Facets of Greatness: Congressional Power Structures

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This article in the Facets of Greatness series is on social political philosophy, particularly with regard to leadership. My goal is to equip aspiring leaders with a proficient foundation for working within a system like Congress. This is almost entirely speculation, as I neither have experience in legistlature nor did I refer to sources for this article.

Washington’s Tough for Outsiders

All this talk of Trump as an outsider to Washington got me thinking about what that would be like to be all but green to Washington.

Integrating with the Washington Machine

Cooperative Game Theory

Navigating Congressional Networks

Anticipating Changing Winds

Politicians are Power Brokers

Bartering with Political Resources

Political Resources in Congress

Prioritizing Resources

Annual Cadence of Events

And yes, Trump is an outsider. He’s a very successful businessman. The guy knows how to strategize, leverage his network and orchestrate people to build success. And there’s no doubt he’s connected with a large network of people, but Washington DC has a politically oriented network. While Trump has strong connections in DC, it’s not the same thing as having worked in DC for decades.

★ How does a candidate best spend his time until the election?

★ How are public appearances prioritized?

★ How do you gear up the infrastructure for an effective campaign?

★ How do you make those decisions to fill cabinet positions? VP?

★ How should you coordinate with campaigns for congress to maximize synergy?

★ How do you design/extend your social network to interface with leadership in Congress?

★ How do you interface with the opposition in Congress and elsewhere?

★ What would you do to set the tone when you set foot in office and why?

★ How do you prioritize your agenda early on?

★ What should be done to prepare?

These are all challenging questions, but especially so when you need to make new connections. However, a tabula rasa isn’t so bad. You get a fresh start, if you play your cards right.

Integrating with the Washington Machine

Political outsiders would likely face some difficulty integrating with existing power structures in DC. Some heavily invested businesspeople might run into conflicts of interest. They know that. You don’t just wing it in Washington.

Anticipate How Appearances will be Contorted

However, politics is about appearances. You’ll find situations twisted against you, just because it seems believable. It’s not a good idea to do something just because you can. Hopefully people are reasonable about this, but it gets dirty quick. If he wins, Trump needs to assert leadership early because of the political climate. If it were me, I’d be looking for people to use as examples to assert leadership so other people get the picture. I’d make it known that I want examples. And people are going to want to test out those waters. Go ahead.

Minimize Surface Area for Attack

To minimize surface area for people to attack, some divestment would be worthwhile because if you no longer have your assets & investments, then you can’t be said to be influenced by them. At least it’s not so easy. And by the way, I’m sure Trump has considered this stuff.

Restructure or Divest

As for your portfolio, you could restructure the assets & investments or divest some of them entirely. If you divest and transfer ownership, you get the liquidity and you don’t have to be concerned with upkeep.

You Don’t Have Time for That Side-Gig

General rule: politicians don’t mix well with active business ventures, which also means that you are better off to forego opportunities while in politics. If you’re a career politician, more valuable to forego large investments. It might be easier to cash in your chips.

You really can’t be expected to run a business while obligated to the duties of federal office. It’d be difficult to say the least. If divestment and restructuring don’t work, then your best bet is to find someone you trust manage these investments for you. This could be risky, but that can be minimized through strategery and trust.

An edge case, as an example of risk: if that person puts you in the position where you can’t be seen having profited by visibly correcting this person’s mistakes. they could make a series of subtly bad management decisions, which you wouldn’t have had time to see, giving them some advantage. They could mismanage, dropping the stock price temporarily, allowing them to attempt to skim ownership of the company, in an opportunistic manner. Anyone who would mismanage for an advantage? Send ‘em to the moon.

In fact, that’s a great test case to determine if you can trust someone, period. Find a way to put the cheese right in front of them. See what they do. You have to be able to know you can trust someone or know that you’ve got the chips stacked so you’re not depending on trust to mitigate risk.

If you haven’t figured this out, I’m a very, very paranoid person. Contents fragile once damaged.

This is an oddly specific scenario and not likely, but I can imagine that there would be other scenarios, difficult to foresee until you get bit once or twice. More to the point, any problems that arise would distract from your duties as a politician. But, if you have significant assets, then you probably already have people you trust who help you run the show.

