Wednesday, March 08, 2006

But seriously, folks


I love it when one of the guys over at Hit and Run links to something I've written -- traffic goes through the roof, and so does useful input.

Among the useful inputs this time were some comments that made it clear I need to discuss the concept of the "serious candidate" in the context of Libertarian Party campaigns.

There are, of course, different kinds of "candidate seriousness." For example, candidates who wear suits, chew with their mouths closed at press luncheons, and speak in complete sentences versus candidates who wear red contact lenses, rave about the Federal Reserve being run by alien robots, and deliver a credible impression of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

That's not the kind of seriousness I'm worried about, because I think most of us recognize the distinction and act as best we can to promote the one versus the other (for example, I now eschew running for office myself, because there's just no getting around the fact that I'm weird -- I work the back office, where I can be useful, instead now).

When I talk about "serious" candidates, I'm referring to a distinction between candidates who run real campaigns and candidates do not.

Most Libertarian Parties around the US run a lot of "paper" candidates -- people who are willing to pay the filing fee and perhaps do a candidate interview/forum or two, but who have no intention of letting their lives revolve around politics 24/7 for months on end. I don't have anything against "paper" candidates, and they can be useful in some ways (making it look like the Libertarians are running a "full slate," conditioning voters to seeing Libertarian candidates on their ballots, etc.). However, "paper" candidacies are never going to deliver serious numbers of elected Libertarians, or even move us toward that goal.

A "serious" candidate may or may not be running in a winnable race, but he or she is running in a race where it seems possible to accomplish something worthwhile -- preserve the party's ballot access, bring voter pressure on one or both "major" party candidates to move in a libertarian direction on one or more issues, or whatever.

A "serious" candidate is willing to set goals, figure out what it will take to possibly accomplish those goals, and do those things.

In other words, a "serious" candidate is willing to knock on doors, shake hands at the county fair, ask for votes, recruit and utilize volunteers, raise funds, advertise, make himself or herself very accessible to the media (they work on their terms, not ours), communicate politely with interest groups, complete and return questionnaires, and generally "run to win" whether it is possible to win or not.

A serious candidate may or may not run "full-time" -- taking a sabbatical from the day job or whatever -- but he or she will evaluate the time commitment required to achieve the campaign's goals, make that commitment and deliver on it.

Not every "serious" candidate will be a winning candidate ... but few, if any, "non-serious" candidates will be.

For my "laboratory precincts" proposal (see link above), "serious" candidates are required. A "paper" candidate, by definition, is someone who won't be walking precincts, showing up at supporter coffees, or working the polling place on Election Day. I'm interested in what it takes to make the transition from "serious" candidate to "winning" candidate on the Libertarian ballot line; that transition is a transition, and the "laboratory precincts" experiment is intended to help map the route.

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