How Candidates' Strategies Shape Elections
As citizens, we vote for our representatives at the local, state, and federal levels. Everybody from town and city council members all the way up to the President of the United States are chosen by election. Basically, the candidate who receives the most votes wins.
A successful politician convinces people to vote for him. How does he do that?
Ideally, he sincerely echoes the collective voice of the majority or of his key constituency. Otherwise, he simply tells voters what they want to hear. One strategy is built on principles, while the other hangs on empty promises.
Nonetheless, the second method is equally effective as the first, but easier. Why burden myself with a tireless defense of principles, when I can just choose attractive talking points to fit any occasion?
This is why we so often end up with a political process that this funny political poem, Vote for Me, describes.
Honest Abe, on Being Two-Faced
If I had two faces, would I be wearing this one?
— Abraham Lincoln
Vote for Me
Vote for me.
Here's my pitch.
I'm just like you,
Except I'm rich.
But believe me, I'm the good guy.
Though we know most rich folks are evil.
Let me tell you what they really think;
They actually hate poor people! (That's you.)
My family background is bona fide,
Because my dear parents were working class.
They barely survived on a blue collar budget,
And they prized their small patch of grass.
My private school wasn't the best.
My tennis lessons left me stressed.
We only vacationed five times per year.
Recalling that struggle brings a tear.
I've concocted detailed stories
and rehearsed them very well,
and recount them like authentic memories
every time I find occasion to tell.
This convinces naïve listeners
That I truly can relate
To the unwashed masses, the common schlubs (that's you),
More than a Head of State.
I'm one percent oppressed minority,
And saw a movie once, about prison.
I carry hot sauce in my briefcase
And practiced my drawl, ya'll, listen.
Contentious issues I avoid
And intentionally speak vaguely.
That way you don't know where I stand.
It's a clever bit of fakery.
Watch me put on my sincerest act.
See me hug this sweet old lady?
Watch me smile, and laugh, and wave.
See me kiss this precious baby?
I have a sterling character.
I'm so mannerly in your sight.
You can't dispute my heart of gold,
So everything I say is right.
There's no need to think for yourself.
Just leave all the thinking to me.
You're too traumatized to know what's best,
But I will surely set you free.
I promise you everything you want,
Earned on hard-working people's backs.
I'll just print more money, magically,
(And double every tax).
You need me to take care of you.
You're powerless to change your station.
The American Dream is a deceptive scheme
For the downtrodden in lowly occupations. (That's you.)
See, you're not who you claim to be
Unless you decide to side with me.
If you question my statements publicly,
I'll impeach your whole identity.
So listen carefully, and do as I say.
I'm the shepherd for these sheeple flocks.
Just mark the circle next to my name,
And drop that ballot in the box.
When I'm elected, I'll do great things.
And you'll follow me mindlessly, like a cult.
Now repeat these words: "If something goes wrong,
It's the other party's fault."
Napolean, on Absurdity in Politics
In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.
— Napoleon Bonaparte
Is the the best political poem ever written? Why not? I've never seen another poem about politics. The subject elicits cynicism far more than it sparks inspiration.
Regardless, this humorous poem could describe any modern election. It's an amalgamation of topics. It comments on identity politics, class warfare, pandering, and partisanship. Woven throughout its narrative is a presumption of the candidate's disingenuousness.
That disingenuousness is half of the problem.
Let's take just one common political maneuver as an example. First, manufacture a problem. Second, set up yourself as the only solution. Some of the biggest political issues in American society are constructs of this strategy.
This entire concept would seem absurd if politicians were honorable.
But do all candidates enter politics with self-serving motives? Or do they just stray from their original path?
The Path of a Modern Politician
Imagine your sincere beliefs and intentions win a political office for you.
Suddenly, there is a new focus on your every word and act. You begin to consider everything in view of your fundraising efforts or re-election. Gradually, you drift toward preserving your position, instead of representing former principles. Eventually, you calculate your stances and remarks according to polls and prevailing trends.
And that assumes you began with the best intentions.
The same thing that happened to you has happened to many others before you. It takes a certain kind of person to want political office. Among those people, it seems that few are deserving of it.
Huckabee, on Political Risk
I've always suggested, if you can't stand the sight of your own blood, don't run for office.
— Mike Huckabee
© 2021 Stephen Ratay