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How to run for office as an independent

DCblogger's picture

So you are tired of the legacy parties, think you can make a difference, want to give it a try. Here is some advice from a recovering Democrat.

Do you know 10 people who might give you $1,000? Alternatively, do you know 100 people who might give you $100? If you cannot come up with a plausible plan to raise $10,000, look for someone else to support. Don't run a symbolic campaign. Symbolic campaigns stink. Out loud. Nobody will volunteer to campaign for a symbol. Run for office.

Run for the office you want to hold. Want to do something to end the wars? Run for federal office. County council does not handle foreign policy. Do you care about land use issues? Then county council is just the thing for you. Care about education? School board, county council, and state assembly all have some power over the school system. Run for the office you want to hold.

What is your base? Not in terms of issues, who are the people who will knock on the doors for you, volunteer for phone bank, run you website, and so on. Are you president of your civic association? Garden club? Doggie play group? Can you come up with a dozen or more people who would not just support you but ask others to do so?

Get some training. Democracy for America, Wellstone Action, and other groups offer training.

Go to your state's board of election's website and study the rules with close attention. Try to get someone experienced to coordinate your petition drive. Done properly, petition signing can solve two problems at once, get you on the ballot and identify supporters. Some people will sign just to give you a chance to run; but most will be potential supporters. If the rules of your state permit it, record the names of those who sign your petitions. That is a quick way to get into trouble and discredit yourself.

Start going to everything. Go to zoning hearings. Sit in the back and listen, make of a note of anyone who says anything that indicates they might be a supporter. Read that section of your community newspaper where they list upcoming events and go to everything. Shake hands and compliment everything you see. If you can't go to every event, you can't run for office.

Study the voting history of your jurisdiction precinct by precinct. Go back at least four elections to discern trends. Note precincts where Nader and other third party candidates got their best vote, that is your electoral base.

This post was inspired by Ian Welsh's rerun of an earlier post. Students of Crane Brinton know when the end of a collapsing regime comes, it comes quickly.

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S Brennan's picture
Submitted by S Brennan on

I think the thing that is wrong with my end of the political spectrum [Lib-ber-al*] is that the left always has a plethora of self-selected candidates whose policy positions might largely agree with mine, but who's [looks resemble death warmed over**], who's [speech resemble a squeaky wheel], who's [stature leads to disrespect], whose [bio reads poorly] who's [slow on the uptake], who [comes across as abrasive] and let's not forget our recent experience of people who want power for powers sake...the inexperienced raging narcissists/sociopaths.

My point being, there has to be more than desire and policy to effect change...it's not about feeling good that you "did something". That's not to say a bald guy with glasses can't win, he can, particularly if he is a war vet with a bronze star and an all-state record as a defensive tackle.

I would urge the left to ACTIVELY look for big stature, athletic build returning veterans, who come off well on camera and believe/[have records of belief] in the policies of LBJ and FDR.

There are literally thousands of black/Hispanic female/male Sergeants out there that will fill this bill. They already have much of the required skills on their resume. They served their country while receiving lousy pay, in difficult circumstances, their records can be verified and their voice/verbal skill are almost always in the top 5% of human range. Most of them are real leaders. They are in every community and they are easy to find. A little outreach would do it.

There has to be a [Lib-ber-al] clearing house that does recruiting, vetting and screening of potential candidates. Self-selection sucks, you wind up with people who might have great policies, but who don't have a snowballs chance in hell of implementing them because, well...see first paragraph. The selection/screening committee could feed into an independent/3rd party or Democratic primary, but there has to be some [Lib-ber-al] clearing house selection process, otherwise you have too much competition for limited votes and the money will win every time.

*Once I was called a "conservative" Democrat, however, by maintaining my belief that FDR/LBJ policies worked, I am now considered "lunatic fringe" on the left.

**Kucinich is my poster boy for this, but Adli Stevenson used to have the slot...these candidacies are, as the kids say today, "roach motels" for people who want to save this country from itself.

DavidByron's picture
Submitted by DavidByron on

The further adulation and empowerment of a class of war criminals (ie veterans) isn't exactly progressive in my view. If you are looking for moral strength and leadership then the army is the last place to look. They beat any sense of either morality or individual responsibility out of them. A "just following orders" mental attitude to kill a bunch of helpless children and other foreigners is what the army breeds.

OTOH if cowardice, servility and complicity to authority in the face of monstrous evil is what you are looking for in a leader then they're perfect.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

thank you for your comment
your comment is very valuable to us
please do not hesitate to comment again.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I would urge the left to ACTIVELY look for big stature, athletic build returning veterans, who come off well on camera and believe/[have records of belief] in the policies of LBJ and FDR.

yeah
because that worked so well with Patrick Murphy and Jim Webb. Remember how they opposed FISA abuse, NOT. and a bunch of other bad votes.

why not just put some good information out there and see who decides to run? Rather than trying to pick some theoretically ideal candidate, let's see who presents themselves.

