1. Come up with solutions to people's problems
- You would think this would be obvious. The issue is that what I view as a problem others do not view as a problem. This is a case where perception determines reality. If you think income disparity is a problem, even though both people are fairly well off, then it's a problem. It's not the job of a politician to belittle your concern. It's the job of the politician to address it and come up with a solution.
2. Words matter
- Never implicitly weaken your argument by using incorrect terminology. The current health insurance debate is a perfect example. What's being described as insurance is really a system of subsidies. Whenever people opposed to reform use the term insurance to describe a subsidy they strengthen the false premise that increasing the risk pool can lower costs (it cannot). The Republicans would be much more successful if at every opportunity they reiterated that what the Democrats are proposing are indirect subsidies. Then they could argue for direct subsidies and shatter the entire fiction which is health insurance reform.
3. Be for good things and against bad things
- It's still perception stupid. People care far more about intentions than actual results. Therefore, to be successful, it is paramount to always be against inequality, unfairness, and any other bogeyman out there. It is also necessary to be for everything good. How we get there is the difference between us and them, but never fail to take the opportunity to tell the public that you want every child to have a world class education. And never state that it is acceptable for some children to be left behind (even though this may be inevitable).
4. Simplify, simplify, simplify
- Two posts ago I attempted to argue against spending as a means to stimulate the economy. Was I right? Who knows. I do know that very few people will ever take the time to think about economics and what politicians are telling them. Appealing to complicated arguments is bound to fail. Any argument must be so simple that it cannot be misunderstood. Or conversely, it must be simple enough to understand, i.e. cheating is wrong and they are cheating.
6. Absolutes are for suckers
- The constitution is dead, get over it. Any appeals to some unalterable document or some absolute right and wrong might make you feel better but will not change a damn thing. If your goal is to move the train in the right direction, then it's necessary to get off your soapbox and advocate ideas that stand a chance in hell of being adopted. It may not be ideal, but it will be better than the status quo.
7. Human nature doesn't change, it adapts
- Propose ideas which self regulate human behavior. These are called self regulating processes and a good example is the procedure your mother gave you for dividing a cake. One person slices and the other gets to choose. This process ensures that neither party can cheat. Don't propose solutions which require a super human (is incorruptible, etc.) to work. And remember to point out this flaw when criticizing other solutions.
8. Appeal to emotions over logic
- Unless you're Spock, logic doesn't get you out on the street, emotions do. All good politics appeal to base emotions and people's native sense of right and wrong. For instance, everyone knows that stealing is wrong. If you want to demonize your opponent's argument, an effective way of doing so is to conflate his argument with stealing. Now when the public thinks of his argument they will think of stealing and associate the same negative connotations.