“The only person I can change is myself.”
Here I sit, having wasted hours of my time reading about the election campaign. I haven’t done a very good job of managing myself today, so maybe I can at least get a blogpost out of my self-indulgence.
Without at all getting into the weeds of the actual politics (that’s for my Personal and Political page), I’ll say that it’s absolutely fascinating to watch the campaigns play out with all their many moving parts. You may recall that the books I recommended from a couple of weeks ago were by Mary Matalin and George Carville, with the earlier one, Love and War, being about the 1992 election, during which Matalin and Carville met and fell in love. Just one little problem: they were working on opposite sides, Matalin for the re-election of George H. W. Bush, Carville for Bill Clinton. On election night James calls Mary (I’ll call them that since this is a personal part of the story) and she says to him, “I cannot believe you could live on this earth and know that you were responsible for electing a slime, a scum, a philandering, pot-smoking, draft-dodging pig of a man . . . You make me sick. I hate your guts.” After she cusses him out (she doesn’t quote that part), she hangs up. As she says, “I don’t remember him saying anything.” (And they got married–and still are to this day! Miracles do happen.)
But the takeaway about elections that fits with my topic is this: Strategy doesn’t work if there’s no discipline to back it up. And you can’t manage other people if you don’t have that ability for yourself. We don’t have day-to-day behind-the scenes information about the Trump and Clinton campaigns going on right now, but the Matalin/Carville book gives its readers exactly that about the ones for Clinton and Bush. Two big problems: 1) keeping everyone (especially the candidate, especially Bill Clinton) on message and 2) stopping leaks. Time after time something gets out and then gets spun, both in the press and by the other side. People make huge mistakes because they don’t stop and think, because they’re exhausted, because someone flatters them or insults them. And then it’s out there and can never be taken back. A sloppy team with great ideas has a hard time winning. Carville gets a lot of credit for Clinton’s win in 1992, mainly for coming up with the line, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It was simple, short and memorable, and he got Clinton to hammer away at it, to focus, and he succeeded because he was so focused himself.
So it’s always good to remember that change starts with me, and that I can’t expect anyone else to do what I won’t do myself. I’m reminded of a line from an old Gospel song: “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.”