Personally I think we should be on the look out for another Bernie Sanders or Paul Wellstone.

S Brennan's picture
Submitted by S Brennan on

Jim Webb, has always been conservative, he served in the Reagan White House, he was "recruited" by Republicans, he was a big name dude long before the Dems picked him. So your example using him is downright silly. Secondly, there a lot more small statured Dems that supported FISA...Obama comes to mind, so your example of a single vote to make your point is also silly.

I am not a fan of Patrick Murphy, but both he and Jim Webb won their seats and a more liberal candidate would not. I believe Patrick Murphy won by just over a thousand votes...I presume you think Adli-light would have done better? Jim Webb won by less than 0.5%, maybe if he had been a draft dodger he would have done better...huh?

Besides I LIKE JIM WEBB, he is constantly avocating working class issues [I understand..the "creative class" doesn't care], incarceration rates [I understand...the "creative class" doesn't care], I agree with his stance on Nuclear energy, particularly Thorium Reactor Research [I understand...the "creative class" doesn't care], let's remember he really was against the war in Iraq [I understand...the "creative class" doesn't care]...all in all, a kick ass guy that does not get shoved around and pushes back when he is shoved. Is Webb perfect? No, but Virginia ain't Minnesota either, so your comparison makes you appear either naive or duplicitous.

FISA votes? Look to the scrawny dude in the White House DC.

"because that worked so well with Patrick Murphy and Jim Webb"- DCblogger

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Webb's vote to preserve tax cuts for the rich instead of funding special education?
Webb's vote in favor of the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement?

Or Webb's support for more media concentration?

Webb was the candidate of the creative class, he is their idea of a red neck. His majorities were in the Washington suburbs and the area around the University of Virginia. He lost southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah area.

We will never elect a Wellstone or Sanders in Virginia, but there was never any need to nominate someone as odious to black people as he is to women.

S Brennan's picture
Submitted by S Brennan on

And you want to turn the debate onto Webb...and you want to win the validity of your original argument based on Webs record? GOOD FOR YOU...I wanted to discuss your original post which is why I wrote:

"There are literally thousands of black/Hispanic female/male Sergeants out there that will fill this bill. They already have much of the required skills on their resume. They served their country while receiving lousy pay, in difficult circumstances, their records can be verified and their voice/verbal skill are almost always in the top 5% of human range. Most of them are real leaders. They are in every community and they are easy to find. A little outreach would do it."

before you switched subjects. Fine, go ahead and make sure liberals continue to be represented by:

"self-selected candidates whose policy positions might largely agree with mine, but who's [looks resemble death warmed over**], who's [speech resemble a squeaky wheel], who's [stature leads to disrespect], whose [bio reads poorly] who's [slow on the uptake], who [comes across as abrasive] and let's not forget our recent experience of people who want power for powers sake...the inexperienced raging narcissists/sociopaths."

Instead of guys like LBJ.

Your idea is status quo..and it hasn't worked since "72...but let's keep doing the same shit over and over expecting different results. I don't want to spend the next 10 minutes finding 300 hundred examples of self-selected Democratic wussies that you ignore in order to bring Webb, who was never liberal and NEVER pretended to be.

You win the argument, keep the Status quo, put up self-selecting wimps, ignore those who have EARNED A SHOT...that's worked so e'ffing well.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

This subject is important to me so I hope you'll forgive a couple of objections-with the proviso that I'm a fan of your postings and have learned a lot from them.

First, the average amount spent on contested races for U.S. Congress is something like $1.6 million, last I checked. So any discussion of an average person making a serious run for federal office is not realistic. As you say, we shouldn't be encouraging "symbolic" runs, and that's exactly what most of these runs are. (I know this from experience.)

S. Brennan is right that celebrity candidates-especially those with access to piles of cash and/or with friends who do-can make viable runs. And I agree with him that we should be keeping an eye out for these folks-though I don't agree that we should be targeting "athletic vets" as a class. A bunch of these guys-going under the embarrassing moniker "the fighting Dems"-were the darlings of the Act Blue crowd last election and have turned out (with almost no exceptions) to be a huge disappointment. But even they were armed with huge war chests, generally courtesy of Rahm Emmanuel who takes a particular shine to men (and women) who carry guns and know how to use 'em.

That said, on occasion, the usual barriers that prevent those with decent politics from running for federal office can be transcended, and the celebrity route is one way. (Incidentally, on this point, there is talk of Nader running against Dodd in CT his home state; as unemployment continues to spike, his candidacy becomes less quixotic.)