Investing in Specific Industries Invites Problems

As much as people like to accuse politicians of scheming to get rich, career politicians will stay away from large investments, especially conflicts of interest. It opens you up for attacks. Investments in some industries are riskier than others, like those which allocate extensive resources towards lobbying.

Line Up Your Incentives

It really depends on the industry in which you are invested and the role you play in the business. If you have significant assets in some industries, this could be an advantage if you find the incentives that motivate your actions line up with the people you support. This is a challenge if you’re heavily invested in some faceless megacorp. That’s just not relatable.

However, if you are heavily invested in real estate and especially commercial real estate, you’ll find that your incentives line up with much of your support. While Trump has a much, much larger asset portfolio than the average joe, he has a lot of support from the middle class and small business owners. These people care about the value of real estate just as much as Trump.

Cooperative Game Theory

This is the most important section in this article. Hands down, feet up.

Line up your incentives AND WIN EVERY TIME!: form groups and coalitions with people who share your incentives. You need to understand how to identify what drives the behavior of people and groups. Find people who share your motivations and goals. Or find a way to adapt your incentives and goals to better match that of other groups. You will win every time!

Congressional Networking

Between the House and the Senate, there are 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, but this isn’t the only way to group these people. As I tend to do, I found a mathematic analogy. Higher level math is useful because it has so many parallels with real life. In fact, to master real life, you have to learn these tools, whether you realize it or not. And this is a great example of learning to view your personal networks from several perspectives.

Grouping Congressmen & Staff Functionally

Members of congressmen and faculty on Capitol Hill can be recomposed into various views, including by officially defined groups like committees and less explicit affiliations. The House & Senate can be divided into leadership, administrators and general congressmen. You can further organize this view via seniority, political influence or on some other dimension. These groups can be reorganized into groups that satisfy some functional condition.

E.G. all senators who have served 12+ years or all representatives who’ve served 6+ years. There’s a hierarchy of seniority based on number of terms served and it matters when considering who’s going to assume leadership or committee roles.

Graphing Committees & Other Structures

It’s useful to view the members that compose each committee, tying in connections to committee staff members with their connections to staff and other congressmen. If you’re familiar with graph theory, you can use that to model the relationships in these groups. Each edge between nodes can have a value that indicates a stronger or weaker relationship. It’s not so important to actually draw these things out as it is to imagine how these groups of people are tied together. If you find the stronger edges in that graph, this should generally indicate where the influence is. But it’s a little more complicated than defining one edge type.

Graph Theory

You can construct a network with each congressman’s staff to identify strong connections between offices. This would help one understand how each office coordinates with others. And there has to be some kind of differential, where some offices and faculty members exhibit more influence, both on those around them and on the bigger picture.

Understanding who has influence, when they have it and why is critical. The graphs I mentioned above aren’t static, they shift dynamically with respect to current events, issues du jour and context. Again, it’s possible to model this stuff, but that’s kinda silly. The important part is to understand how such tools can give you insight into the system. Graph theory is used everywhere.

Perhaps several senators coordinate to handle specific planks of the party’s platform. Then, working with their staff might yield more progress on those issues.

Working with Politicians

Politicians understand the kinds of games that are played and know that sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want. You might willingly use yourself as a pawn in a risky situation to curry favor to build influence early on. You might get gamed or burned pretty badly. But there’s no reason to lash out at people because of it. It’s not personal. It’s business for these people.

Still, that means you need to be aware that this is their career. Some people will get in and get out; others will stick around. But people remember how you react to various situations and how you contributed to a group’s goals, particularly if there was some personal cost or sacrifice. Or at least they should.

They might not remember what happened, what you said or what you did, exactly. But they will remember how you made them feel.

Navigating Congressional Networks

Understanding how to recognize, navigate, assess and prioritize these networks, structures and connections enables you to work smarter, get more done and rise up through the ranks. As someone who’s struggled alot in social situations, it’s incredibly frustrating to not intuitively understand how these things work. If you don’t have a clear understanding of these networks or if you don’t have good information, it’s very easy to expend a ton of time/energy in the wrong place. You’re basically spinning your wheels.

That said, it’s one thing to notice how these things work and another to be capable of pulling off a coordinated strategy leveraging players from your party and reaching across the aisle. You have to be keenly aware of how other people perceive the system. That includes those in your party and in opposing parties.

