Translation of Excerpts from Robert Heinlein's Book, Take Your Government Away - Part 2

    Chapter 2. Where to start?

    “Scoop it with a bucket!”

    Booker Washington, who had been teaching people how to help themselves, loved to tell the story of a sailboat caught in the calm off the coast of South America. After many days of calm, the sailors of a sailing boat severely suffering from a lack of fresh water noticed a steamboat approaching them and signaled to him “Give us water, we are dying of thirst!”. To which they signaled in response: "Scoop it with a bucket!". Calm caught a sailboat not far from the place where the Amazon flows into the ocean, there was fresh water around, which no one from a thirsty team could have imagined.

    They get into politics in this way.

    To get started, take a telephone directory and find the phone number of any organization of the political party of which you are a voter. If you do not yet support any of the parties, then choose the one that is most appealing to your political views. No matter what kind of party it will be, for example, take the Republican Party. In the phone book, for example, you will find: the Republican Party District Committee, the Association of Republican Clubs, the Republican Society, and so on. Call one of these organizations. Tell them your name and address, and say that you want to contact the local political club of your party. You will most likely be asked in which administrative district you live. Surely you’ll answer that you don’t know, I’m even ready to bet that you don’t know if you are a typical American. A voice will rustle on street names

    “What do you need to know?” Asks Marjorie. She remembers all the documents in this folder by heart, because she printed them. She is the secretary of the party committee, and can be one of two things: either a completely incorruptible patriot of her country, or a corrupt political professional. In both cases, she knows who in the 13th district represents her party.

    You will be given the name, address and telephone number of the local politician, who is probably the secretary of the local political club. In addition, they can give you the address, date and time of the meeting of the political club, if it is so large as to have a permanent headquarters.

    The local political club can be a full-fledged branch of the party, with a solid office in the business quarter, and an office manager at the counter, combining, in fact, the political club, the local branch of the party, and the election headquarters; and it can exist mainly in the imagination of the club secretary, holding meetings only during the election campaign, at home of one of the club members.

    The next thing you need to do is call the secretary of the political club. If the party organization works well, maybe he will call you himself, maybe even on the day of your first call. The same Marjorie had already called him, telling him: "Jim, I have a new client for you, write down his phone number." Or she may say “our new hope” if she has not yet gained political cynicism. She will add your data to the card file, check whether you are already registered as a party voter, and add you to the party literature mailing list. After that, you will begin to receive one or more party newspapers - free, despite the fact that they usually cost a price. Over time, you will receive campaign literature from those of the election candidates who have the necessary connections at the party headquarters.

    Now you will begin to gain knowledge about politics, even though you yourself are not yet actively participating in it. And note: you still haven’t spent a dime on politics. Even when you actively begin to engage in political activity, your costs for it will not exceed five to ten cents a day. Of course, politics will always welcome a citizen who wants to confirm his political views with money donations, but this is not necessary, although not such a rare occurrence, compared with a citizen who confirms his political views with real work, such as bypassing voters and sending letters. Some of the best and most respected politicians I have ever met had to be provided with money for lunch in a cafe so that they could work all day without having to go home for lunch.

    I knew one retired church minister who received such a meager pension that it was barely enough to feed him and his sick wife, bedridden. Nevertheless, this person became the chairman of the district committee and the actual leader of the ruling party in the metropolitan area, where more than three million people lived, although he was so poor that he could not afford to go to dinner parties and other politicians. He could not afford to make donations to party funds, but he did not receive any of these funds. On politics, he did not earn a dime.

    How was he useful to the party? His honesty, patriotism and desire to achieve what he considered fair. And this made him the head of the party branch in the central district of central state, although he was over seventy and poor.

