How many candidates step into the political arena and those of us who follow it closely end up saying, “Who the heck is that?” For my money it’s far too many. And even experienced political watchers and former candidates just don’t get it. Politics is a tough game. It’s tougher if you’ve never played or don’t know the rules. Those who decide they want to be involved but have no clue as to how and why are a liability to themselves or their chosen candidates.
I get it every election season, the call or meeting with the person who wants to be the next…fill in the office. The worst are those who suddenly decide their first foray into politics will be at the national level…insert President Trump jokes here. It does not work that well for most. The president is the glaring exception to the rule.
Then there are those who have never been involved, are so frustrated with things as they are, they now believe they must run as their only solution to the problem. Rarely are they that solution.
There are also those who believe they can pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes. They think the electorate is not plugged in, that with enough money and backing from “the right people” they can come into an area and say the right things, spend the right money and buy an election. That only works for experienced or sitting office holders or if there are no other actually viable candidates in the race.
And then there are the crusaders, those who have a clue, maybe have been politically active for some time, yet find no candidate pure enough to meet their standards. They usually have a cause or philosophy that is not represented well enough in their eyes. This candidate is the exception to the meeting rule. They don’t seek the meeting because they know their efforts are doomed from the beginning, more on that in a moment. Let’s break these down.
The Rookie: My friend Frank Montelione says this is the guy who wakes up one day, has a cup of coffee and while reading the morning news decides, in his first ever political involvement, that he wants to be in congress. He has no connection to the political machine. He has never campaigned for anyone or been involved in a campaign, but has the desire to run for the US House of Representatives. Apparently he doesn’t know that every established elected official has considered if they have what it takes to grab that nomination and the job. If you are new to the game there is no way you can beat them. I have had this conversation more than once. Generally they don’t believe me when I tell them the reality and they run and are then embarrassed in how they conduct the campaign and in the results on election night.
The Snake: This guy is usually from out of the area and believes the electorate in this backwoods place is a bunch of rubes who can be easily fooled. He has little to no reputation here, has advisors from out of the area who do not actually know the dynamics of the voting public and no real idea of what is expected of a candidate in this region. He has little chance. His arrogance is off putting and his efforts are superficial. This candidate is surprised when slick mailers and out of town support are not enough to win the day. He may or may not have learned the lesson. That is always determined, if he stays around, in his next run.
The Crusader: This potential candidate is a valuable ally to a real candidate, until he decides to run for office himself. He is the guy who holds the conservative’s feet to the fire, but could not get himself elected dog catcher in a one man race. His ideals are nearly perfect. In fact, those ideals are preferred over actual governance. While ideals guide us, changing the entire system overnight is unrealistic and this guy does not care. He is often fueled by frustration in how things are and sees no one else as pure enough to make the necessary changes. He is the only solution, just ask him. He will often make spectacular allegations or accusations toward an opponent or a detractor without the ability to back them up with evidence (or to offer a better solution after pointing out the error of the current system). His passion often overrides his common sense and his reputation or that of his organization will often be harmed by his actions as a candidate. This candidate is a better campaign advisor, worker or chief of staff type then he is a candidate or elected official. He is so wrapped up in his philosophy he can’t see how to govern responsibly while advocating for change. This is the one type of candidate who does not seek advice, he already knows it all, that is except for how to win.
The Crusader makes a lot of noise, is really good at pointing out problems and making a spectacle of himself, but not so good at the reality of campaigning and articulating a vision that has actual solutions proposed. He often does not possess the ability to sway other officials to his point of view because passion gets in the way of practicality. He can’t talk the issues without being so emotionally engaged that logic goes out the window. He may find himself (if in office or a meeting) walking out, being arrested for disruptive acts, turning his back on detractors in a childish display of “look at me” or advocating an agenda that is the sole focus of his campaign that nobody else on the planet cares enough about to make him the nominee.
Fortunately, for us, there are others who do get it. I know of one such young man right now. He knows he wants to be involved in politics and would like to hold elected office some day. What’s he doing? He’s working on having credibility with the voters by learning all he can about the process, how it works and what it takes to succeed. His personal philosophy is grounded in a conservative belief system that is based in facts and knowledge. He understands where his convictions lie and he can articulate them well. He sees that overnight change is not going to happen and he has the ability to sway others to his perspective by his clear and concise arguments on the issues. He won’t win ‘em all, but he will win enough to make a difference. We’ll call him…The Winner.
One day I am sure I will have the honor of introducing him to you, first as a candidate and then one day as an agent of change. Between now and then, I am sure to have plenty of Rookies, Snakes and Crusaders drop into our world. Let’s hope there are other Winners out there as well.