If I Was… A Paid Political Consultant
By Jim McNaney
I get it. This sounds odd to be in a golf publication, but I’ve always been a fan of politics and golf, so the symmetry makes sense to me.
Given that we are in the midst of a… let’s call it… “contentious” presidential campaign, I think it is time for someone to tell everyone involved how to behave. After the first presidential debate, that sounded more like an elementary school yard, calls went out to have kindergarten teaches moderate the final two.
The sport has long prided itself on being a game of honor and decorum. Golf in used in many ways to teach younger people about how to succeed in life. That is the actual mission of The First Tee program. So why not use these principles to conduct a campaign.
Nobody is Perfect
Most of the time, candidates spend millions of dollars trying to convince the voting public that their opponent is bad (sometimes even evil) while at the same time touting their “perfection.”
“Candidate X is the perfect choice for our (country/state/county/city) in these times!”
Here’s the rub… no one is PERFECT. Additionally, most voters actually say in polls that “attack campaigning” is not something they enjoy witnessing.
Golf has a history of reminding everyone that it cannot be perfected. One of the most popular golf books of all time, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, by Dr. Bob Rotella calls this out explicitly. No one that has ever played the game has been perfect. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it.
Some great minds (and some lesser ones) have run for and won political office. All of who, I’m sure, believed that they were doing their best for the people that elected them. Over the years there have been wonderful things done for millions of people. As certain that I am of this, is as certain I am that every single one of them have made mistakes.
So, my first piece of advice for my candidate would be to admit… PUBLICALLY… that mistakes will happen. Not all the campaign promises are going to pan out. Candidates will do their very best to make those come to fruition, but not every one of them will succeed.
In fact, I would advise to NEVER call them promises. Plans laid out in the campaign are hopes and ideals but, living in the real world makes it impossible… thus a lie… to suggest anything different.
We Call Penalties On Ourselves
The sign of a good person is not necessarily just how good they are but rather how well they behave when they’ve made a mistake. Unlike other sports like baseball and football, golfers call penalties on themselves.
Watch the PGA TOUR. If there is even a hint of impropriety, a rules official is immediately sought out. This is in complete contrast to baseball (America’s pastime) where the old adage is, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t trying!”
The worst thing anyone can call another golfer is a cheater. Just ask Patrick Reed.
This leads to the concept of honor. A golfer’s honor is guarded almost to the point of sacredness. Golfers pride themselves on being held to a “higher standard” than other athletes.
In politics, this concept is shunned, almost distained. The economy isn’t growing fast enough; it’s the last administration’s fault. Foreign policy is a mess; the other side made this a problem. It seems like the first rule in politics is, “It’s not MY fault!”
Given that, my second piece of advice would be to own up to any and all mistakes the candidate makes… immediately.
Think about how refreshing that would be. I’m not sure the public would understand how to receive a politician saying, “My bad.” We have all been conditioned over the last four decades to “passing the buck.” Whatever happened to, “The buck stops here!”?
Grace Under Pressure
One of the greatest to ever play the game, Jack Nicklaus was lauded for not only how well he handled victory but also how he handled defeat. I once heard him described as the game’s greatest loser as well as the game’s greatest champion.
That magnanimousness was not an act for the cameras on the 72nd hole. Sure, he got upset occasionally when he missed a three-foot putt, but have you ever seen him hurl a long iron into the lake on 18 at Doral? Jack was always cognizant of how he behaved and to show respect for other golfers as well as the game.
My final campaign advice would be to behave like Jack did on the course. Show respect to your opponent. Take the time to acknowledge the accomplishments of the person they are running against. Battle hard, never quit but conduct themselves in a manner the public deserves.
After all that advice, I’m afraid my candidate would be crushed in the election. My career as a political consultant would be over. Tail between my legs, I would retreat to the comfort and calm of my better life… golf.