USING THE PILLARS – The Contract
The program that we call the “3 Pillars” was designed to help the party grow in recruiting membership, but its main purpose is to help our candidates get elected. Our research showed that these three areas are what voters respond very strongly to.
The first pillar actually applies directly to the candidate. It says that we want to restore honesty and integrity to government. This article is going to deal specifically with the Honesty component of the pillar.
We want to change the public’s opinion about who and what an elected official is. There is no trust between the people and those that fill government positions. Whether the person is elected to office or appointed, there is a natural assumption that the person is dishonest and untrustworthy if they are in government positions of power. The joke about “How can you tell if a politician is lying – their lips are moving” is based on a very strong perception of politicians. Most polls show an 81% mistrust of government officials by the population. Politicians rank lower than Used Car Salesmen in most polls when it comes to honesty and trust.
So, you are an honest and trustworthy individual. Great! Let’s go tell everyone, right? Well…not exactly. The problem is that we need to provide proof that you intend to uphold your campaign promises and act ethically while in office. The first pillar actually offers two solutions to this problem and you need to make sure that the voters know about them. Before you start promoting the issues, the promises, and the reasons why they want to vote for you, you need to establish that they can trust what you are saying.
The first proof comes from the party itself. You need to work with party leaders and have them promote that the local Constitution Party organization is mainly focused on two things: (1) Holding their candidates accountable. Any candidate that does not keep their campaign promises or does anything that is unethical, the CP will pull their endorsement and support, no matter when it happens. Even during the campaign. (2) The local CP organization will promote itself as the local watchdog. Whether it is a county or state organization, it will stand for watching government officials and holding them accountable for their actions.
The second proof will come from you. You will sign a contract with your constituents that states that your campaign promises will be kept or there will be painful consequences for you. Since this is a major part of the strategy, I will go into more detail about how it works:
- It is not a legal document. We don’t want to get into legal jargon and minute details with loopholes and conditions. We are not looking at something that will be held up in court. Instead, it will be a simple document that says “If elected, I will do…..” and then says “If I fail in keeping these promises to my constituents, I will…..”. You simply put this out as a binding agreement between you and the voters. Technically, it is a legally binding document, therefore, it has power. But we are not going to court over this. Either you keep your promises or you pay the price. As such, don’t worry about the disclaimers and other nonsense that will turn the voters off and cause suspicion. Just keep it simple and plain.
- It is a “living” document during the campaign. It takes effect upon election. Up until that time, you can add whatever you want to it. As your campaign goes along, you will hear about things that you want to support and you can add them to the contract.
- Be careful what you promise. You will be held accountable for them. So only promise what you can deliver. For instance, most offices have some sort of process that you need the support of others to get laws passed. Maybe its other council members or the legislature. As such, promising to pass bills could be problematic. So instead of saying you will pass a law, you say that you introduce a law, promote it, and vote for/against something rather than say “I will pass a law that …”. Obviously, if you are the sole power in the decision, you can promise that you will fulfill the promise.
- The consequence needs to be painful. Saying that if you fail to keep your promises you will donate $1000 to the Constitution Party has no “pain”. Neither does donating to a charity. You need to make it believable to the voters that there is a serious consequence if you fail. Actually, you will have 2 consequences. One will be that you will not run for any other government office again (which will be easy because the CP will not endorse you for re-election). The other, though, has to have some teeth in it. An example would be- “If I fail to keep these campaign promises, I will donate $1000 to the Democratic Party”. That shows real consequences if you fail.
- The contract must be published and public. You need to put it on your website and promote it in your advertising so voters can view what you are promising and see that you are open about it.
In making and promoting your contract, the most important thing to remember is this: It is not the promises that you put on the contract that you will be promoting. IT IS THAT YOU HAVE A CONTRACT. The contract is the focus, not what is in it. You are going to contrast yourself from the other candidates by stating that you are the candidate that is willing to have consequences if you fail to keep your promises. It is a vehicle for establishing trust in you that you are going to keep your promises. The most successful thing that you can do to help yourself get elected is contrast yourself with the other candidates by asking them how they will assure the voters that they will keep their promises. When they fail to give them something other than “trust me”, you have won the election. You then simply say that the voters cannot trust anything that your opponent(s) promises because they will not back it up. It is the contract that is the marketing device, not the issues that you put on the contract. This is very important to understand because too many candidates get caught up in issues and we want to get away from that. Issues and how we handle them are symptoms of a disease called socialism. We need to change from an issue-based conversation to an ethics-in-government based conversation.
So what if your opponent also offers a contract? Good. That plays into your strategy too. There will be two circumstances where they may also offer a contract. The first will be that they see that they are losing and concede that they also need a contract. In that case, you simply state that they only reason that they are doing it is that you forced them to. That shows that you are the leader in that campaign and they are the follower.The second circumstance would be that they know about our strategy and want to avoid the “me too” issue. We know that the Federalist Party has stolen our idea of Honesty, Integrity, and Accountability in Government. It would not be surprising if one of their candidates would offer a contract. Why not? If you are going to steal part of the idea, why not the whole thing? If they do offer a contract at the same time that you do, then you simply point out that the Constitution Party was the first to introduce the idea and that other parties are just copying us. Point out that we came up with the idea first because that is the culture and the philosophy of the Constitution Party. We (and you by association) have a fundamental belief and culture of honesty and integrity in politics. The other candidates simply see the contract as a campaign ploy to get you to vote for them. If they really believed and wanted it, why didn’t they think of this first? Why did they have to wait until we introduced it? It shows them as being unoriginal (they are using OUR ideas) and untrustworthy (if they stole our ideas and tried to make it theirs, then how can you trust them?)
The contract is a very powerful tool for you to use. It can be a “game changer” in a campaign. Both Democrats and Republicans will be very reluctant to have one because they have no intentions of keeping their promises and have based their whole strategy on “say what you have to say to win” concept. Once we take that away from them, then they have nowhere else to go. But you need to be careful in how you use this tool. The promises that you put in your contract can backfire on you if they are not worded correctly on how you will implement them. If you make them too weak, nobody will care. If you promise things that are out of your control, then you risk failing to keep your contract. How you write your promises and how you explain why you added them to the contract is important to your overall success. The contract will get you elected, the promises are what determines if you will be successful or not in office.
Additionally, always be careful when promising to add promises to the contract. A voter may ask you to do so, you think it is a good cause, and you promise to do so. Then you get back to the office and find out that there are other considerations that you did not know about. So instead, I suggest that you simply tell them that you think that it is great idea and that you will review and, if you will add it if it is something that has popular support (you are a servant of the people, not a ruler to enforce rules on them) and that you want to consider it in detail.
Also, don’t get caught in thinking everything must be a contracted promise. You will also have campaign goals. These are things that you want to accomplish and will work hard to do so, but are out of your control to promise. For example, you can say that you want to lower the budget but explain that you cannot put it on the contract because it is something that you cannot control. You insist, however, that you will work very hard to achieving that goal because it is something that you agree with and strongly support.
There is a second part of the First Pillar that you will use in your campaign that we will discuss in our next article. For now, I wanted to show you how to use the contract portion of this pillar effectively in your campaign.
Please reach out to me for advice or questions regarding this or any other article on campaign strategy.