I’ve got a lot to say! Especially around this past election. To set the stage for that, I want to describe my perspective as it’s been informed by this unique experience. It’s the lens by which all future commentary and thoughts can be viewed. Here goes:
I’m biased, but I believe I ran the most sane campaign, anywhere in America, in 2010. Here’s why:
1) The only clean-money campaign in the country.
The problem: A super-high number, potentially in the billions was spent on campaigns this election season. When running for office becomes something that is so unfathomably expensive that only a certain, well-connected or uber-wealthy class of people can ever consider it, we’ve failed miserably.
Of all the major federal campaigns (US House and Senate), we were the only one to not take any special interest money or self-finance. The only one. We raised a quarter million dollars, entirely from individual donations, averaging $250.
2) An organic campaign, not a synthetic one.
The problem: There’s clearly a huge trust gap in politics. When a politician tells us something, our first reaction is to assume lies and deception. We immediately have to figure out how much of what they said might be true. We impugn motives and statements of politicians because we know how artificial they have become. Focus groups, poll-tested sound bites, and consultants crafting everything. We now take for granted that these politicians and their campaigns don’t mean what they say. Like a marketed bar of soap, everything has been fine tuned behind the curtain to make us want it. They don’t mean it.
So I ran an organic campaign. There were no “rented suits” (consultants) or focus-grouped taglines. But more than anything, I wanted to show what a sane, human campaign could look like. What if the candidate ran his own campaign, kept the books, ran the fundraising, wrote the speeches, policy positions, planned the media, created the commercials, and all the rest? So I did. It’s also why I was really, really irritated when my statements and motives were impugned. It was frustrating because all of this work was really an extension of me — but realistically, until this becomes more commonplace — that campaigns are a true, honest reflection of the candidate and their views –cynicism and resistance will persist.
3) Ideas, not sound bites.
The problem: Most politicians run for office without any ideas. Instead they rely on 2-3 sound bites which they repeat over and over. It’s so bad that there are even a slew of politicians who don’t even have positions on their website. My ultimate opponent, Jean Schmidt was one of them. On her website you could look at photos of her or donate money. Those were your choices. After a year+ of dealing with this idiocy, I let loose in the debate and called it what it was: parrot politics. You could teach a parrot to say the names of a few diseases, that doesn’t make the parrot a doctor. You can teach a parrot to say “lower taxes” and “smaller government,” but that wouldn’t make that parrot a conservative either. It was infuriating.
So I laid out an aggressive policy platform on my website. I even went further to post about relevant policy news on The Huffington Post. I constantly updated the Facebook campaign page with relevant news articles & commentary. I answered emails every day on policy positions and where I stood on issues.
I’m extremely proud of these accomplishments. This is what was especially different about our campaign. I like to think it was a brief glimpse at sanity in an otherwise insane election year and political climate.
And proud you should be Surya! At some point in time I hold out the hope that the average voter will open their eyes and ears and put more faith in the message. Have we become so brainwashed, impatient and lazy that we don't really listen – or don't care? Or is it that we have been told that individuals can't change things or make a difference? Perhaps putting down that remote or PS3 and actually reading and learning about people in our own history that made a difference one step at a time? Or am I the eternal optimist?