I know what you’re thinking: what does Darth Vader know about political campaigns, anyway?
Most people don’t realize that I’ve done some dabbling in political campaign management, but there are actually a lot of less-than-glamorous projects I’ve had to take on as second-in-command of the Galactic Empire. I’ll bet you’ve never read about my involvement in the Empire’s Environmental Protection Division either, have you?
Ah, well . . . sometimes a job well done is its own reward.
Remember: before my boss permanently dissolved the Imperial Senate, our subject worlds were still under the impression that they got to select their own representatives in fair, democratic elections. Although assassinating Senate candidates that didn’t agree with the Emperor’s agenda solved the problem in most cases, we sometimes had to use more covert methods of influencing local elections. And that meant sending in Imperial agents to help influence the vote on some planets.
So, did playing a part in developing political campaign strategy for candidates in elections across the galaxy make me gain a new appreciation for the democratic process? No, not in the least bit. But I was surprised to find myself admiring the utter inhumanity and unscrupulousness that I observed in a many local politicians; a few of them would have made halfway decent Sith, but for the lack of Force abilities.
In fact, working with politicians made me realize why my master decided to wear the mask of a Senator to hide his true form from the Jedi: people expect politicians to be slimy and exude a loathsome aura, so no one suspected Palpatine of doing anything other than living up to his job description.
Anyway, here are a few of the lessons I learned during my time as a campaign consultant that might come in handy if you’re thinking of running in a local election for office. They’re just basic guidelines, of course, and should be modified to fit the unique characteristics of your planet’s political landscape.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you disagree with any of my suggestions . . . I always encourage constructive criticism!
Oh, and if you have any doubts about my political campaign acumen, go take a look at this.
1. Be Completely Ruthless. Conscience is Merely a Barrier to Political Victory.
“He will join us or die, my master.” –Darth Vader
You know who I was referring to in the above quote? My own son. Seriously. And I totally meant it, too. Check it out:
You don’t just want to win your political campaign–you want to beat your opponent in a landslide and completely humiliate him to discourage any future challenges. And going around feeling bad about things is simply counterproductive to achieving this goal.
If a campaign strategy works, just do it. Don’t think about whether your tactics are dirty, underhanded, immoral, or destroy someone’s life. As long as it helps your campaign, it’s fair game.
Remember: anyone who dares to challenge your authority deserves to be utterly annihilated. The faster your enemies learn this simple truth, the better.
Just one caveat: don’t kill any political opponents in public if local laws prohibit that kind of thing. While crushing a slacker’s windpipe is a great way to motivate underlings on board an Imperial Star Destroyer, it can prove troublesome if done in a community where you don’t have complete dictatorial control.
2. Learn How to Win Local Elections from a Master Campaigner, Then Overthrow Him.
“When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” –Darth Vader
It often takes years of scheming to position yourself as absolute ruler of a community, but how does someone who’s new to campaigning tighten his grip on the local populace as quickly as possible?
Here’s my philosophy: never waste valuable time coming up with effective tactics that you could simply steal from someone else.
When someone becomes a master in a certain field, they inevitably develop the desire to pass on their knowledge to a worthy apprentice. Every community has an “old hand” who knows the ins-and-outs of local politics. It’s your job to endear yourself to that person, learn everything he knows, and then destroy him to make sure he isn’t a threat to your newly-gained power.
Whether it’s the county party chairman, the incumbent elected official, or the deep-pocketed financier, you need to do everything in your power to convince them that you are utterly trustworthy and the natural heir of their knowledge. Just make sure that you don’t dump them until you’ve wrung out every last election secret, volunteer list, and campaign dollar.
It’s best to err on the side of caution when it’s time to remove your former master from power; make sure there isn’t even the slightest chance that he could regain his strength and return to challenge you. Throwing him down a ventilation shaft works wonders, if there happens to be an easily accessible one nearby. Orchestrating a scandal could fit the bill too, I suppose.
3. Manage Your Political Campaign Staff with an Iron Fist.
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” –Darth Vader
The key to organizing and managing an effective political campaign team–and an effective planetary invasion force, as well–is to make sure your staff regards you with equal parts awe and abject terror. Respect is overrated; underlings will betray a master who they respect, but they aren’t likely to disobey someone if they know they’ll be destroyed for doing so.
If local laws don’t allow you to threaten your election staff with torture or death, then make it clear to them that you’ll relish killing their career prospects and social life if they dare defy you.
You should also make a habit of picking out a random employee to theatrically fire (or strangle; whatever floats your boat) in front of everyone else early in the campaign. Showing your team an example of what happens to those who disobey your orders is a great way to keep everyone in line.
In addition to the stick, however, make sure that you also offer your campaign staff an occasional carrot. Dole out plenty of promises for lucrative political jobs and appointments, and don’t be afraid to guarantee the same position to more than one staffer. You won’t be hiring these boot-licking sycophants for any important positions following your election day victory, anyway.
4. Always Alter Political Deals to Your Advantage.
“I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.” –Darth Vader
Take it from me: it’s easy to manipulate people to your will if they think they will benefit from your political victory. I’ve always been amazed at what suckers people are when they’re offered a “deal” that is simply too good to be true. Making false political campaign promises is a very effective election strategy if you know how to play on someone’s psychology.
I’m not just talking about the guarantees you give to the voters; any second-rate politician knows how to manipulate the electorate and make empty promises. To really perfect your skill at duplicity, don’t forget to be deceitful with your political allies, as well. People who think they are your “friends” are less likely to suspect that you would be deceptive with them.
Just make sure that you caress every bit of damning information out of your political allies before betraying them, though, in case it’s needed for future blackmail.
There will be plenty of whining from these gullible morons when they realize that they’ve been duped, but here’s a simple way to shut them up: make it clear how much worse things could get if they don’t bend to your will.
And believe me: things can always get worse for someone who isn’t already dead.
5. Intimidate Your Political Opponent and Weaken His Will to Fight.
“You don’t know the power of the dark side.” –Darth Vader
Making a political enemy feel helpless, outmatched, impotent and in general fear for his life is a wonderfully effective campaign strategy.
Any opponent who enters a race for the position you covet needs to be quickly reminded just how futile–and dangerous–his efforts are. There are plenty of ways to do this: stealing his campaign yard signs, physically threatening him and his family, even killing his pets.
Believe it or not, psychological intimidation sometimes works even better than physical violence. Spreading lies and rumors about your opponent is a great way to siphon away his support and make him feel dejected and hopeless. And don’t forget to have your underlings do thorough opposition research–most people have skeletons in the closet that can be leveraged to your advantage. If not, simply make them up.
Of course, encasing a political opponent’s best friend in Carbonite and handing him over to a bounty hunter is another great method of intimidation, but it isn’t applicable to every election.