Anticipating Changing Winds

This is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal: understanding how people’s needs are going to change from today to tomorrow and from next year to next decade. This introduces yet another dimension of complexity to master.

If you know that someone wants something very badly today, but probably won’t want to expend the political capital on it in a month, then it may or may not be wise to compromise with that person based on their current needs. Or maybe so. Depends on whether they’d want a refund, so it depends on how you sell it.

Similarly, if you need something badly today, you might not need it in a month or a year. Or it might just become less relevant than it seems today. So bargaining for it might be wise, to ensure that people know you’re working towards their interests. Yet, if you know that the factors determining that need will change soon, then it could be a waste of energy pursuing that.

Predicting and understanding change is crucial. It means you aren’t slogged down by unnecessary battles and that your effort today is worth at least as much as it is tomorrow. A corollary to this is that by introducing issues you can force the opposing party to divide their energy, or at least draw it towards a more limited range of their platform … which can help you predict how they are prioritizing their issues. These techniques really can’t be understated.

Everyone wants to look like they’re taking part in slaying whatever dragon is rearing it’s head that day. Is it really worth the energy?

Politicians are Power Brokers

Congressmen and faculty are power brokers. So are bureaucrats. And when it comes down to it, we are all politicians on one level or another. This pops up all the time in the business world and whenever there’s competition. A politician is someone who knows what they want and needs to find a way to get there. So they have to abstract their needs from their presentation of needs. In turn, there are people you have to work with with a similar disposition: they have goals and there’s an abstraction between their actions and how they present their actions. That’s what politics is about. Politics begins to take on interesting group dynamics as you add groups, rules and change.

It can be frustrating. I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons about politics over the years in unusual places.

If politicians are power brokers, what does this imply? What is a good politician? A proficient politician aquires and leverages advantage. There are different ways to do this. Some are great; some are good; some are bad. You can’t forget that you’re dealing with people and, in Washington, you’re dealing with good people. Yes, even the politicians on the news for being in trouble are typically good people. They invested their lives in this. They have families. And they are typically upstanding citizens. Everyone makes a few mistakes, even though there really are a few bad apples out there.

But, to optimize one’s own advantage within an explicitly political system like Congress, this entails minimizing access to information and power. You’re trying to minimize available surface area for information and power, which increases your opportunity to leverage that information as an asset. While restricting availability of information, you simultaneously increase its value for other players.

This is a lesson I learned from bboys. Yes, breakdancers. I used to show off all the time. I wasn’t really showing off. I was having fun or practicing. However, in various situations, this can dilute the entertainment value of bboying. It used to be pretty rare to see. If it’s completely common and for no reason, then it begins to lose it’s excitement and novelty. Also, it attracts attention. The people who have experienced a lot of success in the entertainment industry don’t like that attention. Getting attention is kinda what they do for work and it can feel like work.

The point is, if you’re diluting the value for yourself, that’s your own problem. If you’re diluting the value a group of people, that’s another. The group dynamic takes over. If one person has lowered barriers to access for information or power, then the value for that resource is reduced for other players. Someone’s breaking the game. I can’t stand that it works like this, but sometimes it does.

I value transparency and making knowledge freely available. I’d rather not convolute my own actions to fit appearances and it’s frustrating to be jerked around by other players in a situation like that. They obfuscate a simple situation by wrapping it in another game and completely circumvent the apparent realities of the more simple situation.

Individual & Group Dynamics

There are individual incentives for behavior as a kind of power broker, but there are also group incentives at various levels So, in some instances, leveraging an opportunity when it goes against party, committee or group objectives can rub people the wrong way, at best. At the same time, it’s important for people to be able to break rank. If everyone is bound to one rigid platform or another, it’s to easy to stymie progress. The point to adhering to group dynamics is to accomplish shared goals through compromise.

The Dark Side of Politics

There’s a “dark side” that can emerge from these rules, obviously. There always is. I’m not going to delve too far into those aspects… I’m basically saying that politicians have a tendency to be politicians.

There’s the potential for a politician to tailor his message to a specific audience, where they speak out of both sides of their mouth, so to speak. Or they can convince you to keep things to yourself or restrain you from communicating with other people.

Watch How You Sell What You Sell

However, you have to watch how you sell what you sell. You want the people you compromise with to feel like they got what they wanted: today, next week and next year. If people are satisfied at first and later feel shortchanged, that will build up.