The other way is the one we should be focussing on, namely the Bernie Sanders path. Keep in mind that he started from Burlington City Council, to Mayor, to Congress to Senate, and he did this all while remaining an "Independent Socialist", not a Democrat. And yes he raised money, but nowhere near the sums required had he not established himself by climbing the ladder up from local to national levels.

I've been trying to argue for years that there is no good reason we couldn't have fifty Bernie Sanders' in Congress and six or seven in the Senate.

The main reasons, it seems to me, are bad ones: e.g. leftists all want to be Noam Chomsky: they see themselves as critics functioning on the outside leaving for others the job of doing the kind of retail politics (of the kind you mention) required to get our politics established on the local level.

The other bad reason (related in some instances) is that more than a few leftists are borderline sociopaths who can't manage a civil conversation with their relatives, let alone their neighbors. Or at best, they revel in their marginalization, defining their identities by their inability to find common ground with others.

Politics requires that you not be an asshole-at least on the most superficial personal level.

A lot of the left can't make it over this hurdle, alas.

Thanks for the piece, in any case.

S Brennan's picture
Submitted by S Brennan on

I couldn't find a single enlisted [that would mean working class origins] being supported, could you provide a link I could follow? Most of the people I saw listed had never served in any capacity, even Obama was listed as a "fighting dem"...so I agree with you the Moniker is STUPID...I also think it misrepresents.

I don't see where I used "athletic vets".

I did say if you are bald with glasses it helps if you were all-state defensive tackle and have a bronze star. I said that...wait for...because it's true. Liberals have been tagged as wussies, because since '72 self selection has been the norm and we have produced what are own ranks regards as "spineless". Standing 5'3", fat bald with glasses with a draft deferment and a degree in dance is not going to inspire in most congressional districts.. If you want working class votes [and most Dems don't] you have to be able to relate on some level Barny Frank isn't going to cut it. That's no to say Barny Franks doesn't have powerful backers, because he works hard for his bribes, but he is not going to win in a whole lot of districts. And it isn't because he screws underage pages or talks with a lisp, it's his pedantic style that would go nowhere outside of well off urban districts.

"I don't agree that we should be targeting "athletic vets" as a class. A bunch of these guys-going under the embarrassing moniker "the fighting Dems"-were the darlings of the Act Blue crowd last election and have turned out (with almost no exceptions) to be a huge disappointment.

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

NO-ONE called you out on your trashy, homophobic slurs? I am not a Frank fan, but when you smear a man with accusations of sexual molestation of underage persons, and then throw in, for those of us who missed it, the"lisp", I am telling you right now, you are OFF THE PAGE in my book. Your obsession with physical attributes (big stature, athletic) vs "wimps," ("5'3', bald, glasses"), demotes, denigrates, and marginalizes most anyone I personally respect and honor (including a hell of alot of nurses!). To legitimate people on their looks (and vision??) telegraphs a tremendous amount of information to me about your values.

S Brennan's picture
Submitted by S Brennan on

Frank does talk with a lisp..who are you trying to kid? He's joked about his speech pattern in public settings like the McNeil-Leher news hour. Your wackie Jackie bit ain't working for me.

Barney Frank was involved in the page scandal back in the early eighties, unlike Studds, he got off. Later, he ran a prostitution ring out of his house. I think only one congressional Democrat publicly criticized him.

I don't care who you vote for, that's your business, if you think guys/girls who have appearance problems are the way to go...VOTE FOR 'EM, but to win you need to score 8/10 in the looks dept. Sorry, the world ain't perfect.

If you are klutz with your hands, perhaps brain surgery ain't your calling..huh?

People who stutter, might find a better job than corporate spokesman..huh?

Life's like that.

The reality is the Republican party has more boy on boy scandals, but they tend to dump those folks whereas only one Democrat voted to censure Barney. Barny is a jerk for a lot of reasons, but him being gay isn't a problem for me. I am far more concerned with his public corruption than who he goes to bed with. I would point out though, he's gotten a pass, where Edwards, Spitzer, Studds, Clinton etc did not and that does create a perception problem.

My response to your unsupported accusations of "trashy, homophobic slurs"...clutch some pearls for me will you.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

as you point out, he started out on the city council. That would be a great place for a would be independent candidate to start out, at the City Council level. Or school board. Or clerk of the court.

all I was trying to do is give people who are toying with the possibility of running for office how to get started.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

That would be a great place for a would be independent candidate to start out, at the City Council level. Or school board. Or clerk of the court.

Indeed. FWIW, I did it myself:

Sorry to flog this again, but I thought you might find it interesting:

http://prorev.com/whyiran.htm

I appreciate that Lambert is supportive of having this discussion here. One of the few who is.

