Opposition as Pivoting
President Kennedy, after the Bay of Pigs fiascos, said, while “victory has a thousand fathers … failure is an orphan,” This is most true for a governing party out of power. While having clients on both sides of the political divide, the period after an election is interesting. The victors are busy planning their ascension to power, while the losers now have to deal with the unimaginable. As a consultancy, we now exchange our sword for plowshares and works with those clients who are serious about a return to power.
In the immediate aftermath of losing an election, the new opposition party will be demoralized and face defection as the new governing party dangle position and power to lure away legislators. The road ahead is long and hard, with very little support and very little publicity. But it also offers an opportunity to reorganize the party, update the ideology, and plan for a return to power. For a democracy to thrive, the Governments always needs to have sound and legitimate critics, and a true Opposition Party provides that and is always ready to take over the Government. David Cameron was once the Leader of the Opposition before his party took over and he became the Prime Minister.
1. Transforming a party out of power into a powerful and legitimate opposition party. An Opposition that waits for the next election is simply waiting for a slow death in obscurity. The period from now to the next election must be seen as long election preparation period through resisting the Governing party, cultivating candidates, and forming strong support on the ground. There are two dangers in not taking this opportunity to transform the party, first, is losing electorate support, and second, is losing talent. An Opposition party must have superior ideas and superior communication of those superior ideas. The Governing part now has access to all the free media, the Opposition must create its own relationship with the media, and learn how to turn the media into Opposition Media.
2. Relentlessly engage the media. The Opposition party is, by definition, out of power and not newsworthy in its own rights. To maintain visibility and to shift the party’s public perception, a careful and consistent media engagement and plan must be in-place and carried out by trained and disciplined staff that support both the party, the public figures, and Opposition issues. Without this key force, the Opposition party dies in darkness and silence.
3. Have a unique vision that cannot be stolen. The Government will steal successful ideas and policies to keep themselves in power through popular support. However, the Governing party also have certain ideology and vision that cannot be altered, due to their political commitment or alliance. The Opposition Party needs to have a unique vision that cannot be stolen or copied, or if stolen and copied, would fracture the Governing party’s alliance and support.
4. Develop common ground to engender support of the Government but simultaneously weaken the Governing party’s alliance. The Opposition should have a clear area of issues that it will support, and this rational and careful choice of policies is used to demonstrate the Opposition’s intellectual independence and vision. There will be issues that the Government would need the Opposition’s support, and certain implementation would require Opposition’s input and credibility. The Opposition needs a clear philosophy and stance not to be seen as unreasonable.
5. Demand the Governing Party be faithful to everything they promised. The Governing party made numerous promises during the campaign. The Opposition’s job is to be like a spouse demanding perfect faithfulness to the promises, especially those the Governing Party can’t keep.
6. Engineer Moral Superiority and Voting Area Credibility To create local support and the appearance of local authority, the Opposition much cultivates local leaders in areas it does not have elected representatives. Organizational resources need to be invested in credible candidates to help them be seen as representative of both the party’s ideal and the future candidates. This would slow the inflow of talent to the Governing party and allows greater opportunity for future influence. Opposition return to power through hard and smart work. It must appear to be morally superior. It must appear smarter. It might appear to represent the people.
A thriving democracy needs a vigorous and intelligence opposition, no matter who is in power. A successful democracy needs a ready and capable opposition to take over the government right away when the election is over. Democracy in the digital age affords no one baby steps and a deep learning curve is tantamount to a death dive. The Trump Administration offers a case study in the danger of amateur in power.