Put up or shut up? Are campaign staff just wannabe's?

I had a comment I was starting to reply to, and as I type it, I think it rises to the level of a top level post instead. Here's what was said after I had written on the Presidential Primary:
Anonymous said...

When are you actually going to run for something, PP? Or is standing next to politicians good enough for you?

Read that anonymous fellow here. And as I thought about it, I think Anon makes a couple of basic errors if I'm getting his or her point as intended. I think Anon makes the mistake of assuming that those interested and doing the job of campaign mechanic are somewhat less important than the person out front doing the job of the candidate.

Because that is as false and fatal a political error as you can make.

First off, someday when I'm in a position to do so jobwise, I'd love to run for the legislature. Actually being in the same place as my family is my current priority, but when it comes down to it, someday of the opportunity affords itself, that's what I'd want, and I'd be happy and satisfied with that.

But Anon hasn't read me very much either. I have been a candidate before. I think I mentioned long ago that I thought I was pretty hot stuff, and I ran for city commission in Pierre. In the process, I violated every campaign rule for candidates that ever came out of my mouth - but in the end, it taught me a harsh lesson which I would argue made me a better campaigner. It showed me the value of door to door (which I had a hard time forcing me to do), speech preparation, fundraising, etcetera. Experience is the harshest teacher, but you aren't as apt to forget the lesson.

I - like many people who move from the ranks of campaigner to candidate - focused on the things that I found fun, such as advertising design. And we're all going to naturally lean towards doing fun things over chores. And I deservedly got trounced. Little or no door to door, I only spent about $800 (about $300 raised), and my message was not as tight as it should have been. I was a person who was trying to fill both roles - candidate and campaign staff. It's such a basic error that is repeated so often.

It's like the difference between a used car salesman and the mechanic. One is the showman who makes you feel good about the car you're buying. They make you want it. But if that thing isn't running (courtesy of the mechanic) it makes the salesman's job quite a bit harder, if not impossible.

I spoke to one of my close friends who was running this last election, and he ended up in the same boat. He was the chief sign installer, a envelope licker, press secretary, etcetera. And upon reflection, he admits that it was a factor in his loss. He was putting up signs at a time he could have been going door to door (and other candidate chores).

In South Dakota it's a tough concept to put your arms around, because we have a citizen legislature, and most people decide to go out and do it themselves. And they may do fine. But when those same people face a tough competitive contest against someone who knows that the candidate shouldn't play multiple roles, they're at a distinct disadvantage because they're handicapped from the start.

Have you ever seen a state level campaign without at least one or two staffers? There's a reason for that. Because people competing at that level know that you can't win a campaign all by yourself.

So, as anon asks, "is standing next to politicians good enough for me? " At the moment, you bet. I don't look at it as standing next to them, as much as making sure the car runs right.

And did you ever ponder a thought that maybe the candidates are standing next to the people who do campaign work instead of the other way around?


Anonymous said…
Hey, Look, I get to go first!!!! WOW.
You tell em PP.
By the way who ever Anon is. What PP wrote is the truth and in do time some campaign staffers find the candidates line. Then again some enjoy the staff or campaign helper position to much to consider running. They believe in the candidate!

Good job PP.
Douglas said…
I have a feeling some campaign staff members decide that although they are really interested in policy and poltics, they have no actual interest in having to nearly prostitute themselves to become winning candidates. Or maybe that never happens?

Too many years ago, I worked on a campaign and at one town in SD which can remain nameless, the actual candidate and I were standing side by side. Some guy at the meeting came up and started talking to me as if I was the actual candidate even though he was standing next to me.

Pretty good quick realization that we had some serious name/face identification problems.
Anonymous said…
PP, are still commuting?
Anonymous said…
It's like a singer with a band and a road crew. A great band and sound guy can make even a so-so singer sound teriffic.

But the singer gets all the glory every time, because they are the ones making the personal connection with the audience.

The band and sound guy are usually in it for the art form. And sometimes, so is the singer.

But if the singer gets too into the music, s/he'll sometimes lose the audience.

In short, political campaigns have to have rhythm, harmony, melody and also be sexy. It's jazz, folk, and rock & roll for bands who don't play music.
Rick Hauffe said…
I share Pat's experience of running for office in the worst way and getting shellacked, so I'm sympathetic. There is a dignified and honorable role in working on campaigns to elect other people.

Having seen Sen. Obama's announcement this morning, it is comforting to see a campaign that restores the notion that running for office is, indeed, a noble and patriotic service. That is a cause that candidates and their staffs -- in both parties -- serve well when they do their jobs honorably.
PP said…
alas, 9:14, yes. Although job or no job, I'm sure push is going to come to shove around the time the baby's due.
Anonymous said…
The South Dakota Republican Party web page twice features Stephanie Herseth in remembering 2006, Bruce Whalen the actual Republican Party Candidate is nowhere to be found in the picture set.

Name recognition becomes a problem if your own party forgets who you are.

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