Let’s say, for some crazy reason, you want to have political power in the United States today. You think that if you’re in the right position, you’ll be able to influence things for the better. That sounds great, I’m going to give you a system for gaining political power today.
As Scott Adams says in his book “How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”, you should utilize systems to get ahead, not set goals. The system I’m going to lay out for you will assure you accumulate political power, but it doesn’t specify where you’ll end up. That way, there are many possible successful outcomes.
One thing you’ll have to do is adopt a quasi-reactionary stance on politics. By this I mean you aren’t planning any revolutions, literal or political. You aren’t trying to shift public opinion on issues. You don’t rebel against those above you. This will be the hardest part, but it is a necessary pre-requisite.
Your goal is to accumulate power and to use the discretion afforded to you to push the nation in the direction you think is best. That’s all you can hope for.
The system is summarized as follows (taking inspiration from this essay, in form if not in object ):
- Be Present
- Put in Effort
- Display Competence
- Accept Power
Your first step will be to pick a political party. You should pick the most dominant party in your area. Your goal is to rise in power, not to shift the politics of your state. Where you live dictates which party you will join. You can choose the other party and be at a continual disadvantage, because not only will they be at an electoral disadvantage, they will have an organizational and funding disadvantage.
Once you’ve gotten through this part, it is all easier.
The second step is to go to your local party meeting. Volunteer as much as you can. Be a competent volunteer. Continue this for a few months to two years. In that time, you’ll probably be offered some actual authority, even if it is small.
With your small amount of authority and minuscule (but non-zero) political power: do a competent job, make your boss look good, and do the work others don’t want to do. You’ll still be a volunteer, but you’ll find yourself gaining more and more power and responsibility.
Within a year or two, you’ll reach several forks. If you’re not being shown opportunities, you’ve reached the level your competence permits. However, you will likely find yourself falling in with the party organization or the elected official side of things. Take these opportunities as they are given to you. Don’t push for them or advocate for them, just wait until you’re asked.
Over time this process will repeat and you’ll rise within the party organization to places of greater and greater significance. These could be any roles throughout our vast political system. Systems versus goals becomes significant here. You can let yourself fall into a role that fits you if you follow a system and feel good about it. A goal requires a specific outcome.
If you show real promise, and have an impressive enough resume external to politics, you may even get pushed into running for elected office. More likely, you’ll be working on campaigns or running your party’s local apparatus, but you’ll have earned more political power than 99% of your peers.
As I said, an important thing is to check your ambition. Don’t push for something the people who outrank you aren’t asking you to do. But if the chair of your county’s party wants you to run for your state legislature in a district where your party dominates, there’s no reason to say no.
If you run for office, have your party apparatus behind you. As we’ve seen this Democratic nomination, that can take you very far in politics. If you’ve chosen your party correctly, the tough elections will be primaries. And those primaries should be decided before the voting happens.
Once you find yourself rising in the ranks, do the work your colleagues don’t want to do, and follow orders. You’ll see yourself rise if you are worthy.
When you find yourself with some ability to influence the direction of things, feel free to follow your heart and do what you think is best. Use the limited discretion you will have to steer this ship of state on a safer course.