How To Win an Election in the US

If the past 18 months of hardcore electioneering has taught us anything here in the land of the Free*, it’s that perceptions of electability are increasingly at odds with the reality of the polls. I’m no Nate Silver, but I do pay attention to politics as best I can. Here’s what I’ve learned about running for office in the United States:

  • Everything you say will be taken out of context. In the era of ferret-like attention spans, the 1-second sound bite is king. Don’t bother trying to avoid misquotes, just prepare for damage control.
  • Everything you say will be put back into context. Everyone has a video camera on them at all times, and they’ve got a YouTube account. This can work both for and against you, by the way. If the paragraph is strong but the sentence is weak, your supporters will circulate the bigger picture instantly. If you’re trying to downplay the sentence but the paragraph is even more damning, well… YouTube. Phone cameras. You’re screwed.
  • DON’T EVEN MENTION RAPE. Seriously. Abortion may be a closely related topic for your constituents, but unless you’ve been raped, just don’t even bring it to the discussion. If some reporter drops the topic right in your path, climb that mountain to go around it. Taking on the R-word just isn’t worth it.
  • The internet does not forget. Consider this: Rick Berman and Jeri Taylor got stacks of hate mail for any inconsistencies on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And those were from people who loved the show. If you’re running for office, you’re clearly trying to do something productive and meaningful with your life, but never forget: There are people out there with literally nothing better to do than pore over transcripts, videos, and speeches sniffing for bullshit. They’re motivated, they’ve got the time, and they know how to use Google.
  • You can’t buy an election. Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson, and the candidate with more money than the last seven presidents combined couldn’t spend enough money to sway the election in their favor. Media buys might have won elections in the past, but YouTube, Blogger, and Twitter are all free.
  • Don’t get pissy with debate moderators. Their job is, essentially, to babysit two arguing siblings while the parents are off on a date. The quickest way to lose is to look like the brat.
  • Don’t run a campaign past its expiration date. A tactic that worked 10 years ago- shit, even two years ago -is like milk that was good 10 years ago. At best it may come across as pure cheese, but in most cases it just stinks.
  • For fuck’s sake, don’t mention rape.

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