much a worry as it used to be in the days of the so-called "silent majority" for some proponents for that majority have now conceded that that group is now a minority. One of the most welcome aspects of such a shift in the culture of the country is that without any overt measures of thought-control or repression, we are on the brink of living in a country with virtually only one viable political alternative--ours. This is why among other reasons I say you will have an easy road to travel.
To the unitiated, I mean unenlightened, it of course does not appear this way, for a variety of reasons. Never mind we have not done so well in the last couple elections. That was only the case simply because we have not distinguished our message from their message. And consequently the voters as soon vote for our opponent as for us, and in the coin toss of that, no wonder our luck has been down. A coin toss, however, is not the way to win an election--proven by our rather stale record of late.
So what do we do? There is no high road to worry and fatigue yourself about. You shall have the opposite problem of boredom. You will have no need to come up with "ideas" with which to lead, for you need not lead, but simply follow the wishes of the people in order to lead. That is, walk out in front of them. Remember, you are a "servant" of the people, but people can be made to do just about anything, that is vote for almost anybody, so never mind being called a servant of such, because they are more than ready to serve such politicians such as us, once they see that our promises are irresistible.
Old style politics really did have substance; we are about symbolism with a shred of substance here and there. I will have more to say of the latter in forthcoming correspondence.
What I meant about the symbolism thing is simply this: our money has on it the words "e pluribus enum"--to be rather than to seem. It's just the opposite: as one of the father's of one of our best understood when he groomed his offspring to see that what is important is not what you are, but what people think you are. These makes life a bit more complicated, I mean the living of two lives so to speak, but the payoff is huge for us, and the money--votes I mean--is virtually immediate. I mean remember one of our brighest and more recent stars, who persuaded all that infidelity to one, need not mean infidelity to another, and better, it need not matter to any, except those hurt by it.
Of course we have some substance, for we are materialists through and through, and nothing could be more substantive than matter. Just ask anyone on the street what is real, and without hesitation they will latch onto something made out of matter. This is an immediate connect with the voter, who is worried about food on the table, and a roof over their head. But more about this later.
We believe among other things that politics is ultimate, and that everything is political. This means that we politicize everything, and in terms of getting votes, this works to our advantage. It gives the voter the view that there is nothing that cannot be addressed by political action; and he therefore becomes politically active because of it. If there is a tsunami there is a political reason for it; if a bridge collapses there is a political reason for it; if there is a drip at the Artic there is a political reason for it. If anything out of the ordinary occurs, or for that matter, anything ordinary, indeed whatever occurs, there is a political origin somewhere. We thus expose the roots, if possible to ruin our political opponents. You see even nature and the workings of nature are not without use for us. We are the ultimate anthropomorphizers, and yet you see we fault our opponent with having had that old religious idea of "subduing nature."
Politics is words; I mean it is about the right words, but having recognized this, one cannot take the notion so far as to parse the meaning of the word too far, for example, as one of own learned some years ago. That sort of thing, I mean stretching beyond the limit, is too much even for the public we have these days, so there are limits to most anything. This is why we always want to advertise and present ourselves as moderates, and never as extremists—that label we save for designating our opponents to our voters. But up to that very distant fence, one can do just about anything in politics and not just get by with it, but be counted profound or a hero for it. To the tawdry public we will come across as having the ability to think outside the box as they call it, and we will be worshipped for it. Meanwhile, we have just put life under and inside the political box. Our voters think we have liberated them, and are so blind that they cannot see the cage we have made. They, after all, are for us; we tell them, however, we are for them. Words, the right words, I say.
Oh yes, the coarsening of politics. It comes with virtually any revolution. Please refrain from your naive revulsion at the real world. Just abide by my previous letter. Of course politics is coarsening, but you can lay all the blame on opponents. There is nothing as powerful as taking the argument of your enemy against you, and charging him with the fault he lodges against you--more of that later--I see that I must give you some more milk before you are ready for any more meat.
You see, we came and advance our causes from underneath. That is, we topple, and the way we topple is to convince those watching, or those whose attention we can soon enlist by proper wordsmithing, that the things that are low in the world--our potential voters--have been made low by the things that are high. This is how we can bring the house down, indeed virtually anything. But so as to escape the appearance of negativity, we cloak our demolition in high-sounding phrases, like "Social Justice," for example. By it, we can enlist the vote of virtually every housing tenant or renter. And what do we care if we lose the vote of every landlord--mathematically they are of no interest to us; they are always the fewer number. Thus, we are not for the "little guy," but the more guys. I hope you are catching on to how to play this game.
