A couple years ago I went to a seminar where the main speaker was a guy named Chet Holmes, who just recently passed away. He was Charlie Munger’s marketing guy for a long time, and was sharing his marketing acumen with us.

One of the things he spoke about with passion was the idea that most marketers talk about marketing tactics, some about marketing strategies. And he said that the strategist would beat out the tactician every time. I have been thinking about that, and working to implement some of those ideas in my business.

I recently had a [political] discussion with some friends, and votes for at least 3 candidates were present. One of the things I said, was that in our present system, the only candidates with a chance to win were the two front runners — so why would you vote for a 3rd party? In a close race, it is a wasted vote. At least that is my attitude. Sure, I would love to see one of the other guys win, but it just is not possible. Not as bas as the ’92 election where Perot got 18% and helped Clinton win, the 3rd parties will have far less than that this time, it looks like.

So is it possible that in ’92 it was a Clinton strategy to get voter who preferred the Republican candidate over him, to vote for Perot instead? Playing on people’s, perhaps near-sighted, desire to elect the person they thought was best but who could not possibly win? Is voting for who you really want to win, when there is no possible way they can, silly?  I’m not sure. But I do think that if you vote that way, it is not a strategic decision.

In another class I took some time ago, we talked about how most people live at “effect” rather than at “cause”. What does this mean? Some people react to what happens to them. If you get burned by the stove and jump back and do nothing else, you are at effect. If you realize the stove is hot and either turn it off or get a hotpad and complete your task, more likely you are at cause. So when I was thinking about tactics and strategy, I thought about being at cause and at effect also. Seems like for the most part, we use tactics when we are at effect and strategies when we are at cause.

One place this shoes up is in trying to lose weight. People who are dieting (and I think we have all done this from time to time) fail because they are at effect, and are employing a tactic rather than a strategy. A weight loss strategy might be composed of lots of tactics, like going to the gym, or eating right, or running – but without an underlying strategy that keeps us on course, the tactics are rarely applied in a way that results in what we want. Similarly, if I get up in the morning and there are fresh donuts, I am at effect because I eat a donut, and I am not thinking about being at cause because I want the donut NOW to satisfy the carb addiction. Once I have eaten it, I know it was bad, that I was at effect, and being at cause, I throw the box away (another tactic which results in my wife yelling at me but furthers my cause of weight loss).

So back to the politics. Thinking about liberalism and conservatism — affirmative action can place a student in a program for which he is not qualified, in order to “give them a chance”. However, because they are not qualified, they fail, leading to a worse problem that they might have endured staying out of the program. Getting them in the program was a tactic, not a strategy. A strategy might have been to have tutors and mentors work with them through the program to insure a good outcome, albeit an expensive one.

It just seems to me that many of the responses we see from a liberal thinking electorate is a result of tactics without thinking about the long term strategy. And this isn’t just a democrat problem, all politicians tend to have a short term view — until the next election. We need to get away from this and generate long term goals and plans (20 year, 30 year) and get away from tactics designed to get them re-elected. Term limits seem to be one way of doing this. As a politician, if you know you can’t be re-elected, where do you focus? Hopefully a little farther out. Maybe you start thinking about the strategies you can put in place rather than the tactics you can use to get re-elected. But maybe you think about what you can do that will benefit you after you leave office?

Starting with FDR in particular, liberals seem to be more tactic driven, to be more at effect, than being an at-cause strategist. Maybe not. What do you think?