The more things change, the more they stay the same. Read some of Davy Crockett’s advice to them as aspire to politicking.
“Attend all public meetings,” says I, “and get some friends to move that you take the chair- if you fail in this attempt, make a push to be appointed secretary; the proceedings of course will be published, and your name is introduced to the public. But should you fail in both undertakings, get two or three acquaintances, over a bottle of whiskey, to pass some resolutions no matter on what subject; publish them even if you pay the printer- it will answer the purpose of breaking the ice, which is the main point in these matters. Intrigue until you are elected an officer of the militia; this is the second step towards promotion, and can be accomplished with ease, as I know an instance of an election being advertised, and no one attending, the innkeeper at whose house it was to be held, having a military turn, elected himself colonel of his regiment.” Says I, “You may not accornpb your ends with as little difficulty, but do not be discouraged- Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“If your ambition or circumstances compel you to serve your country, and earn three dollars a day, by becoming a member of the legislature you must first publicly avow that the constitution of the state is a shackle upon free and liberal legislation; and is, therefore, of as little use in the present enlightened age, as an old almanac of the year in which the instrument was framed. There is policy in this measure, for by making the constitution a mere dead letter, your headlong proceedings will be attributed to a bold and unshackled mind, whereas, it might otherwise be thought they arose from sheer mulish ignorance. ‘The Government’ has set the example in his attack upon the constitution of the United States, and who should fear to follow where ‘the Government’ leads?
“When the day of election approaches, visit your constituents far and wide. Treat liberally, and drink freely, in order to rise in their estimation though you fall in your own. True, you may be called a drunken dog by some of the clean shirt and silk stocking gentry, but the real rough necks will style you a jovial fellow, their votes are certain, and frequently, count double. Do all you can to appear to advantage in the eyes of the women. That’s easily done- you have but to kiss and slabber their children, wipe their noses, and pat them on the head; this cannot fail to please their mothers, and you may rely on your business being done in that quarter.
“Promise all that is asked,” said I, “and more if you can think of up thing. Offer to build a bridge or a church, to divide a county, create a batch of new offices, make a turnpike, or anything they like. Promises cost nothing, therefore deny nobody who has a vote or sufficient influence to obtain one.
“Get up on all occasions, and sometimes on no occasion at all, and make long-winded speeches, though composed of nothing else than wind- talk of your devotion to your country, your modesty and disinterestedness, or on any such fanciful subject. Rail against taxes of all kinds, office-holders, and bad harvest weather; and wind up with a flourish about the heroes who fought and bled for our liberties in the times that tried men’s souls. To be sure you run the risk of being considered a bladder of wind or an empty barrel, but never mind that, you will find enough of the same fraternity to keep you in countenance.
“If any charity be going forward, be at the top of it, provided it is to be advertised publicly; if not, it isn’t worth your while. None but a fool would place his candle under a bushel on such an occasion.
“These few directions,” said I, “if properly attended to, will do your business; and when once elected, why a fig for the dirty children, the promises, the bridges, the churches, the taxes, the offices, and the subscriptions, for it is absolutely necessary to forget all these before you can become a thorough-going politician, and a patriot of the first water.”
This may or may not have been what Crockett actually said. It was credited to him in a book published in 1860 (also see here and here). What is most remarkable is how Crockett’s rules of guidance, typical of Jacksonian Democrats of the time period, are such bold populism in warp and woof. We tend to think that our own de-generation of politicians is the most populist and pandering batch of thieves ever to make their hideout at the state or national capital. But things have been just as bad in the past. We shall always have Davy Crockett to remind us.
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