Running for cover is a lot more difficult if you wait until the arrows begin to fly to look for refuge. The most successful senators are those who regard their initial election as something of a fluke and, from the moment they enter the Senate as freshmen, begin to position themselves in anticipation of the voters coming to their senses. Rule One: Excel at a Macho Hobby
Identification with certain symbols can mask a voting record that reads as if it belonges to Bella Abzug. Voters refuse to believe that a senator who can successfully wrestle grizzly bears is soft on communism. A 100-percent rugged outdoorsman must have social views like Charles Bronson's.
Take the case of Birch Bayh, the liberal senator from Indiana. As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on constitutional amendments, Bayh has all but single-handedly blocked Senate consideration of amendments that would ban busing and abortion and mandate a balanced budget. In short, Bayh has been on the unpopular side of almost every divisive political issue of the 1970s.
When he's back in Indiana, Bayh enters just about every turkey shoot and black powder contest he can find. These arent't campaign stunts like Calvin Coolidge wearing an Indian headdress. Bayh boasts an expert marksman rating from the National Rifle Association and not only enters these contests, but often wins.
It doesn't matter that Bayh favors some forms of gun control and was a key supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. That gets lost in a haze of gunpowder and bulls-eyes. You can just hear them at Indiana county fairs, "Lord, that Birch can shoot. I just know he doesn't believe that nonsense about women's lib and taking away our guns."
Since his election to the Senate in 1962, Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin has compiled one of the most conspicuously liberal records in Congress.But Nelson, whose roots are in a small town in northern Wisconsin, has never let the voters forget his genuine love of the great outdoors. He naturally projects the languor of a man who would rather be fishing than voting for the SALT treaty. Wisconsin Republicans have discovered to their dismay it is impossible to paint a man as a dangerous extremist who can discourse knowledgeably on his favorite trout streams.Nelson is also proud to be known as the man who beat Bill Proxmire, Wisconsin's senior senator and a renowned physical fitness buff, at one-armed pushups. Rule Two: Convince the Voters That Your Integrity Is Your State's Most Priceless Asset
In every generation, there are a few senators who become institutions and whose independence of mind and sterling character are so prized that they can get away with almost any unpopular vote. It never hurt the late Sen. Philip Hart of Michigan to be known as the "conscience of the Senate." In 1972, a year in which George Wallace won the Michigan primary, Hart was virtually the only public figure in Michigan who refused to give way to the anti-busing hysteria. It was a courageous stand, but Hart already had such a reputation for soft-spoken inteegrity that he could pull it off.
You cannot arrive in the Senate and suddenly annouce, "I am a statesman, not one of those grasping politicans." But there are steps you can take to begin to create that kind of an image. Try talking very slowly, even more slowly than Ed Muskie. Become slightly self-deprecatory. Never raise your voice. Agonize endlessly in public, saying again and again, "There are no easy decisions."
Is never hurts to vote against congressional pay raises, even if you are without inherited money. When he was elected to the Senate from New Hampshire in 1975, one of John Durkin's campaign issues was his pledge to return the money from the last Senate pay raise to the Treasury. It got him elected, but Durkin abandoned this high-minded stance after a year in the Senate. As he explains, "I may have moved from 100th to 63rd in seniority, but I am about 99th in the senate in net worth." In contrast, Dick Stone of Florida, who is a millionaire, wins plaudits back home by returning part of his salary to the Treasury.
Gary Hart of Colorado has emerged as a fiery opponent of congressional perks. As early as 1977 he forced a Senate roll call on his quixotic proposal to eliminate free Senate parking on Capitol Hill.
Remember: integity is not always its own reward. Many of the senators in Profiles in Courage were defeated for reelection and all had died before John Kennedy's best-seller saw print. Your goal is to convince the voters of your state that your person in the Senate is more important to them than your stands on issues that concern them. Rule Three: Specialize in Safe Issues That No One Be Against, but Can Get You on Meet the Press
A new senator is quickly taught humility when he discovers that all the hot current issues, such as balancing the budget, have already been taken. The challenge s to find an issue that 99 other politicicans in the Senate have ignored, but one which has enough political throw weight to land you the cover of Newsweek. Anyone can stick to noncontrovesial issues such as traffic safety and preventing forest fires. But when was the last time a senator was invited on "Face the Nation" to discuss his fight against tooth decay?
Take as your model Gary Hart. During the panic that followed the accident at Three Mile Island, Hart emerged as "Mr. Nuclear Safety," capitalizing on two years of diligent efforts as chairman on an obscure Senate subcommittee on nuclear regulation. Beginning with the "Today" show on March 29, the morning after the accident, Hart quickly became a fixture on the television news shows. Although no one else from the government was talking, Hart developed a new issue each day. On March 31 he opposed having consumers pay for cleaning up the accident. The next day on "Face the Nation" Hart said, "There is a real doubt as who is in charge" an announced that he would introduce legislation giving the Nuclear Regulatory Commission authority to take over the handing of furture nuclear crises. On April 2, Hart described the Three Mile Island plant as a " $1 billion manusoleum" and demanded that states with nuclear power plants update and test their emergency evacuation plans within 30 days. A few days later, Hart again won headlines by proposing that his subcommittee undertake a comprehensive investagation of the accident.
Throughout it all, Hart never came out forthrightly against nuclear power. That would have been controversial. Instead, he was militantly opposed to nuclear accidents, a position that even the nuclear industry finds it hard to argue with.
Dick Stone of Florida has been almost as adroit in his handling of the Cuba issue, a subject with which he has been mildly obsessed since he arrived in the Senate. It is about as safe an issue as you can find because no one in American political life in the last 20 years has been in favor of Communist cuba. With the Red threat poised just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, and with a large and militant Cuban population in Miami, concentrating on Cuba paid small, but regular, political dividends for Stone during his first five years in the Senate. Then Stone had the good luck to offhandledly as a few questions during a Foreign Relations Committee meeting in July about the possibility of a Russian brigade being based in Cuba. Until he was upstaged by committee chairman Frank Church, Stone had the issue to himself. But Russian troops proved to be a potent enough issue to accommodate both a senior senator and his junior partner. All through early September, Stone kept himself busy making all the television appearances that Church spurned. If Church did "Good Morning, America," then Stone got the "Today" show.