How to…Succeed in PoliticsPosted: October 11, 2011
It looks like I’m starting to get back on track with my posts. I’m still a little bit behind but am starting to catch up. The good news is, I have storylines and cartoons planned in advance and plan to continue to bring you funny stories and comics from a semi-satirical and Southern perspective.
From time to time I hear from some of my readers about this site and what they like about it. At the risk of sounding like a PBS telethon, you might want to consider following this site by clicking at the link at the very top of this page. That way you will receive and email notice each time I make a post. I also have a Twitter account @SouthernBlogger which you are welcome to follow. As I get more adept at blogging I will include buttons on here to make that easier.
Another thing I would encourage y’all to do is to send in suggestions for topics and comic ideas. I would love to hear from you. You can either comment on my site or send me a shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org I’m always open to any suggestions you may have. I want to keep this blog Southern but also very topical.
Speaking of which, in what has become my week in the life of Southern Blogger paragraph, I made it to the final round of that job interview I told you about. So in a few weeks I’ll be trucking it down to North Carolina for a final intense interview. Wish me luck.
Speaking of jobs and joblessness, there’s been a lot of talk in the news about “occupation”. At first my ears picked up and I said “finally, the news has picked up on my blog’s efforts to illuminate people on the occupation of the Southern people” but nah…wasn’t about that it turns out. Apparently people are protesting Wall Street and politicians all across the country. The college aged protesters don’t really dress or sound like the folks I went to school with in the SEC. In fact, it kind of reminded me of how my college experience was a lot different from people in the northeast and Midwest. I can remember most people in my school WANTING to be crony capitalists and big time Senators (or at least interning for them). So with that in the news and primary season and elections gearing up, I was inspired to bring y’all my little take on the not always so democratic electoral process down in Dixie. I skewer all political parties don’t worry.
The Dead Will Vote Again!
It’s only in the last thirty or so years that the South has begun to catch up, and in many cases, pass the rest of the nation economically. The region as part of the “Sun Belt” contains big metropolitan areas, corporate headquarters, and banks. Some of our region’s families have gone from sharecroppers to CEO’s in a matter of one or two generations. It’s pretty remarkable really. So it sort of follows that Southerners would then have a lot of political power.
Thing is, even when the region was primarily agricultural, it had a disproportionate amount of political clout. A lot of that had to do with the negotiations and deal breaking that led to the formation of this country, and how that in turn benefitted a handful of planters. A very tiny fraction of very rich Southerners controlled the rest of the region, and indeed much of the country. In any case from the very beginning Southerners have been major players in politics. And well, because we tend to be rather eccentric, there have been some shenanigans from our neck of the woods.
I’m gonna flat out say it. We tend to have a lot of corruption in our politics. Way back in George Washington’s time, politicians in the South would win elections based on how much whiskey they gave out. In fact, the Father of Our Country once lost an early race because he failed to give out the good stuff. He learned his lesson and the rest is history. Our friend Andy Jackson certainly was no stranger to corn liquor electioneering. He got his people to the polls, got most of them standing upright, and they got him to the White House. They also came for a giant block of cheese, and well…more liquor…and well they spit on the floors and tore the drapes…so yeah…kind of a big mess.
Whether progressive or conservative, the Southern politician has had a “wink wink” approach to deal making and the electoral process. In the 20th century Governor Huey Long of Louisiana built himself a fiefdom down at the mouth of the Mississippi. He was a champion to poor Southerners of all races, built roads, and schools, and was a hero to many. He also built a political empire that punished all political opposition, rewarded cronies, and even placed a “lying tax” on newspapers that attacked his administration. It should be mentioned that Long was eventually assassinated.
Another Southern progressive, Lyndon Johnson made his bones in the Texas legislature and U.S. Senate before eventually becoming president. It has been implied that JFK’s election in 1960 owed a lot to the dead, both in Kennedy country and in areas delivered by Johnson. Ole LBJ also initiated the efforts to pass Civil Rights legislation after Kennedy’s death, even going so far as to “get dirt” and use the IRS and compromising photos of opponents to get the votes. Whether on the side of the right or the left (or right or wrong), that’s how things got done in Dixie.
Modernization has homogenized the South and caused some of the old open corruption to fade away. But still, we are a region not lacking in crazy political campaigns, characters, and deal making. From “the Raging Cajun’” to “Senator No” to candidates who shoot sign stealers and hang out with Founding Fathers, I’m here to guide you on the wonderful, crazy, “wink-wink” world of Southern politics.
Everyone of us is a born politicker
Let’s say you’re a man or woman looking to make a difference in the world. Now stop and ask yourself “why do I want to be a politician?” Honestly, there are thousands of good Southern folks helping people out as missionaries, aid workers, volunteers, soldiers, and law enforcement. You might want to go that route.
