Predicting popular responses


in Politics, Psychology

I had made a tactical error in allowing my personal views to cloud my political judgment. Even if I believed I was right on the merits, I was wrong about the politics. I should have known enough to warn my boss that the invasion [of Grenada in 1983] would be popular even as I advised him to speak out against it.

Would that have convinced him? Maybe not; maybe it was my passionate certainty that opposing the invasion was a political winner that made my case. Whatever the truth, I learned that day to separate what I thought was right from what I thought would work, a skill that would serve me well — at a price. Judging how the world will judge what you do — how a position will “play” — is an essential political skill. If you can’t predict what will work, you can’t survive in office. If you don’t keep your job, you can’t achieve what you think is right. The danger is when you stop caring about the difference between being right and being employed, or fail to notice that you don’t know what the difference is anymore.

Stephanopoulos, George. All Too Human: A Political Education. Little, Brown and Company; Boston. 1999. p. 18-19

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