In 1969, I signed on to the John Lindsay mayoral Republican-Liberal primary campaign in New York City. For two and a half months, every evening after work I rode in the campaign car with Fioravante (Fred) Perrotta, John Lindsay’s running mate for the office of comptroller. My main job: scout out men’s rooms and pay phones while Freddie speechified.
Occasionally, one of our stops would be a religious gathering at a synagogue or church where politics is out of place. “What are you going to say?” I once asked Fred.
“I’ll give ‘em BOMFOG,” he said with a grin.
“BOMFOG?” I asked.
“Brotherhood of Man Under the Fatherhood of God.”
(The result of my dabbling in 1969 local politics was a political thriller, The Fingered City, about the Mafia running a candidate for mayor of New York.)
Politicians bloviate, equivocate, pontificate, obviate and flat-out lie.
Often they are deliberately short on specifics
“Specifics sell,” said the great freelancer Andrew J. Byrne. “Generalities do not.”
When a campaign is based on speeches, politicians can run ideas up the flagpole. If nobody salutes, the candidate can veer off and hope nobody remembers.
In the immortal words of Texas Governor Rick Perry, “Oops.”
Politicians are terrified of saying what they truly believe for fear of ticking off the “base.”
They want votes, not controversy.
So far, four Democrats have declared.
In the case of the Republicans, 16-person televised debates are unworkable. The electorate will be forced to make one of the most serious decisions of their lives based on the delivery of snappy one-liners.
What’s needed is a short manifesto in print from every candidate. These must be long on specifics and short on BOMFOG — enabling voters and the media to understand precisely the positions on each issue.
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.