No I don't mean you must be a hypocrite, what I meant was that appearance is more important than reality. Furthermore, reality is what we make it appear to be. You have to create a reality that people truly want, such that the people, the voters again, want you. This is the sliding down the sliding board part of our job. Think of it this way. We are in effect trying to unteach the population what whole generations learned--some time ago now--at their mother's knee. Remember how hard that was for us! No wonder we can shed it our upbringing so easily when childhood is offered to us. Growing up was painful as we had to pull away from a world we imagined made for us, a world all about us, and exchange it for the real world, which we then had to adapt to. But now, with the reeducation we have introduced, and the political platforms we advance, we give all of that vanquished world back, and the more we can give back, the more the people give--votes again--to us. How do we do it? Sliding board. Simply persuade the people that the thing standing between them and what they want is not a thing--not inanimate undiscerning matter--but our political opponent. And if they will just push him out of the way they can be home free, living their dream, because it is not they who are responsible for having not reached their dreams, but an opponent who has kept them away. Never blame the voters for anything. Help them find, no, give them a scapegoat--and we as politicians of our political stripe always have one--our political enemies.
No, no one need ever suffer. When they do, coax them to find someone else to fault for their suffering. Some of our most savvy gurus have coined a few helpful phrases over their tenures in this regard. The one that springs to immediate mind is the nugget that it takes a village to do something you can't do alone. The idea here is one that people can immediately grasp. I mean you cannot go to the moon alone, you cannot run a nuclear facility alone, and so one. You see people of our persuasion hate the alone thing. We hate people driving in cars alone, or being on buses alone. The words public and private are useful for you and your campaign. In our eyes everything "private" is of the devil; everything "public" is quartered off and taken care of with the care of nannies as poised as uncomplaining angels. Government of course governs the public, which is as we want it to be.
So the trick is to get them to see that every failure is because not enough people helped, and that is why we have failure. You weave people so tightly together that you no longer have to treat them as individuals anymore, because they have erased all boundaries between them. It sounds to me as if you need to pull the old "the myth of me" trick. You see we're not for the individual anymore, though there was a time when we were his greatest champion. No, we're for the group, or to dress it up with respectability: the common good. Anything less is just rank selfishness. Except what we really want to encourage is the herd mentality. We lead, they follow. To do this most effectively one must remove everything they have until they have no choice but to follow, because you've taken everything that was once theirs, and given it to the group. That we call compassion, and how political enemies would kill for all the clout that goes with ownership of that word.
Oh they will howl.
You don't talk to the voters about sacrifice; you talk about satisfaction, and those denied them by their enemy. Your voter must think of you as blazing the way in front of them, "fighting for you," we call it. Remember one of our late best, at his eulogy, some of the mourners got into the act, that is the political act, though they overdid it a bit. There was all kind of oratory about "fighting," and more "fighting," and calling on even our opponents to "fight," and so on and so forth for the people. You see this is our war; trying to keep the wolf from the door of the people, and persuading voters that he is nearly in, and will be, except for us. Furthermore, let them know that their wolf is your opponent, not those misunderstood woodland varmints that would hurt no one.
I know that with the increasing number of pacifists among us, some are apt to wonder if these innocents can direct their energy the way we used to direct it against the enemy without. It is simple--it is directed to the enemy within. Here we may be as absolutely vicious as the public will allow, remembering the caution I urged earlier. The public won't mind that display of affection for themselves when you persuade them with a tear or two that you are fighting public enemy number 1 for them--your opponent. Remember, you are prepared to be a martyr for them, but to prepare the battleground you must first have persuaded them that without you they are lost. Drain therefore any religious energy or devotion they may have directed elsewhere down onto you.
Remember, and if you never knew, it is time to learn it now: persuade the voter that there is nothing between him and you and if there is get it out of the way. I mean you have to instill in the mind of the voter that nothing but you can safeguard him from all sorts of vicissitudes and traumas and tragedies. If this all starts to smell of religion, then you have an inkling of the idea. Thus, if your voter is religious, you need to enable him to see his religious allegiances under his political allegiances, and not the reverse. If he still is living under some archaic notion of things belonging to God that don't belong to Caesar, convince him, if you have to, and hopefully in a private meeting, that there is no God. Ours is a still a religious country after all, so exercise caution. If you cannot tilt him all the way in our direction, try convincing him that his God wants him to give his money to Caesar, even if He has to take a cut or nothing. In a country such as ours that will take some doing, but the day will come, if we persist, that we can oust the old God with a kind of political force to match some of our foreign kin.
