There is an election in the wind. The party machine is starting to hum with purpose, changing gear for another assault on the hapless electorate. As an aspiring politician or President you will be exercising your mental muscles, at least your campaign directors will - you're just coming along for the ride. Don’t worry – this is not a cause for any major concern. The run-of-the-mill politician cannot be trusted to run their own campaign. There are, however, some key signs to look out for that may indicate the start of the election campaign.
The Early Signs of a Campaign
- Everybody denying that they've started campaigning.
- Opinion polls start appearing more regularly
- There will be an awful lot of money suddenly being spent or promised to marginal electorates.
Once all of these signs have occurred, you can be sure that the campaign is on, even if nobody is saying so. However, now you need a slogan.
Your party will need an appropriate slogan for the campaign ahead. This will evolve through specific phrases that your senior party colleagues will use in press interviews and official speeches. Your major opponents will be doing the same thing. The slogan that is chosen will bear no resemblance to anything tangible, but be designed to sound good and give people a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Facts will only get in the way.
A slogan that says Vote for X – We are not quite as bad as the other guys, while probably near to the truth, is hardly going to get the electorate inspired to vote for you. What is needed is some well thought out jargon that will be positive and engaging. A good base for this would to take something fairly true, or at least believable, and then jargonize it. Some examples follow – the real meaning is in brackets.
Re-energizing the Country
(We couldn’t possibly do as badly as the other guys)
Shedding Light on the Future
(After three years you’ll realize how bad everything really is)
Securing the Country’s Future
(Securing our own future and superannuation. Everybody else is on their own)
It’s Time for Change
(Oh come on…it’s our turn now, please. The other guys have been in power for years…please!)
Once the slogan has been sorted out, it will be included in every single announcement until the public and media are heartily sick of hearing it. At this point, only a day after the latest denial that an election is imminent, the election will be announced.
The Campaign Begins
The campaign will follow a traditional model. As it gathers momentum you will be called upon to wander around your electorate talking to anybody you can find who will listen to you. There may be an opportunity to open a shopping center, go and talk to your local community sporting clubs, or maybe even be seen helping old people cross the road. As onerous as this sounds, this is the one time that you really do need to come face-to-face with your constituents, so you should bear this burden with stoic calm and prove your mettle to the party powerful. You may wish to take the opportunity to kiss a few babies if there are some television cameras around – this is what is expected of you. Nobody knows why this has to happen, but it does; there are always young mothers who appear happy for their baby to be kissed a stranger in a smart suit. Just make sure you don’t get baby vomit on you when you seek out this opportunity.
There is a small chance, a very small chance, that people might be interested in your party’s policies, so you should ensure that have the information sheets that will most likely be available. These will give you standard phrases to use when asked about specific policy issues. This is important because your party thugs will be looking for signs of weakness for future use against you should you start to feel ambitious and think of challenging for a senior position – perhaps even that of a the President. So memorize the form responses and trot them out as required. Never deviate from the message. Another reason that you shouldn’t deviate from the form response is that your party policies are unlikely to have any substance, so if you get into a debate you might be made to look very silly. The press are always there on such occasions.
As the campaign gathers momentum and moves into its final weeks, your party will start prostituting itself to all and sundry, making promises of funding to everybody if only they will find it in their heart to vote the right way. These are called non-core promises as they do not form part of the official policy platform and are sure to get forgotten very soon after the party is elected. The usual excuse is that the budget isn’t as strong as expected because of the mismanagement of the previous government. The promise will have to wait.
Some further advice on election jargon
Frank de Nighle III, a little known but well respected commentator on electioneering, has provided the following advice on election jargon. Frank advises that you should look out from some key words and phrases when other politicians make election speeches and be aware of what they really mean. You don’t want to miss vital signals from your party’s elite. He specifically singled out eight phrases:
Moving forward - of course this phrase can be used with impunity as it has a progressive feel to it. What the politician fails to mention is that they are moving forward in a gentle arc that will eventually bring them back to where they started.
Real action – as opposed to what - unreal action? This is a play on words, what it should read is Reel Action – as in reeling in the public with so much spin that everybody gets dizzy.
We will set up a task force / peoples committee / working group/ people’s forum – we have no idea what to do about the problem, we’re just pointing out the mess that the health system/education system/ transport network/ defense policy (just fill in as appropriate) is in and the inability of our opponents to solve it, but we hope like hell that somebody somewhere can solve it for us if we are lucky enough to get elected.
I am committed to – my advisors tell me that I should be concerned about this problem and I am happy to get up and commit to anything that will help me get over the line in the election. But what I am most committed to is convincing all the voters that I am committed to solving their problems.
Yes we can – uses the ‘royal’ we and actually means ‘somebody in my government better be listening to this speech and have a solution because I’m clutching at straws here.’
We can’t go on like this – we have been in opposition so long that we are just short of throwing a major tantrum…it’s not fair and it’s our turn to govern. Waaahhhhhh!
It’s the economy stupid – the economy is all I know about and I haven’t got any decent policies relating to anything else.
I am glad you asked that question – I haven’t got a clue and I need some time to gather my thoughts and put together a response that sounds vaguely plausible – and who let this troublemaker into the room. Security, throw them out.
If you win the election, then the aftermath will be quite pleasant as you and your party bask in the glow of polling booth success. There will be lots of champagne, slapping each other on the back, and telling your opposition that they ran a good campaign but the people have spoken and delivered your party to power – so tough luck. If you lose, there will be recriminations, and blame will be doled out to those too slow or too dumb to avoid it. By this time the smart politician will be hiding out in his electorate, or on holiday in the Caribbean. They will have already whispered to the party whips about who they think might be to blame and why. This sort of preemptive strike is essential to firm up your place in the pecking order for the next session of of uninterrupted waffle that passes for political debate.