After extensive research at Oak Labs, we believe we have discovered the secret of success in politics. It revolves around the simple concept of “Us vs Them”. The key to getting a mass following, winning elections and being a popular leader lies in the ability of the politician to clearly define an “Us vs Them” pattern.So throughout history and in all walks of life, the successful politician always has a clear understanding of who ‘Us’ is and who ‘Them’ are. It is the ability of the politician to convey this understanding that decides how successful he or she is. Here are some examples of Us vs Them. Rulers vs Natives, White vs Black, Democracy vs Dictators, Indian Cricket vs Aussie Cricket, Locals vs Migrants, Secular vs Communal, Believers in a Faith vs Non-believers, Underdeveloped vs Developed Countries and so on.
You will see that around each of these examples revolve the ambitions of at least one political party and several politicians. So unless you provide a ‘Them’ that the ‘Us’ can collectively hate, the ‘Us’ won’t stand behind you. Here’s a quick three step guide to political success.
Step 1 – Find a conflict situation where both parties to the conflict are present in big numbers.
Step 2 – Decide in which party to the conflict you can fit in. That party becomes the ‘Us’, the other party is the ‘Them’
Step 3 – Project yourself as the champion of the ‘Us’ and curse the ‘Them’.
Here are some tips – Look at untapped sections of society that you can get the ‘Us’ to hate. If hate sounds like too strong a word, even dislike is ok. While hate will guarantee political success, with dislike it will take more effort. You ideally would want to fire up the ‘Us’ enough for them to get violent. If there’s violence in retaliation, nothing like it.
When looking for an object of hate for the ‘Us’, look for something that has a sizeable number and is human. So hatred of the government or the electricity board are no good. Hate has to be targeted at people and not organizations. Emotions do not get fired up unless there’s a people to people conflict involved. If there’s a celebrity that is representative of ‘Them’, target him / her. You can use celebrities from the ‘Us’ to support your campaign but ensure that the celebrities do not become the centre of attention and steal your thunder.
You would have by now thought of at least a few names of politicians who have built their careers utilizing the ‘Us vs Them’ logic, however if you delve a little more, you will realize that not some but every successful politician uses this same idea. I won’t risk naming anybody here as they will then mark me & the press as ‘Them’ and get their ‘Us’ to hate and attack us.
Let’s take up an example, say you want to be a politician in an Indian city. You first need to find out what are the things that get people all charged up during discussions about the city. Traffic would probably top the list of things people dislike most about all Indian cities. However just having this topic is no good, we now need something that can be hated. Although the Traffic dept. and the civic administration are generally blamed for the traffic mess, these two entities will not serve our purpose. What we need is a section of society that another section can hate. So look for a pattern or try to sense if there’s a widespread belief amongst citizens that the bad traffic situation is because of the actions of a particular segment of society. Once you have tapped that belief, you are ready to go. You have the raw material to ignite the ‘Us vs Them’ fire.
Now organize protests and morchas targeting the ‘Them’ believed to be responsible for the mess and invite the ‘Us’ to support your protests. If you have picked the sentiment right, you will get whole hearted support from the ‘Us’. Make the media your friend or your enemy; anything in between is not acceptable. Within a surprisingly short time you will be recognized as a political star and will be on your way.
Although ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ will get you success, it is also fraught with risks. Here are some precautions you need to take if you wish to ride the ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ wave to success. For one, watch your words. You should never say things that you cannot wriggle out of later by saying “the media misinterpreted me”. The second precaution is to always have a Plan B, a contingency plan. Riding “Us vs Them” is like riding a tiger; you might conquer all but there’s always the risk of being eaten alive. Finally, you should not fall in the trap of believing that people are following you because you are gifted or because people trust you. Your followers are with you either because of vested interest or because you are giving public expression to their ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ belief. You drop your core idea and within no time your followers will have vanished.
Now that you have the mantra, go on become a leader. My best wishes.
(Published as “Us Versus Them” on 9th Feb 08 in my fortnightly column for the Maharashtra Herald)