From Someone Who Has Never Lost
The first political campaign I ever worked on was a successful, local, tripartisan effort. As a follower of American national politics, it was, and continues to be, shocking that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents worked together for the common good despite everyone anticipating a power shift at the end. In fact, to my knowledge, that resultant power shift remains unchanged to this day.
If I recall correctly, I was recruited because I knew several prominent participants personally, and I was known to have good relations with the local media. Furthermore, I was already aware of the first, failed, partisan attempt one year prior. Therefore, I dubbed myself the committee’s “propagandist" and worked on a volunteer basis; the common good affected me, too.
Despite the negative connotation of the word “propaganda,” I used it for a very specific reason: I demanded honesty and positivity. The irony still appeals to me. A political opponent would later publicly label me the committee’s “annoying bullhorn,” and I considered adopting a bullhorn as my logo, but all these years later I still prefer “propagandist.”
An interesting thing about truth is that people recognize it. I’m not a psychologist, but reactions from the field indicated that residents reacted positively. Instead of them thinking, “these are all lies,” they instead thought, “oh, yeah, I remember that.”
There was a natural inclination by many committee members to “go negative,” but I focused on facts. In fact, I assembled a one-page fact sheet listing nothing but facts. Furthermore, I sourced those facts. If you received a fact sheet and wanted to verify the facts, I made it easy for you to fact-check it.
A one-page sheet of honest facts was very effective. The general reaction was that residents would recognize many or most of the facts and then realize how many good points we were making. After all, there weren’t just a few points on the sheet, there may have been around two dozen or so. Glancing at the sheet in its entirety, residents saw a very strong case in support of our campaign.
These honest facts permeated the campaign. There were interviews with various media outlets, we may have done some advertising, there were probably articles in local newspapers; it was a long time ago, so the details are fuzzy. I remember that statewide media eventually took interest in the campaign.
Even though I insisted on positivity, the media actually went negative. There were personal attacks and name calling directed at our opponent, but that came from the editors and not from our campaign. At one point I was personally attacked by our opponent, which I thought was exciting, and then a newspaper editor defended me in an editorial, which was even more exciting.
Long story short, we succeeded.
Now you might be thinking, “that was a tripartisan effort. A lot of people were involved. Maybe it was destined to succeed anyway.”
Well, it ended up in court. There was an opposing side. I had counterparts on the other side. It took a lot of people doing a lot of work to win. There was resistance, but, in the end, the common good appealed to enough residents to achieve a victory.
Let’s now discuss a more traditional campaign: one side versus the other, with political power as the trophy. These are the campaigns that sour countless voters to politics.
The story goes that one candidate came into my office and asked for my support. I was to get paid this time. But, I didn’t say, “yes.” I said, “convince me to vote for you.” How can I persuade anyone to vote for him if I’m not convinced, as a resident, to vote for him myself.
The points started off OK; then I stopped him. That’s a lie. I’d been living in the area for years and, quite frankly, I had voted against this guy before because of this specific issue and this specific lie.
But, he persisted that it wasn’t a lie. So, I educated myself, and I was able to obtain official records. It was, in fact, not a lie. He was essentially voted out of office due to voter misinformation.
So, that took some effort. I had to educate the public and unconvince them of something they had previously convinced themselves of.
Overall, I followed the same two rules. Everything had to be honest and verifiable, and we gave voters positive reasons to vote for my candidate. There was not one negative attack from the official campaign, and, to be honest, I don’t remember seeing unofficial negative attacks either. The opponent was actually respectable, and we competed on ideas.
We won. And within a few years, our opponent switched parties and began working with us. That would’ve been unlikely had we waged a nasty campaign.
My Track Record
Every campaign I have ever donated to has lost, and every campaign I have ever worked for in any capacity has won. I don’t know why that is, and it is not a significant statistical sampling — less than a dozen total campaigns — but the news of the day has inspired me to share these two stories with you.
Honesty and positivity work. I hope you don’t believe me, run a campaign for something, and try it yourself. But, you know you hate the lies. You know you hate the mudslinging. Imagine a refreshing campaign comes along in which you get to decide which option you like the most, instead of which option is the least terrible. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to vote in favor of something, instead of always voting against everything?