Let’s say you’re a twenty something on fraternity row, surrounded by empty beer cans looking to find a way to keep the party going for decades. Well, then…perhaps you should consider the world of politics.
But first you got to clean up your act and keep the partying ways behind the scenes. Sure, interns and staffers will see and report you in a tell-all memoir, but if you’re Teflon is in working order your power will outlast their fifteen minutes of fame. You’ll also need a good spouse, one that won’t cost you votes, 2-4 children who are willing to wear matching sweaters for your Christmas/fundraiser cards, and good hair. You’ve got to have good hair. If you know politics and don’t have good hair…well then you can be a campaign manager.
Hey don’t knock that position. Being a king maker is sometimes more lucrative than being the king. Just ask James Carville (speaking of no hair). James Carville is the mastermind of Southern politics on the Democratic side. He has no living equal on the other side. I said living equal, being that the Republican strategist Lee Atwater of South Carolina was the Southern GOP mastermind.
Now Carville may look and talk funny but he knows how to get candidates to stay on message and keep it simple. It was Carville who took an obscure Arkansas governor and made him into a two term president all by keeping the campaign pretty simple with the pithy “it’s the economy stupid”. Carville is a genius and there’s a reason why. He’s actually a space alien. He landed somewhere in the Louisiana bayou some sixty years ago to study our ways. His weird looks and accent were then brilliantly concealed and passed off as “Cajun” since nobody (including Louisianans) understands what Cajuns are actually saying.
But even if you can’t get a Carville, you should find someone to run your campaign that gets you into the right churches, knows the back roads, and the local sheriffs, and Rotary clubs, and right pig pickins to get to. Even having the right bluegrass band tour with you can make all the difference in the world.
Once you’ve made it to office and have won re-election a few times all this will become old hat. Really all of us down here kind of have the basics ingrained into us. We’ve been raised in a culture where nobody comes out and says their business, and church functions, BBQ cook offs, and football games are a good way to size people up. It’s partly why Southerners are naturals at politics while earnest Midwesterners, who are often masters of public policy don’t translate nationally. When speaking about the issues what kind of sauce you use for BBQ is more an indicator of character than your stance on the “Arab Spring”. Those Midwestern wonks are very important though, since you’ll need them to fill you in on that stuff after your inauguration. That’s the beauty of having cabinet positions.
Choose your celebrity endorsements wisely
Another thing you’ll need to do is find the right celebrity endorsers. I always found it funny that as much as Hollywood and music people must have hated Jesse Helms he was great friends with Bono. Yep, that Bono of U2. Thing is, “Senator No” of North Carolina was instrumental in getting foreign aid passed that aided Bono’s charitable efforts. Despite their seemingly different politics on most everything else, and contrasting lifestyles and personalities they became good friends. Bono needed a major player in Washington, and Southern Senators tend to be that, and Senator Helm’s needed “hip surgery”, as in someone to bring him cool points with the young folks back home.
Still you got to have experience to pull this off or your Nixon-Elvis moment might totally backfire. A case in point is Rick Barber of Alabama. Last year Mr. Barber was running in a GOP primary for a Congressional seat from Alabama. He ran an ad of him hanging out with the Founding Fathers, who presumably along with Rick would lead a rebellion and overthrow the corruption in Washington.
When I say Founding Fathers, I do mean the costume shop variety. Mr. Barber’s exuberance and passion for American history were ridiculed in the press, and indeed historians could point out that many of the Founders would have had differing views than the candidate’s. And the whole “gather your armies thing” was a bit odd too. See for yourself here.
You really couldn’t get away with this anywhere else
Nevertheless eccentric political ads can be done well. In Barber’s own state of Alabama it was achieved but the master of the come from behind You Tube sensation Dale Peterson. Mr. Peterson was running poorly in a little known race for Alabama Agricultural Commissioner until he ran this gem. Not only does this ad scream Nolan Ryan meets John Wayne, it also had a killer soundtrack, a Winchester rifle, and a threat to would be yard sign stealers. Peterson shot up in the polls (no not with his Winchester) overnight and became an internet sensation. Even though he lost the race that ad made Peterson famous. He now tours the country making stump speeches and ads for other candidates, and is even promoting his own book. I think a talk show is not too far behind. See friends, a wacky commercial if done right can be quite profitable.
So whether you’re a Stetson “shoot firster” or an insider “Boss Hogg” type, you too can enjoy the wonders of being an eccentric Southern candidate. And who knows, if you play your cards right you can be the next Dixie accented “loose cannon” to launch themselves from outsider status into the White House. But then again…maybe you’d rather make a difference in this world, do right by your neighbors, and work hard for a living. That my friends would be quite noble, and would be a great idea.
– Southern Blogger
NEXT WEEK: We continue with the political theme as an old friend and guest blogger stops by.