This is especially true with politics when you’re trying to establish a compromise with resources which are hard to pin a dollar amount to. Actually, you can’t pin a dollar amount to most of these: it’s unethical. And so there’s no medium of exchange. Misunderstandings like these are eased and ameliorated with communication and empathy.

Bartering with Political Resources

In Congress, there are resouces that people can exchange to compromise. Members of the same party might typically exchange some types of the resources. Other types may be more common to be exchanged by opposing factions.

These resources are like commodities in that the value of each type can’t be easily equated to others. Their value towards establishing a compromise is heavily dependent on who’s asking and why. Two instances of one type may vary wildly in perceived value. An instance may vary in value in relation to each party and group that is involved.

Value Derives from Appearances and Circumstance

Their value derives from appearances. It’s not a personal subjective value. That is, it doesn’t matter what the thing is worth to you personally. What matters is what it’s worth to other people, although this is true for most everything.

The value of these resources isn’t really comparable. They can’t really have numeric and comparable value attached to them and they shouldn’t. Making everything too official would push us closer to ethical issues. It’s really tough to understand where that line is drawn.

Some good rules of thumb might be: can you tell your fellow congressmen about it? Would you tell your constituents? Would you tell members of the opposing party?

Ethics

Again, I’m not sure where the line is drawn on ethics. Quid pro quo exchange of services for money is a big no-no. Quid pro quo in general is not such a great idea, especially if it’s something that is expected to be repeated. That sounds more like a product than a compromise. There are technicalities, I’m sure. I don’t know. I’d like to know just because I’m curious how these kind of cases are decided.

The manner in which someone approaches you or makes an offer makes a big difference. So does the method you use to market it to the other party. When you enter an official verbal or contractual agreement, this lends a bit of legal weight to the exchange. It just doesn’t sound great when a congressman says to a lobbyist: “I give you X for Y.”

And so the groups that are compromising also make a difference. If one congressman made the a similar offer to another congressman, that doesn’t sound so bad. Although some agreements need to be made on a quid pro quo basis, but some situations, groups or resource types could spell trouble.

Honestly, the thought of taking stock of these “resources” as a commodity is a bit upsetting to me. They are tools to push for the change you want to see, though. Gauging your inventory to understand what you have at your disposal to trade up and gain ground.

Bartering with Political Resources

There’s really no well-defined value for many of these resources, so it’s like a barter system for various commodities.

Or so I assume. I only watch C-SPAN when it’s exciting. Usually for the season premieres. Oh and their epic miniseries. You know, like the new Marvel crossover where congressmen are secretly superheros who fight crime, but they can’t because they’re stuck in a committee hearing about what to do with all the remaining payphones.

If they did that, there wouldn’t be any more payphones to use to change into their alter-ego super hero costumes, so they can skip committee hearings to fly out to the Fortress of Solitude and kick it in Superman’s sweet new crib … I mean, fight crime. But nope. They’re stuck in a committee deadlock. They diverted donations and propped up a SuperPAC to save all the payphones.

Jesus, what would you do? You already know if you show up to that committee hearing once, the anti-payphone cabal is going to force a vote … or you could kick it with Superman in freaking Antartica.

Anyways, bartering for this or anything else requires that you be creative and flexible in finding ways to offer value to others. Like the way you snuck that amendment onto the bill to send the Queen a birthday card. You know, the amendment where your UK compatriots agreed to send over those giant Tardis phone booths in exchange for an official apology on Austin Powers. Those things are roomy! Plenty of space to change real quick to fly out to the Fortress for beerpong with Superman. The anti-payphone cabal? They’re not gonna see it coming. Suckers. They’re negotiating for nothing! Fuck ‘em. Plus those Tardis things have time travel! You and superman can finally wrestle some velociraptors and screw with cavemen. It’s gonnnna be sooo awesome!

So yeh. Totally listen to me. I have tons of experience here. Seriously though, rookies on Capital Hill need to work harder to obtain resources, which to some degree, they’re expected to contribute towards party goals.

