Politics and the 80/20 Principle
Dan shoots back, “Name two!”
I’m a compulsive list maker. In politics, that’s not an occupational hazard, but rather an occupational virtue.
Alas, when political campaigns end, the lists tend to disappear, almost as if they were seized by aliens. A political activist’s list is among his or her most valuable possessions.
Like everything else in life, politics reflects the 80/20 Principle. Author Richard Koch (The 80/20 Principle and Living the 80/20 Way) has made a small fortune writing books about that Principle, which means in politics that 20% of people cause 80% of the significant happenings.
Of great significance, roughly 20% of a candidate’s financial contributors produce 80% of the money. In a congressional campaign, an individual can contribute up to $2150 for a primary effort and the same amount for a general election.
Obviously, it takes 215 donations of $10 to equal one of $2150. All contributions are important, but some – the larger ones – are more important than others.
As a candidate or activist, you should have a secure list of all contributors, especially the big ones. It’s not that you should love them more than smaller donors. It’s just that getting money from them is more efficient and less time-consuming.
So, save your lists of contributors, keeping records in two places in case fire or flood – or hitting the delete button at the wrong time – occurs. Also, keep in close touch with your contributors, telling them what you’re doing – and suggesting actions they might take.
There’s another list you should have, one that also reflects the 80/20 Principle: the names of the 20% of campaign staffers – and, especially, volunteers – that do 80% of the work.
In a campaign, you’ll never lack for hangers-on, the 80%. They show up at campaign headquarters to gab, to eat your food, and to distract you from doing real work.
They seem to think – wrongly – that a campaign consists mainly of sitting and talking.
Then, there’s the 20%. They may make only small financial contributions, although sometimes they’ll make big ones.
These people work like the proverbial dogs. They’ll answer phones, distribute yard signs, call prospective voters, lick envelopes, and solicit votes door-to-door.
They may contribute hundreds of hours of their time. In many cases, they’ll bring along friends who also qualify as worker bees.
These are people who will get out the vote. They’ll inspire others with their dedication and commitment to the candidate.
They’re “golden.” You need to have a list of them, because you want them to return for the next campaign.
As with the significant financial contributors, you should solicit the worker bees’ views on issues – and on the direction of your political career. Stay in close contact with these very important individuals.
Have their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. To the degree you can, know what they’re doing and thinking.
Humor moment: Abraham Lincoln used to tell the story of a corrupt politician who was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.
Later, someone asked the poor man what the experience was like. He reflected and said, “Well, if it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I believe I’d rather have walked.”
In 2006, a Libertarian candidate in New York appeared in a commercial where he was lying down and speaking. Viewers could see only his shoulders, where he was getting his neck kneaded by a female pair of hands.
After finishing his pitch, the candidate gave his name and ended with these words: “. . . and I approved this MASSAGE.”