    Perhaps I was distracted. But in this book there will be many more similar lyrical digressions, as direct as children's scribbles in the margins of pages of a boring textbook. And maybe these deviations are the most important. In politics, it is difficult to separate the essential from the non-essential. For example, Charles Evans Hughes did not become President of the United States due to the fact that the campaign manager didn’t establish relations with the head of the committee of his party in California, and did not make sure that the presidential candidate met with him at one of the state political events. The head of the state party was offended and stopped paying any attention to the conduct of the state election campaign. As a result, it was in California that Mr. Hughes missed one and a half thousand votes that he would have enough to to become the fifth president of the United States and instead of Woodrow Wilson to rule America during the First World War. History could go a completely different way. Perhaps, unlike Wilson, Hughes would join the League of Nations, Hitler would not be allowed to come to power, there would be no Second World War, and your nephew who died in Okinawa would be alive. Of course, we will now never know what the consequences of Hughes’s victory in the election would be. But what we know for sure is that some fifteen hundred votes were able to influence the whole of world history. But they amounted to less than one hundredth of a percent of the total number of votes in those elections. Hitler would not be allowed to come to power, there would be no Second World War, and your nephew, who died in Okinawa, would be alive. Of course, we will now never know what the consequences of Hughes’s victory in the election would be. But what we know for sure is that some fifteen hundred votes were able to influence the whole of world history. But they amounted to less than one hundredth of a percent of the total number of votes in those elections. Hitler would not be allowed to come to power, there would be no Second World War, and your nephew, who died in Okinawa, would be alive. Of course, we will now never know what the consequences of Hughes’s victory in the election would be. But what we know for sure is that some fifteen hundred votes were able to influence the whole of world history. But they amounted to less than one hundredth of a percent of the total number of votes in those elections.

    One active political club can collect as many votes for the party as would be enough to decide the outcome of those presidential elections. And this political club may be exactly the one in which you are a member. That is why you should immediately call the secretary of the local political club. Perhaps by your political work someday you will prevent the Third World War!

    Of course, the secretary of the political club will be delighted. Even if it is associated with professional politics: a conscientious volunteer who wants to work is valued more than money there. And if it’s a political club of just such a corrupt sort, then after a while they will offer you a payment for political work: $ 5 for work at each polling station during the election campaign on the West Coast, $ 5 for the day of the election campaign in the center of the country, and full monetary allowance during the entire election campaign, including a month before and a month after - on the East Coast.

    (These rates do not apply specifically to either the Republican or the Democratic Parties, they are characteristic of the entire professional policy as a whole).

    Do not take money, work for free. This, of course, will surprise those who offer you a fee, but on the other hand, you reinforce your party authority every time you refuse money for your political work.
    Whatever your local political club may be, you will be accepted into it with open arms. You will even cause some surprise in a higher party organization - by the fact that you offered your help to the party in "peacetime", and not just before the elections, which is surprising for them. Recovering from confusion, they did their part of the work - they connected you with the local party boss. Political organizations are accustomed to the fact that volunteers offer their help right during the elections, and they know that there are a lot of tricks among these “volunteers” who, in exchange for their help, get a post in the government of the winning party, and at the same time light up together with famous politicians at various political events. So if you called the party’s headquarters during the election, you would certainly be happy to get involved in the work, but at first you would be wary - until you show yourself as a conscientious volunteer, and not just another job seeker in the government. This is characteristic of political clubs of all times and peoples.

    If your local club is not connected with those who earn money on politics, his secretary will be all the more happy to meet you, although he may not be as sophisticated in secular treatment as his professional colleague. Such a political club is usually in a state of constant lack of funding, and for him a new volunteer who does not shy away from work is manna from heaven.

    The secretary of such a club is also inundated with work. If you want, you can help him by becoming the chairman of the club, sharing with the secretary the worries about renting the office, postage, remuneration of employees, and ensuring the presence of club members at meetings. The secretary will surely entrust you with work in at least one polling station (which will give you no less excitement than marrying - too much responsibility that has too suddenly fallen on you), and will be happy to share his concerns with you. You, in turn, learn a lot.

    There are two more scenarios left after you call the party headquarters. First, there is no branch of your party in your district. In this case, you will most likely be asked to come directly to headquarters and be introduced to other party voters living in your vicinity. Before the next election, you will be able to organize a local political club with them yourself. This is not difficult at all, I will tell you in the next chapters how to do it.