Limited Resources

Some resources are fixed in one way or another, particularly with respect to leadership roles. There is only one Speaker of the House & Minority Whip; one Majority Leader & one Minority Leader. And you can’t exactly eagerly expect this to fall in your lap. First of all, there are going to be dozens of congressmen ahead of you. Secondly, if you’re salivating at the thought of a leadership role, that could lead to some negative intra-party politics.

Looking at the congressmen on or just above your seniority, and doing a bit of political calculus, you could imagine that some of you might occupy or compete for those roles someday. If you’re both good politicians, then you’ll both know it too, even if it’s 5 or 10 years out. Intra-party competition is a great, in moderation.

Gauging upcoming interchange in committee leadership roles or the opposing party is far more useful political calculus, with a similar 5 to 10 year timescale. You get to determine people on the opposing team that you should remain ingratiated to … lulz. Don’t piss off those guys because in a few years, you’re going to need to get some legislation through a committee and you want that wheel to stay greased. Ideally, you wouldn’t worry about such things because …

Goshdarnit, people like you.

Goshdarnit I'm good enough

Political Resources in Congress

Floor Time & Agenda

There’s a limited amount of time each year for the House & Senate floor agendas. I imagine it works like an old-school RPG. Each player starts with a set amount of gold. You get 50 gold right off the bat. Then you gotta go adventuring and trade up from there. Slay dragons with the other heroes of the realm and whatnot.

It seems that there are similar resources that each representative starts out with. Or can easily access. Then, as you advance further and further upon your transcontinental quest for public opinion, you get access to higher level influence and tools.

Everyone has access to floor time, but unless you have a few years under your belt and have served others, then I imagine this would be less available to you than others. This increases demand for floor time and agenda influence for junior congressmen, meaning they have to barter for it and work a bit harder. Or so I imagine.

Further, specific times of the day & session would be more valuable than others. Earlier in the legislative session might be more advantageous to help set the tone on an issue. Later in the session, the agenda’s probably packed and it’d would be more competitive. Having time to speak allows you to be more influentual if you get a word in when important issues are being discussed. It’s all about building that CSPAN following. Just trust me, bro.

Commitee Time & Agenda

The same notions of limited time and agenda access apply to committees, which sometimes handle only one bill per issue per session. They might only try to tackle medical marijuana once per year. So, if the House Criminal Justice Committee votes that down, that might be it. Interestingly, the House Criminal Justice Committee is chaired by Bob Goodlatte, Roanoke’s House Rep. I knew he was on it, but I didn’t realize he was the chair. That’s the committee that discusses various marijuana reforms.

In the nineties, it was really tough to get drug reform heard in any legislative forum, state or federal. The level of debate has increased considerably since then, but progress has been slow on this issue in particular. It’s just really hard to get representatives to get on board with drug reform. The people making decisions in state and federal legislatures are upstanding citizens. What upstanding citizen is going to champion that cause? LOL. You’re basically saying, “You know what my community needs? More drugs!” Even if they support drug reform, it’s expensive in terms of political capital. Then, if it doesn’t make progress, you just wasted those resources and political capital, which may have been better spent elsewhere. So it’s been difficult to make progress on that front.

The committee system tends to stall reforms a bit, partly to encourage healthy debate. It’s by design & I’ll discuss that in my next article on political theory: Understanding the Political System.

When bringing an issue through committee, you have to handle it properly, like it’s your baby. At this point, there’s a small number of people who have a lot of control over whether it will be discussed and how it will be modified. Sometimes, the committees will make a symbolic action on an issue or bill to briefly consider it, but moreso to give the appearance that they’re looking into that issue.

But all of these committee actions can provide you leverage that you can use or barter for. Though if you have influence on the committee, there are several tactics you could use that you really wouldn’t want to use. Direct tactics that waste someone’s time, which would lead to frustration.

You don’t want to resort to petty committee tactics, especially against a popular issue. It goes against the spirit of democracy for a few people to completely stall things out. It’s not a strong way to respond to your opponents. And if it’s a direct obvious tactic, then it will probably be easily diffused because people are smart. And if they push themselves to get things done, then cheap tactics will cause them to work harder. That’s kinda what it does for me every time.

Time & Energy

The next resource is Time and Energy. Each congressmen has a budget and a staff that can help interface with other offices on Capital Hill. You have a limited number of manhours and so does everyone else. You might be able to contribute your staff towards an ally’s goal and this is a resource. It could be a favor. It’s something you can use.

