Thursday September 27, 2012
The Seventh and Final Quote from Jill Lepore's 'The Lie Factory: How politics became a business'
This isn't a quote so much as a summation and a warning. Jill Lepore's New Yorker article, “The Lie Factory: How politics became a business,” on the rise and ascendancy of Clem Whitaker, Leone Baxter and Campaigns, Inc., the first political consulting firm in the world, which mostly handled right-wing candidates and issues in the 1930s, '40s and ''50s, includes this line: “Whitaker and Baxter weren’t just inventing new techniques [to win political campaigns]; they were writing a rule book.”
This is the rule book. See if you can spot familiar political techniques:
- Make it personal: candidates are easier to sell than issues.
- If your position doesn’t have an opposition, or if your candidate doesn’t have an opponent, invent one.
- Pretend that you are the Voice of the People.
- Attack, attack, attack. (Whitaker: “You can’t wage a defensive campaign and win.”)
- Never explain anything. (Whitaker: “The more you have to explain, the more difficult it is to win support.”)
- Say the same thing over and over again. (Whitaker: “We assume we have to get a voter’s attention seven times to make a sale.”)
- Subtlety is your enemy. (Baxter: “Words that lean on the mind are no good. They must dent it.)
- Simplify, simplify, simplify. (Whitaker: “A wall goes up when you try to make Mr. and Mrs. Average American Citizen work or think.“)
- Fan flames. (Whitaker: “We need more partisanship in this country.”)
- Never shy from controversy; instead, win the controversy. (Whitaker: “The average American doesn’t want to be educated; he doesn’t want to improve his mind; he doesn’t even want to work, consciously, at being a good citizen. But there are two ways you can interest him in a campaign, and only two that we have ever found successful.“ You can put on a fight (“he likes a good hot battle, with no punches pulled”), or you can put on a show (“he likes the movies; he likes mysteries; he likes fireworks and parades”). “So if you can’t fight, PUT ON A SHOW! And if you put on a good show, Mr. and Mrs. America will turn out to see it.”)
- Winner takes all.
It's like finally finding the Covenant of the GOP.
Baxter and Whitaker helped elect conservative candidates and defeat progressive legislation for decades. “A wall goes up when you try to make Mr. and Mrs. Average American Citizen work or think," Whitaker said.