Your last letter reveals that I must go back to a pre-prolegomena for you. No, the only thing that matters is how well you can persuade voters that their government is prepared to give them everything the government has until it cannot give anymore. Even then, you must persuade the people that the government is still prepared to give. We as politicians need not lead, but simply follow the wishes of the people in order to lead. By so doing, we convey to our voters that there are onerous objects between them and their desires, mammoth obstacles, and only the work of government can remove them. Without telling them so—in fact never tell them so—convey to them that without us, they can do nothing. It has a familiar religious ring, but never matter, because, remember, you are a "servant" of the people, and when the people catch onto that, and that they have a servant whose only required payment is their vote, you will be in their employ forever. Wherever they lead we will follow--that my boy is democracy in action, except as I said in an earlier correspondence, we are aware of who is leading. We simply call refer to our efforts of service to the people by high sounding phrases as "will of the people," and people will grovel before those of us prepared to carry it out. Of course we have to prepare the people for their will. This we do by persuading them that they may have as they wish. Remember what I said, we are reeducating adults to be as children.
This is one reason we make so much of children, because we present ourselves as their protectors against all that may harm them. We are essentially trying to make adults like them, and one thing needed to make that work, is to render these noisy adults as little children who come to us with their arms extended.
This should not be above your understanding. Look what our associates have accomplished for us to date and how we can use it all for our advantage. Examples are everywhere. We have as you know been called the bleeding hearts. Well, there was a time when no man with a plan for power dared even show the natural moisture around his eyes; now, however, he can cry his eyes out and empower his base because he did it. You see, it is the thing about children again. No one expects them at their young age to take on the world without a tear, so now, so too us.
We are the party that is "for the children." Do not forget that phrase and use it frequently. You see the trick is to get behind a phrase that everybody is afraid to shoot at and you shall have unfailing protection, like a bulletproof vest. It is rather like the force of the Mafia if you think about it, and we do not even have to resort to violence.
Your last letter reveals that I must go back, again, to a pre-prolegomena for you. No, the only thing that matters is how well you can persuade voters that their government is like Santa Claus.
Who says you cannot legislate morality? We are in the morality business, but of a certain kind. We don't dare pass out do's and don'ts--that is the burden our opponent puts on his own back. We call their effort suppression of liberty and so forth. We are the moral party because we are prepared to take money from people to give it to those without, and if necessary to take it by force. The whole compassion thing is built around this Robin Hood ethic of ours.
Persuade them that money is not the object when money is the object. Most people don't give a wit for whether the country goes broke as long as they remain solvent. Therefore, they care little for talk about "balancing the nations budget" and more about how you will contribute to theirs. To be so young you manifest amazingly old ideas. For my part I have spent a lifetime defrocking myself of the ideas I grew up on, and I was with the party even then. You see, evolution is true. Ideas are for people who want to and can think. We have so few of those people in our targeted electorate that appealing to them considered as a block of voters is a fatal mistake because it is a stupid statistical mistake. Remember, we live in a democracy, not an academy. That being said, we have the best of both worlds, because we now, and have for some time, have controlled both.
Of course the government doesn't have any money. It only distributes what it takes from the people. So what? People don't care where their money comes from anymore than they care about the morals of the leaders who lead them. A dollar given is a dollar whether it came from a saint or a scoundrel, so after a while you quit worrying about the character of your giver, and concern yourself only with the fact that he gives. If someone is offering you money, can you envision asking them what are the repercussions of their gift for themselves the giver? Of course not!! We simply lend the impression, already strong in society and getting stronger by the hour, that government is a source of eternal money that will never run dry. Of course some people, though they are soon to be extinct, do not think this is the "role" of government, but we have an arsenal of ammunition against them. If some opponent dares to be so foolish as to point out that the "cost" of so and so program will bankrupt the country, ask him if people or money is more important, and if you are in a public setting--where you can derive maximum benefit--this reply will be sufficient to make him look a devil who delights in watching people writhe in misery to the point of death. At this point your work will be over for the crowd will do the rest to him. And take a trip down the sliding board again. Meanwhile, you have portrayed yourself as a saint who cares for people.Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.