Since, you’re pretty busy as a congressman, you’ll want a good communicater and a good manager, preferably someone who’s both. They usually are both.

To get your bill through committee, you really want someone to take your baby seriously. So when they ask for changes, you should work outside the committee’s time as much as possible. As with everything else, you want a tight feedback loop, so that you make changes or suggestions and add/remove stuff as quickly as possible. There may be some bills where it’s just not going to work and you can spend as much time on as you want. That time could be better spent elsewhere.

Instead, you could coordinate with other congressmen or leadership to see what they need. That time is valueable, but getting legislation passed isn’t your only job. And sometimes these tasks are delegated by leadership in the party. Or they could be, so that some congressmen focus on specific tasks that they work efficiently and others take care of public appearances. It’s probably because they have a nice smile or whatever. Others can maintain relationships with specific special interests, which might be appropriate, in terms of strategy. Knowledge is power, after all. It’s all in how people coordinate with each other.

Opportunity & Service

One can leverage an opportunity or role as part of a comprimise. You can offer someone the chance to speak at a fundraising event for a non-profit event unrelated to campaigning. Events like this are great for growing your network. If you’re good, you’ll read the crowd and engage with people to understand what they’re looking for in Congress. Since you’re the guy from Washington, you’ll find that people will approach you and if you help them with something, they’ll remember you because they talked to you.

You also need to seek out people who don’t just approach you. In general, with anything, it’s good to shake things up and resist the temptation to settle into specific patterns. And it’s beneficial to be the one driving the action, instead of the one responding. If you approach someone who doesn’t expect it, that might leave them feeling really good. Further still, the people who approach you always want something. Sometimes it might not be a thrilling conversation. Or maybe they just want to talk you about a specific issue. And maybe they just want to shake your hand, but they want something. They probably heard you’re the guy in the room from Washington.

Or it might be a volunteer opportunity or some other event someone promised to go to, but needs to swap on. Not a great idea to reneg on something simple like that, but sometimes it happens. But the more stuff like this that you do, the larger your network grows. And if you, the important guy spent your time helping someone, people usually remember that. Those are strong, positive connections based on strong memories. You want to build those. As a representative, you need to be good at networking and listening, so you can serve people the best you can.

So, you can pursue these opportunities, but likewise, you can offer them to other people. This is a great way to test junior members of Congress. How willing were they to be a part of something? Did they approach you about an opportunity they heard about? Were they willing to take on some obligation like that, where there wasn’t a clear gain? Those are good people.

Likewise, if you keep your ears out for these things, you can find great events to be a part of. If you’re doing things right, people should be approaching you as someone who’s a respected authority who would be an asset to whatever their project is.

Staff & Human Resources

After you’ve worked in Washington for several years, you’ll have a network of people there. You’ll have a staff and you’ll know good people who want to be part of something. Likewise, there will be junior congressmen who are trying to find great members for their staff. If they’re new to Washington, they might not have a large network. It’s probably a thing that people run into all the time at a specific time of year when there’s a fresh load of congressmen coming in. They probably have a name for it.

But this is a thing that you can do for a junior congressmen that might help them. And they’ll see that person almost every workday when Congress is in session. And you may have done two people favors, if you found someone a job. Win, win, win. That’s easy, LOL. But you have to know the chemistry is going to work out right.

PR, Publicity & Press

Some people like being in front of the camera. Some people need to get in front of one. Some actiosn can be undertaken in Congress to gain PR points or publicity on an issue. It’s good to be seen as an authority on an particular issue or subject and even better if that meshes well with your district or state. It’s nice if everyone gets more facetime, so you want to make sure you take the facetime that is the most synergistic with you or find the person whom would fit that part best.

This becomes part of your image, which is crucial for maintaining relationships with funding sources and lobbyists. You’ll also need to develop your image with actions in Congress, but the same principle above applies: someone else might need that more than you, which means you need to know what issues drive district and state elections. You should anyways. And if that’s going to be an election issue or something, and you let someone else take the reins on the floor in Congress, then you just did a favor. They owe you one.

In fact, visible action is so crucial that one should review the nature of promises both public and private made to supporters, at least once every quarter or so. Enumerating your supporters, their needs and their expectations helps you ensure that your giving back to those who are pushing you forward.

