Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Art of Promising

(Note: this is an extract; we want you to buy our book, OK?)

First rule. Promise often, promise anything, promise something to everyone, and miss no one. Especially during election campaigns. Don’t feel constrained. They are only political promises. No one expects you to (really) honour those promises. But promise BIG.

Second rule. After you are elected or re-elected, ignore your promises if it suits you. But keep track of the ones that polled high during the campaign because you may want to re-use tried-and-true promises again in the next campaign.

Third rule. Always be in a position between campaigns to trot out a "progress report" on how well you are doing vis-a-vis your campaign promises. Always show progress or, at least, a startup time for galvanizing these promises into action. Don’t worry, you won’t actually have to fulfill them, just show "progress".

Fourth rule. Always position your promises as "Canadian values", and make sure that you convince (one way or the other) the mainstream journalists to flog and re-flog that storyline in the media. This is essential. If you do this correctly, the competition (opposition parties) won’t have a leg to stand on.

Last rule. Very important. Never, never, giggle when you make a promise. The public doesn’t need you to reinforce their inherent fears that you are lying. Practice making promises in front of the mirror. If you are going to be two-faced about it, you might as well do the job right!

So what are some practical examples of these rules, you might ask?

Rule #1: Promise often (before and during campaigns), anything, and everything. Do some "Atlantic Accords". That always shores up your Eastern voter base. Promise Ontario a few billion or so. Make Ralphie happy with an oil revenue agreement. Push the "daycare" word, even the "education" word, if you think it will get one more vote on Election Day.

Have perceived (but not real) tax breaks for everyone. Kiss babies or play with children in schools and daycare centres. Those photo-ops will only reinforce your flagrant promises. Remember to use a 5-year accumulated "maybe" figure and position it as this year’s impact. Better still, take the fake benefits over 60 years if it’s for biggies like the Toronto Airport rent reductions. Bigger is better ... try to stay above the magical $1 billion figure when making promises; anything less is measly. And remember it’s not your money it’s theirs, so the sky’s the limit.

Rule #2: Ignore your promises afterwards. Even super-huge clunkers like repealing the GST or even nixing the Free Trade Agreement will work. And, at the other end of the scale, no one cares a lot about the very little ones, and will even forget them. That leaves you a lot of maneuvering room to ignore most, if not all, of your promises.

Feel free to recycle old promises. If they worked last time, why wouldn’t they work again? Just look at "new childcare spaces". We trotted out this clunker in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004, and each time it gulled voters. What more could you ask for ---living proof of the recyclibility of promises. Same thing and same timeframes for our Aboriginal healthcare and education promises.

Once in a while it may be necessary for you to actually take some action on one or two of these. When you do, make a big splash. Announce deals like "fix of a generation" when talking about healthcare, even if all you do is give back some of the money that you took away over the past six years. But remember, never fix anything, just throw taxpayer money at it. If it works and the problem goes away, fine. If it doesn’t work and the problem stays around, add it to your platform as a promise to "repair" whatever didn’t work.

Be aware that there is a special type of promise that doesn’t cost anything, and still permits you to skim off what you need from the public purse while you are making the promise. This is a very, very special promise. It’s called, "Promising to Eliminate the Democratic Deficit".

With a title like that you have the high ground right away. How can anyone argue against something like that, even if they don’t know what it means? A winner. Fire somebody every few years or so, and then point it out as "progress". For a double-whammy, make sure the person you fire is someone who was poison. Two birds with one stone, and it didn’t cost you a dime. Great family business, eh?

Rule #3. Always be able to trot out a progress report on the status of your promises. For this to work, you are going to have to make sure that there are always committees "studying" the implications and financial impacts of each of your promises. If you don’t have a committee looking at a promise, then feel free to reference an enquiry, commission, investigation or public sector study looking into anything remotely connected with the content of your promise.

Actually, enquiries and investigations are really good sinkholes for questions about progress, because your first instinct should be to refuse to comment further until the matter is concluded. They seldom are, at least in time for the next election, so you will always be on safe ground.

Gomery, the Shawinigan RCMP investigations (5), and anything before the Ethics Commissioner or the courts fall into this category. By the way, if it’s in front of the Supreme Court, you get bonus points. If they do come to a decision before the next election, it will always be contentions and transferable as an issue to another committee to study the matter beyond the next election.

Rule #4: Position your promises as Canadian values. Better still, announce that Librano values are Canadian values, or that Canadian values are Librano values. It doesn’t matter which way you say it. As an example, we trotted out the Atlantic accord as part of the equalization scam, and then linked equalization to fair, just, and Canadian values. All we did was pay for last campaign’s promise with taxpayer money again, and solidified our East Coast voter base. Neat, eh? Who cares if it completely destroyed the equalization principles. Remember, the word "principles" isn’t in our vocabulary.

You can also use the "value" thingy to real advantage during elections. As a matter of fact, we highly recommend it. If you proclaim it loud enough, and often enough, then the idea that anyone else but the Libranos doesn’t have Canadian values will take hold. Then Sammy’s your uncle. Oh, and if you can, use "scary" and "hidden agenda" frequently to describe your opponents. No truth in the statements, but that’s never stopped us from making the claims. Works really, really well, too.

Lastly, make sure you co-opt your national media friends like the Red Star, or the Gloss and Moan, to front your Canadian values theme. It’s free, and they never ask for favours in return!

Rule #5. Never giggle when making a promise. You may be tempted, or it may be beyond your control to stop giggling, but you really have to try hard. It’s very important.

Like when you are announcing that a blond bimbo who can’t spell equalization has just rolled over from the opposition and become one of your very, very important cabinet ministers. Keep a straight face, even if the media at the press conference is laughing their heads off. Especially keep a firm grip on your facial muscles when you reply that political ambition, or staying in power, had nothing to do with the defection. This is really important.

So there you have it. Our five hard battle-proven rules for political survival.

Use well, and be sure to include any other voter-screwing tactics that you may think of. We come up with a few new ones every day.

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