Tags: American Politics | Election Day

Remember Laws of Politics in 2014 Run-Up

By Friday, 26 September 2014 08:42 AM Current | Bio | Archive

As we march toward Election Day, here’s a reminder to candidates running for office, to those who seek power and those who cling to it. This is not a criticism but a reminder — a tribute —  to politicians who bring their talents and risk their reputations in order to serve in government.

The first law of American politics is: If you don’t win, you can’t govern. This law is objective and impervious to your wishes and your ambitions. This law is equally impervious to your religion, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, not to mention your party affiliation, your education and any qualifications you may have for the job.

If you don’t win, you can’t govern.

When I say this is the first law, I really mean it’s the only law. There is no second law.

However, there is a natural corollary: You need money to win. This corollary is also impervious to your wishes. It does not matter whether you believe money is the root of all evil. It does not matter whether you equate money with political speech, especially money contributed by corporations and labor unions to buy what the Supreme Court calls “electioneering communications.” See Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

You need money to win — unless you’re Jerry Brown — because political campaigns cost money. Every campaign has administrative expenses for office supplies, telephones and special events. Larger campaigns must also budget for research, pollsters and investigators. But the real reason campaigns are expensive is because electioneering communications cost so much. This includes everything from bumper stickers and yard signs, to direct mail, telemarketing, billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio, television — and now, social media.

Campaigning and fundraising have merged into one.

As the cost of campaigning has increased, so has the need to raise money to pay for it all.

This is a good thing. Fundraising brings rigor to a campaign by forcing the candidate to engage in the fine art of coalition-building. When you ask someone for their vote and their donation, you are inviting them to join your campaign, to belong to something important.

A word of caution. Money does not guarantee victory. Self-funded candidates don’t always win and aren’t always effective when they do. However, facing a well-funded opponent can be devastating — especially in a close race. You need sufficient funds to maximize your name-recognition, attack your opponent mercilessly and respond to counter-attacks vigorously.

The safest bet is to inflame your base and hope for low voter turnout from the opposition.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Jack Godwin is an award-winning political scientist whose appeal spans the political spectrum. He is the author of three books on politics, most recently "The Office Politics Handbook," and is now writing his first novel, a political thriller set at the end of the Cold War, the golden age of spy fiction. To view more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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The first law of American politics is: If you don’t win, you can’t govern. This law is objective and impervious to your wishes and your ambitions.
American Politics, Election Day
Friday, 26 September 2014 08:42 AM
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