Budget Items

Congressmen get to vote on how much they get paid, but they also get a budget. That’s pretty sweet, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. How do you know you’re getting the most of your budget? Or do you have a surplus at the end of the year and return it to the government just because. That’s a strong indication that your actions fall in line with your words, if you’re in favor of limited government.

Like I mentioned above, you really need a good manager and someone who can handle money well. And you’ll need to be competitive with hiring because if not, a lobbyist will come along and snatch up your best people at the wrong time. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if that occasionally happened at the worst of times. Ideally, you’ll find someone who works for principles, not money. They want a job not because of the money, but the mission.

If you hold an office, legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or otherwise, than you’d have some kind of budget. If you have authority in Washington, a lot of your time is going to be schedule away in meetings or proceedures of some kind. You don’t have time for much else, so you need people to help you run the show.

Personal Time

Everyone has personal time. I don’t think you can give personal time to someone else, but you can trade it away. One has to leverage their time efficiently, while remaining flexible, which becomes incredibly difficult as you gain influence. This is one reason I adjusted to being single. I’m glad I didn’t aquire those obligations. I think…

Knowledge of the System

Your understanding of the system is your most valuable asset. You can’t forget that. Your understanding of how things really work. And politicians know that. People in general know that. Some people will tend to obfuscate a system, so it appears to work in one way, but there are other, less visible factors at work.

How you model the system and perceive the relationships between people is incredibly valuable. This is in constant flux. It’s not going to be the same from year to year. The only constant is change. Just because you figured out how it worked in 2010 doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that in 2020. The ability to anticipate that change is powerful as well.

Some people working within some organization or group get stuck in a reactive mode. They aren’t working the system. The system is working them. There are times to remain passive or reactive. Sometimes that gives you an advantage. But if you’re actively driving behavior, people have to react to you. Similarly, some people are acting actively in a system, but passively with regard to change in that system. So if you actively anticipate how a system will change from State A to State B or from year to year, then you have another advantage.

Prioritizing Resources

You need to understand how to prioritize and schedule your available resources. This means taking stock of the tools available to you and how each kind differs by nature, as well as taking stock of your resources. Some tools & resources match a situation; some are more scarece. A resources value differs in value from you to the person you’re bartering with. You can identify this and utilize it.

Seeking mutual benefit is best.

It’s Win, Win, Win:

You win because you get what you want.

They win because they get what they want or need.

And you win again if you also profited in some other way

That’s right: win, win, win. The third win is because, in giving them what they wanted, you got something else that you wanted. If you did this, then you truly nailed two birds with one stone.

Long-term Mutual Benefit is the Sweet Spot

Seeking long-term mutual benefit is even better. That sets up the chance for better deals down the road.

Some Relationships are Meant to Grow, Others are Not

Remember that some relationships are meant to grow and others are not. Help those who need it, but don’t forget to help yourself.

Annual Cadence of Events

There’s a cycle of events that repeats each year. This is more relevant for members of the exectutive branch, who attend annual diplomatic conferences and press events. I took note of this when watching Barack Obama speaking at a NATO conference in July 2016. He mentioned that it was a yearly event, which got me to thinking about other annual events like the White House Press Conference. The event where Obama traditionally delivered a standup routine.

This implies that there’s a regular rhythm to events. Some of those could be slightly out of order, missing or attended by various team members. But for annual diplomatic events across the world, the US would usually send a presence. This is interesting. If you understand how the events might typically sway public opinion, then you can utilize that to your advantage, if only in a minor way. For example, you might expect that public sentiment and your approval rating would swell slightly after. There might be other predictable effects precending or following specific events.

Facets of Greatness: Understanding the Political System

The American implementation of a democratic republic is different than that of most others. Our system has some interesting qualities to it. Some of these are actually features, not bugs. In the next political article in this series, I’ll speculate on the how and the why behind some of our founders decisions. I’ll describe why it’s a good thing when the decision making power is tilted slightly towards the more senior generations.

I’ll also talk about Starcraft and Blizzard games. Unfortunately, there will be no more Tardis’s or velocirapter-wrestling outings with Superman. And no, Wonder Woman is not going to be there. Just the anti-payphone cabal complaining about a phone that rang for 26 years…

Yeh… no one ever actually hung up, so it kept ringin…