Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Elected Office Is Bigger Than Your Elected Office!

If your email box is anything like mine, you get lots of requests for action. “Write your Senator!” “Help stop government waist!” You follow instructions and then the invariable disappointment. Occasionally a victory, but many more losses: and then the cycle begins again.

I’d like to suggest an alternative. Run for office yourself. I can hear the howls, ‘it costs too much…’ ‘I don’t have the time…’ and so forth. For the most part these are true.

But the name of this site is Science of Freedom, and you expect me to analyze politics to discover deeper meaning. Here’s my latest find.

Municipal elections. Again I can hear the grown, ‘Who cares about garbage collection and sewer treatment.’ But that is just the surface, let’s dig deeper.

First remember that old saying ‘all politics is local.’ Meaning that the bedrock of all organizing is done in smaller groups. These smaller groups should mold together to make larger edifices of political movement.

Running for mayor or city council should be viewed not for the job that you’ll have to do, but rather as your first baby step of building a political organization. You’ll be forced to do more than theorize, and instead concentrate on getting together lists of supporters.

You’ll no doubt think you can do that on any campaign; why waste time on such puny races. No one cares about them therefore they are inconsequential.

Not so grasshopper;-) You are a newbie in politics. You are starting your first days in class thinking you already know it all. Why mess with simple addition when I can just jump to calculus and save lots of time.

Back up. Learn to put two and three people together, give them a task and learn how to build a network. You’ll find that it is much more complicated than it would appear. Things like personality clashes and the true amount of time involved equals lots of mistakes.

Instead set aside your preconceived notions of what these so-called insignificant offices do. Concentrate on what these bureaucrats have accomplished. They’ve set themselves up in a small but powerful position.

Mr. Important Commissioner cannot only give thumbs up or down on a multi-million dollar public works project, he has something else under his thumb. People. He has to become a master at balancing thousands of constituent’s needs.

We would do well to study and practice these simple ‘equations’ of public thought and action BEFORE we decide to take on the sumo wrestlers of the political world.

Fortunately, our opponents in the municipal arena are not so good at their statecraft either. That is to say they make mistakes. Another vulnerability is that they play for relatively small audiences.

I now direct your attention away from the chalkboard towards an abstract building called the Supervisor of Elections office. Each county in the US has one. We’re going to learn some valuable lessons here.

Check out the numbers of voters in municipal races. I have and it is astounding. I live in one of the larger cities in America. It has 6 city commissioners. Most are elected by less then 2000 votes. Wow. To run for congress representing those same people requires 10,000 signatures just to get on the ballot.

How does the Commish accomplish this leverage? Simple, he/they collude to throw us all off balance by having the election on a day when no one is thinking of voting. We think of voting in November; MAYBE a major primary a couple of months earlier. The Commish goes one better. ‘Tell them only a couple of people will be on the ballot and it will happen month’s earlier than any major election. Brilliant.

Two can play this game. Why don’t you and I try our hand at one of these miniature elections? We’ll learn all sorts of useful lessons about keeping track of your supporters. And how much does it cost to run a campaign for 2000 votes. Plus we’ll see if we even have the time to run in the first place.

The most important lesson we will learn is not really a lesson at all. It’s why they say politics is local. When we run for municipal office we step away from theory and begin building long lasting political friendships. Our thoughts and dreams become structures made of telephone numbers and email addresses. If we build them strong and with the right bonds they will last long.

We then decide if we are happy with a one bedroom house (where we started), or a multi-family dwelling (analogous to State House), or if we are really ambitious a luxury 40 story condo on prime real estate (do I have to name the office here??).

So begin with the end in mind. Small regional elections are the point at which you become a serious student. Pay and the work ain’t so glamorous, but boy do they yield rich dividends later in (political) life.

Nick Egoroff
Science of Freedom Director


License to repost freely given. Just give me the credit and the link;-)

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