How to succeed in politics

After goin’ through the apprenticeship of the business while I was a boy by workin’ around the district headquarters and hustlin’ about the polls on election day, I set out when I cast my first vote to win fame and money in New York City politics. Did I offer my services to the district leader as a stump-speaker? Not much. The woods are always full of speakers. Did I get up a hook on municipal government and show it to the leader? I wasn’t such a fool. What I did was to get some marketable goods before goin’ to the leaders. What do I mean by marketable goods? Let me tell you: I had a cousin, a young man who didn’t take any particular interest in politics. I went to him and said: “Tommy, I’m goin’ to be a politician, and I want to get a followin’; can I count on you?” He said: “Sure, George”. That’s how I started in business. I got a marketable commodity–one vote. Then I went to the district leader and told him I could command two votes on election day, Tommy’s and my own. He smiled on me and told me to go ahead. If I had offered him a speech or a bookful of learnin’, he would have said, “Oh, forget it!”

That was beginnin’ business in a small way, wasn’t it? But that is the only way to become a real lastin’ statesman. I soon branched out. Two young men in the flat next to mine were school friends-I went to them, just as I went to Tommy, and they agreed to stand by me. Then I had a followin’ of three voters and I began to get a bit chesty. Whenever I dropped into district head-quarters, everybody shook hands with me, and the leader one day honored me by lightin’ a match for my cigar. And so it went on like a snowball rollin’ down a hill I worked the flat-house that I lived in from the basement to the top floor, and I got about a dozen young men to follow me. Then I tackled the next house and so on down the block and around the corner. Before long I had sixty men back of me, and formed the George Washington Plunkitt Association.

What did the district leader say then when I called at headquarters? I didn’t have to call at headquarters. He came after me and said: “George, what do you want? If you don’t see what you want, ask for it. Wouldn’t you like to have a job or two in the departments for your friends?” I said: “I’ll think it over; I haven’t yet decided what the George Washington Plunkitt Association will do in the next campaign.” You ought to have seen how I was courted and petted then by the leaders of the rival organizations I had marketable goods and there was bids for them from all sides, and I was a risin’ man in politics. As time went on, and my association grew, I thought I would like to go to the Assembly. 1 just had to hint at what I wanted, and three different organizations offered me the nomination. Afterwards, I went to the Board of Aldermen, then to the State Senate, then became leader of the district, and so on up and up till I became a statesman.

That is the way and the only way to’ make a lastin’ success in politics. If you are goin’ to cast your first vote next November and want to go into politics, do as I did. Get a followin’, if it’s only one man, and then go to the district leader and say: “I want to join the organization. I’ve got one man who’ll follow me through thick and thin.” The leader won’t laugh at your one-man followin’. He’ll shake your hand warmly, offer to propose you for membership in his club, take you down to the corner for a drink and ask you to call again. But go to him and say: “I took first prize at college in Aristotle; I can recite all Shakespeare forwards and backwards; there ain’t nothin’ in science that ain’t as familiar to me as blockades on the elevated roads and I’m the real thing in the way of silver-tongued orators.” What will he answer? He’ll probably say: “I guess you are not to blame for your misfortunes, but we have no use for you here.”

This is still relevant today, and how I know I will never succeed in politics!

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