Of course, the access bloggers are dead set against it. For obvious reasons.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

http://TheWhiteHouseProject.org

I was lucky enough to be able to attend an orientation of theirs. It was overwhelming - I haven't even written about it yet. Nonetheless, the one thing that they stressed more than anything was building and sustaining a network of supporters.

I am talking about live people here, not people over the Net. I am talking having weekly meetings, going to the local birthday parties, attending school board meetings, doing all the little things that help you connect to the community you are hoping to represent.

The women speakers who had won their elections (there was one who had not), all said that their networks were the key to their success. Endorsements by NOW or Emily's List were great, but those organizations apparently didn't do anything but lend their names to the candidates. They didn't campaign or give money or anything.

John (Halle), I'd be interested to know if this is reflective of your experience.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I am sorry for the whole Webb diversion. I am just explaining how to run for anyone who would be interested. I am trying to learn from past successes of the left. Paul Wellstone, Bernie Sanderrs, and so on. If you go back far enough Fred Harris

No, $10,000 is not enough to run for Congress, not even to get started. But if you can, off the top of your head, come up with a plausible plan to raise $10,000 and you have the other qualities we are talking about, you are in with a chance.

The is a time to throw away preconceptions. This is a time examine how a third party could win. La Follette, Laguardia did, and so can others. In a time when the legacy parties are discredited as never before candidacies are possible that even a year ago would not have been possible.

Let's see who presents themselves, lets see who can put together a credible organization, and let us not get into the business of talking ourselves into defeat.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

basics of cutting your teeth as a politician. I do think that john.halle is right to use Bernie Sanders as an example of what can be achieved by starting small. Local and state offices should always be where you start, particularly if you don't have money or celebrity.

I think it must also be helpful to have established yourself as a presence in your community. Volunteer with local groups to help the poor and homeless, take a job in radio, be a part of citizen activism. Inject your name into the community and begin to build a reputation that you can enhance and strengthen through public service.

Submitted by hipparchia on

by this sentence: That is a quick way to get into trouble and discredit yourself. what exactly is the way to get into trouble?

otherwise, this is a nice overview, and while i've been working my way through the dfa night school, i hadn't heard of wellstone action. thanks for that information. their next training for candidates is in january. in minnesota. brrrrrrrrr.

eta video

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I had a sentence do not collect social security numbers in caps, took it out, but left in the other.

It is OK to and necessary to collect information on potential supporters, but you have to be extra special careful of those who sign your petitions.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i was wondering if maybe i'd had one too many rum balls when i read that.

i signed the petition to put kendrick meek on the ballot for senator [this was before he weaseled on abortion and repudiated his sponsorship of hr676, the rat]. iirc, florida has official forms that you have to use for this [i tried to check the website, but it's apparently down right now, maybe you've inspired everybody to run for office!].

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

Mostly because they're bound to carry with them assumptions about policy and method that I'm not sure are valid under the current circumstances. Moreover, Democracy for America sounds like it wants to train progressive Democrats, not progressive populists aligned with neither major party.

Submitted by hipparchia on

you can learn something about basic campaigning skills from the dfa videos without compromising your political ideology.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

I attended something called the Women's Campaign School at Yale (a one or two day affair as I remember-similar to this) and learned some useful stuff.

And yes, these things tend to be operated by the Dems, but most of the information is pretty non-ideological. I do remember, however, one piece of advice which was revealing about how the Dems operate:

The focus of campaigning involves identifying and convincing "likely voters" i.e. those who have voted in previous elections. Nothing was said about voter registration or trying to convince those turned of by politics to turn on.

We ignored that advice-with mixed but mostly favorable results.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i found this on why registering voters might not be worth it:

Voter registration is a worthwhile effort, but is not the best campaign strategy unless it’s clear that you can’t win without it. The reason is, the more votes you add to the mix, the more you dilute the effect of each vote. So, persuading a likely voter is a much more valuable campaign activity than adding a new voter to the mix.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I have heard that over and over and over again. I did a great deal of work on voter registration. It is a great way for Democrats to win.

I am not so enthusiastic about bringing in new voters for third party candidates. My view is that it depends. Show the me candidate, show the me the jurisdiction, and I can make a judgment. People who get all their information from TV and radio are unlikely to support third party candidates unless there is some personal connection.

Submitted by hipparchia on

this area used to be full of yellowdog democrats. granted, a lot of them were of the racist dixiecrat variety, but they were of an economic populist bent. we still have a fairly large population of low-income would-be voters, and that could be turned to the democrats' advantage again if they'd take advantage of it.

people here are pretty suspicious of third parties i think, especially those parties on the left. the libertarian party has a respectable [though minor] following, probably because they're for letting people have guns, guns, lots of guns.