Now that you have read the other diaries and worked up a good head of steam, I want to tell you how to relieve that pressure before your head explodes. RUN FOR CONGRESS. Fact: In 2004 there were 34 incumbents that had NO OPPONENT. Add that nearly 100% of incumbents win their race and we get a turnover rate lower than that of just about any tin horn dictatorship's rubber stamp body. Below the fold I'll give more persuasion and some concrete suggestions for getting started.
In 2000 I ran an "unwinnable" race against a powerful, entrenched incumbent. I had a staff of exactly one (me), worked a fulltime job that was 40 miles outside my district boundary, spent less than $10,000 (almost none of it my own) and still managed to pull in almost 26% of the vote. 83,000+ people chose an unknown alternative because they were so fed up with their representative. When I decided to throw my hat into the ring, I had four main thoughts.
- I believe every race should be contested. Even if you run against your own party in a primary, it is a way of ensuring accountability. People often told me, "I like his positions on issues." My response was, "How do you know? He has had no reason to go on the record for ANYTHING." He certainly has votes that show his tendencies, but he can explain the same vote in 20 different ways, depending on who he is talking to. A campaign is a way to get them on the record so that future battles will have clear starting points. I know he is in favor of executing children, against clean water and in favor of establishing a theocracy. But I want him to say so publicly. The same thing is gained by running against your party in a primary if they will be unopposed in the general. Make them go on the record in favor of the things you are in favor of.
- Marketing to future voters is key to long term progress. How much would it cost to market your party to every voter? $0 if you are on the ballot. Imagine an 18 year old walking in the booth for their very first vote. Maybe they haven't paid that much attention but they think they are going to vote for a Democrat. And the line is blank. They will start to question the viability and validity of that party. If you allow one party rule, it makes it that much harder to gain any ground. In my town there was the President, a Senate race, Me and then... a slew of races with only one party represented. I am proud to say I was representing my values.
- What if the incumbent dies? Gets arrested the week before the election? The national Republicans get found out as the cheaters they are with a major scandal? If nobody is on the ballot, it doesn't matter how long the coat tails are, it is just a wasted opportunity. Possible sources of votes are compulsive ticket splitters, first time voters, anti-incumbents, underdog rooters, ... not just the true believers.
- Respect for the office. What an unopposed candidate signifies is that nobody thinks the office is important. My guy said something like this in 1998: "I represent my district very well. Everybody agrees with me, that is why nobody ran against me." NOBODY should get it without at least token opposition.
You get to meet new people and hear their ideas for improving society, appear in almanacs for posterity, pad your resume, and spout off on any subject you care to mention (I hit on opposition to the death penalty, pointing out financial conflicts of interest in voting records, racial profiling by police and the courts, support for Industrial Hemp production, and a desire for improvements in health care).
If you are interested, start by checking with your state elections board for qualifications and ballot access requirements. Attend your local party meetings and get some moral support. Make a website and stock it with your favorite philosophies. If you get on the ballot, you have a guaranteed platform to shout out your message. It may not be covered closely, but there are lots of places that will post it for free. I had one hour on public radio with callers, and one televised debate. Maybe a small audience, but perhaps I was able to touch one person who will go on to make a difference. I can dream. It is not too soon to start for 2006, take a chance and make a contribution you can be proud of.