    It may be that in the telephone directory there will be no organizations of your party at all. This happens in the smallest towns or villages. If you live in such a place, you probably know at least one member of your party. This is probably a local judge who spent one term in the state senate, and since then has been swearing this right and left.

    Call him. Tell him you want to help his party. Perhaps this old talker will quickly get tired of you - it does not matter, the main thing is that he is glad to see you. As well as to all his voters, especially those who want to help the party. He may even invite you to dine with him in a hunting club, discussing the terms of cooperation. Or he may invite you to his office for this. But he definitely will not reject your offer to work for the party. After all, you will personally help him! Let him think so - until he understands that he cannot order you. But by that time, you yourself will become a local politician, and he can not do anything about it. (Here are just the fingerprints on the handle of a knife sticking out of your back, for some reason, much like the fingerprints of a judge!).

    So, whatever the event scenario in your case, you are now in politics. With just one phone call, you began your political career. For at least a few months, stay in the political club, or branch of the party where you joined, attend all meetings, and help do the work. Do not shy away from such routines as sending letters, helping organize meetings, checking voter lists, and distributing party literature. All this activity will take you a couple of nights a month, and your expenses will not exceed a dollar a month. This training period will last a year or six months, at the end of this period you are a ready-made politician.

    And indeed it is. After all, you met with the employees of the local office of your party, its political leaders, learned many details of the internal cuisine of political activity, took part in one election campaign of a local or national scale, and filled your first bumps at meetings with voters. You will suddenly find that you are reading political articles in the newspaper, knowing what they are silent about, and what is really happening behind the scenes of political struggle. You will incredibly expand your understanding of the mechanisms that drive human society.

    Having a successful election campaign in support of the candidate or the law, you will feel pride in what you have achieved. If the campaign turns out to be a failure, then after its end you will take part in the “debriefing”, where together with your political colleagues discuss the reasons for your defeat, and how you will need to act next time. (The answer usually lies in the fact that campaigning should be started earlier, paying particular attention to registering those who will definitely vote for your party, not forgetting to ensure their appearance at the polls).

    You will feel that next time you can win, and probably this is so. Politics for a volunteer are by no means a continuous series of failures, not at all!

    But the true moment when you feel that you are a real politician and have a certain influence on public life will come when your friends and neighbors start asking you for advice for whom to vote for them. And they will definitely start. They probably won’t ask you for advice on who to choose as presidents or governors, but they will definitely ask you about candidates for lower positions and candidates for the party’s nomination.

    If you find yourself in the wrong unit of the party, or even in the wrong party at all, you will understand this within the first few months. But this is not so important - at least for your education in politics. It’s even useful to make such a mistake: you will learn what you could never learn so well and so quickly, having fallen into the political environment that completely suits you from the first attempt. It doesn’t matter through which door you enter politics. Having understood that you are not in the right place, you can leave a political organization that doesn’t suit you and go to another, taking away with you the accumulated experience and achievements that you would hardly get in another political organization that suits you.

    If it turns out that you have contacted an organization of unprincipled corrupt political professionals, this mistake will only benefit you, because after a while you will find out that your party has a reform movement that is not related to professionals, which you can join in bringing bring your knowledge about the art of obtaining votes at any cost, often completely unfamiliar to participants in reformist movements.

    For your new associates, you will be priceless. Most of the methods for obtaining voters are neither fair nor dishonest. However, as a rule, political professionals know much more about them than reformers. A respectable party organization can afford to use at least 90% of these methods. And, surprisingly, for volunteers these methods often work much more efficiently than for professional politicians, with less effort and money. There is a difference between the fervor of true love and the feigned passion of a prostitute, and voters feel her.

    So let's summarize how to become a politician. First, grab a telephone directory and find your party there. Secondly, call there and go to your local political club. Thirdly, sign up for a political club, attend all its meetings, and work as a volunteer in it for several months. After this period, do as your conscience tells you. You will already know enough to understand who you are with and what you want to achieve in politics.

    Part 1
    Part 3
    Part 4

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