After working in the political communications biz for more than 25 years, I have learned a lot of things. I just couldn’t help it! Anyway, based on my experience I have come up with a list rules which I call “Gerry’s Political Maxims”. Here are the first 50:
1) The most powerful emotion in politics is fear.
2) The second most powerful emotion is hate.
3) Voters will always prefer a crook to a fool.
4) When it comes to policy ideas, vagueness works better than clarity.
5) Get voters to react, not think.
6) Whenever possible employ the “Us” vs “Them” dynamic
7) Don’t use attack ads unless you have to, and you usually have to.
8) The less time you have, the more important money is.
9) Don’t betray your base.
10) If you can’t communicate a political message in 15 seconds or less, you’re doing something wrong.
11) Never get defensive, always attack.
12) Stay on message.
13) If you fight with the media do it for strategic reasons, not out of anger.
14) Always get the facts right.
15) Voters don’t care what you think; they care what they think.
16) Read public polls with a lot salt on hand.
17) Never repeat an attack
18) Never talk about money
19) Mistakes will always happen, just move on.
20) The media is obsessed with the “Politics of politics”
21) If you can’t get people to like you, get them to agree with you
22) Every message must reflect and advance your strategic objective
23) Don’t trust anyone in politics
24) No plan survives contact with the enemy; be prepared to adapt
25) Three of the most important things in politics are money, money and money.
26) What really matters in a political poll are the crosstabs.
27) Most voters don’t care about ideology, they care about values.
28) When you can’t avoid it; embrace it.
29) Having the right enemies is just as important as having the right friends.
30) Use your best ads last.
31) Define or be defined.
32) No matter how bad things get, always keep cool
33) Don’t worry about media bias, they are out to get you, but they are also out to get everybody else.
34) Your opponent runs “negative ads” your ads are always “comparative” or “truthful.”
35) The principle of politics are like the principles of physics – they apply everywhere.
36) Perception is reality.
37) All politics is tribal
38) If you don’t like a question, don’t answer it.
39) Resist the urge to improvise
40) Use humour with care.
41) Repetition of a good message is good, really, really good.
42) Don’t underestimate the importance of luck.
43) If it’s stupid but works, then it isn’t stupid
44) If you want a quick agreement among a disparate group, find a common enemy.
45) When your opponent falls to his knees … kick him again.
46) When speaking to Partisans beware of “applause lines”
47) In every campaign somebody will panic.
48) If you really want to get nasty, use mail not TV
49) Never speculate in public
50) Idealism and politics don’t mix.
Hi Gerry, just watched your show on the Agenda about conservatism and in there it really sounded like you were anti government and pro-capitalist. That's fine with me as you are allowed to have your own views on the subject you have at heart. What I have trouble accepting is that you mentioned the problem with Canada's government is that there are too many laws (paraphrasing you) hindering free-market (...).
Do you think Canada would be in the comfort zone it is presently enjoying (Carney as chairman of Financial Stability Board G20 one of those great examples) were it not for its financial laws? Truly, you must not be in favor of British-American 1980's and on deregulations seeing how poorly they are now doing? It would be nice to have your feedback on this.
Can't speak for Gerry, but Canada has fewer and better banking regulations than America. The great American financial deregulation is at least 90% myth.
Maxim 51: Don't write pithy statements like these that a reporter will use against you in a future campaign you work on. (See John Lashinger's "Leaders and Lesser Mortals" and how the media have used that against him - especially his comments on inventing polls.)
Maxim 52: Ignore Maxim 51 if you care more about your ego and career than you care about winning elections and advancing the principles you stand for.
(I suggest you don't publish this comment. I'm someone who respects you but was disappointed with this article and what the repercussions of it could be.)
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