This is probably my last post as ‘JC Harris’ for a good while. Bye bye, JC! Aloha, personality!
You know you’re in trouble when you’re worried about quoting Al Franken, but some of the best quotes I’ve recently heard about politics have come from Al Franken who is peddling his memoir “Giant Of The Senate”. It’s about how, after a lifetime as an entertainer he had to train himself to behave like a ‘real politican’ in order to get elected. People in his state simply would not take him seriously so he worked like crazy to change voters’ perceptions. And love him or hate him, he won his last election very comfortably, so they must have worked. And those are some lessons that I really need to learn. Fast.
Because I too have spent a lot of years as an ‘entertainer’–as a musician–and I really struggle adopting the persona of being a politician. It is waaaaaaaaay harder than I thought it would be.
OK, first of all? No comedy. I’m taking a last ‘mulligan’ on that one, like the last cigarette before ‘finally quitting’. No really, Bernice, this time I mean it, honey. This is killing me. It’s a total straitjacket having to avoid irony and jokes. My lower lip will need soon need stitches from all the biting. But sadly, residents simply do not appreciate getting a three minute floor show along with my spiel on parks, public safety and code enforcement. Now what’s frustrating? Is that they turn on the TV and they see a guy do the same gags and they fall over. But if I provide it for free? They don’t get it. Ingrates! Apparently the electorate is not ready for a boffo-amusing politician. Just trust me on this.
Next? No profanity. I don’t give a hoot what you think you may have garnered from the recent election, this is an anomaly that will soon pass into history. You cannot doorbell using the same language that you actually… er … ‘use’ in real life. You want to be yourself with people. But not really. Not here anyway.
You gotta, gotta, gotta, use short sentences and small words. I know how that just sounded and I am soooooooooooo sorry. But I actually (mostly) believe in this one. You gotsta keep it simple. You thought I meant using Masterpiece Theatre English Major words? OK, I did. But you can just as easily lose people using technical terms like a scientist or a boring accountant. You gotta keep self-editing while you speak to make sure you’re CLARO. And that added mental effort can make you look to the outside world like Obama did during those last few years. You know: Where… every… sentence… seemed… to… take… twenty… minutes… to… get… out… It’s exhausting to say (and to listen to!)
Oh… and NO SLANG. No Urbanisms, neologisms, down-home-isms, contractions, etc. But don’t sound too white-bread either. If you can help it.
Look, I’ll make it even simpler. er. You really should consider visiting Switzerland shortly before your candidature begins (nb: only Europeans say ‘candidature’ or use ‘nb’ D’Oh!) So you can have that Personality Removal Surgery you may have heard so much about on Oprah.
Because the reason most successful candidates are such colorless beings is because a winning candidate tends to represent THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. Like it or not, ‘boring and inoffensive’ is not a bad strategy and a winning candidate does need to reflect their entire constituency. If you have too much ‘personality’ of any kind? It likely means that either your area is super-crazy gerry-mandered or that you’re probably going to lose. Big time.
When I ‘doorbell’, I’m keenly aware of the ‘dance’ going on. It’s a lot like dating in that there is so much ‘sincere lying’ going on. I mean you know that old expression “All’s fair in love and war”? Well they should throw voting in there somewhere too. For example, the people who aren’t trying to immediately get me off their porch are often not listening to a word I’m saying. They’re not being mean. But there is this little smile and I can tell that what they’re really wondering is “Democrat or Republican?”. Now I’m supposed to be non-partisan. And the funny thing is that’s exactly how I feel about it! But nobody believes that of course. So like dating there’s this odd mix of cynicism and wanting to believe. Our system is so odd in that way. All politicians are jerks. Except for you, JC. (Until the next person comes along, of course). We want to believe.
But it cuts both ways. I thought I’d be cool with politics because as a professional musician I thought that there was nothing the world could teach me about cynicism. Plus, I like policy and hey, who enjoys ranting more than me? (Or is it I?) But I discovered something: As much as you think politicians lie to you, you, Dear Public, lie to us waaaaaaaaaay more. The public are the biggest fibbers ever. I mean since they invented ever. And that’s exactly the way you like it! One big reason that politicians at even my teensy level tend to be the way we are is because the public is what it is. Promises are not kept. Donations don’t come in. But the candidate has to show up. That sounds like whining, but that’s just the deal we all make.
(And my personal pet peeve of all time!!!!!!! people who spend HOURS every week SCREAMING about Trump this or Hillary that! Stuff that is THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY… But never sent me that $25 *payable to JC Harris for Des Moines* to fix something that we can actually do something about!–notice the clever way I weaseled in sincere outrage and guilted you into following through on that check ya cheap so and so? That’s how politics works. It’s exhausting and humiliating and it never stops.)
And I mention all this because the process has the Darwinian consequence of making candidates tend to be either people who have something to gain or those who are certifiably insane. Normal people just don’t put up with it. America sure is great, but ‘the public at large’ can be truly awful. And that makes it hard to have the candidates that we really need. Yes, even at this picayune level.
But still I believe in it. Because it has to work. Or maybe I’m too negative. Maybe you would be a lot more positive because the skills would come much more naturally to you. Maybe you’re like one of those animals that absolutely thrive living next to those steaming underwater volcanoes. If so, I encourage you to go for it!
Where was I? Oh yeah. Vote for me in November. No wait that’s not quite right. Make your tax deductible contribution of $25 payable to JC Harris For Des Moines now. Then vote for me in November.
And whether I win or not, I’m taking my personality. BACK! (Not that I’m being insincere or anything at the moment. 😀 )