Opinion

You Won the Election; Now What?

noga1By: George Noga
More Liberty, Less Government

After the election there will be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of first-time newly elected candidates for school boards, city and county commissions and state legislatures throughout America.

This is their story; the following composite chronical could apply to nearly all of them.

Editor’s Note: The next Communique, scheduled for mid November, is about the Tea Party Movement and the results of the November election. It will offer a perspective you won’t find elsewhere; don’t miss it!

Our story is about a lady named Sally; her story begins nearly three years ago when she first decided to run for the city commission of her mid-size Florida town. Her motives for seeking office were typical; she did not like the commissioner who represented her district and thought she could do better.

Sally had never sought public office and was at a disadvantage to her incumbent opponent who had much better name recognition and was accomplished at raising money and knew all the ropes. To compensate, Sally began to campaign six months early – in mid March for the late August primary election. She dutifully obtained a list of super voters and vowed to visit each one personally. Without fail, every afternoon and evening and all day Saturday and Sunday she walked every neighborhood in her district calling on super voters and others.

The Florida heat and humidity were hard to bear and Sally continually was uncomfortable in her dressy clothes; often she had to change clothes – particularly on weekends and when she got wet during the regular summer afternoon monsoons. Many people were rude but her biggest worry was the dogs. She had been threatened many times and learned to carry a clipboard to whack vicious dogs on the nose. Although this tactic usually worked, she remained frightened. Sally garnered support from many voters she met although such support often was conditional on making commitments to support various causes or spending initiatives.

When not out walking neighborhoods, Sally tried raising money and obtaining endorsements. It was uncomfortable to constantly ask for money but she persisted – often making 50-100 calls a day. Everyone who contributed wanted something in return, usually support for their pet cause or project. Many of these requests seemed innocuous enough and Sally, in dire need of funds, often supported such requests. Certain unions were particularly powerful and Sally sought their endorsement only to be rebuffed even after she had acceded to their every demand. Every newspaper and media outlet also made its possible endorsement contingent on supporting a particular agenda.

In debates and joint appearances Sally had to master every issue and to be prepared for curve-ball questions and personal attacks. Her opponent dredged up some dirt about her husband’s business and made that a campaign issue. Everything in her past and everything she had ever written was scrutinized and, sure enough, some controversial statements were taken out of context and used to attack her viciously. Sally worked incredibly hard and a few weeks before the primary she had pulled nearly even with the incumbent. Then the bombshell dropped.

A former college boyfriend had saved Sally’s letters and even had compromising photos. Her opponent used these in direct mail sent to every registered voter. The letters and photos were placed on the Internet. The media pounced and reprinted the most salacious portions of the letters. Sally was mortified; her husband and teenage children had known nothing about her former college boyfriend; after all, that was 20 years ago. Sally was out of money and couldn’t respond properly.

The negative ads worked and Sally’s support waned in the final days of the campaign. She came oh so close but lost by a few points. Despite everything that happened to her, Sally had run a good race and vowed to try for another office two years later.

Sally Runs a Second Time

Eighteen months later, Sally decided to run for the county commission. This time she vowed to win at any cost. She raised megabucks from a variety of special interests; she said what she had to in order to convey the impression she supported their agenda right down the line. She did the same with the newspapers and media. She attacked her opponent, even trying to dig up dirt and knowingly taking remarks out of context.

Sally worked even harder than last time walking neighborhoods. This time she actually was attacked by two pit bulls and was lucky to be unscathed. She worked all day every day for six months even though this meant no family life. This time Sally won the primary but now faced a tough opponent from the other political party. She now had 10 weeks to prepare for the general election. The final ten weeks were pure hell. Her opponent resurrected the old photos and love letters. This time Sally was prepared with her own direct mail attack materials.

Entering the final week before the November election, the race was a tossup and Sally needed more money for robocalls and one more direct mailer. She and her husband took out a second mortgage on their home for $50,000 to loan to her campaign. It worked. Sally won but now had to find a way to repay the loan. She would have to keep raising money even after the election. Of course, since she soon would be a county commissioner, there were many eager to contribute money – if only she would “consider” this or that. From November to when she took office in January Sally did whatever she had to in order to repay the loan.

Sally Takes Office

In January Sally took office. Since her election, and continuing after she took office, Sally met with scores of constituents – all of whom wanted something from the government. Every committee hearing she attended and everyone who appeared before the commission urgently advocated spending money for a particular cause or project. Lobbyists fawned over her, constantly inflating her ego. Sally was always surrounded by county personnel and staff members, all of whom were yes men. Everyone told her how great she could become.

Others urged Sally to use the monopoly police power of government to pass laws that would further regulate her neighbors and eat away at their liberty. Everyone wanted something; there were no voices urging restraint. And there were all those political debts she owed and all those times she intentionally conveyed the impression she supported actions favored by voters and donors. If she opposed them she could not possibly get reelected – which, of course, she now desired. Within six months her connection with reality was beginning to fray at the edges.

At the beginning Sally genuinely wanted to do what was right but her views gradually had morphed. She had worked herself to the point of exhaustion in two elections, been attacked by pit bulls, mortgaged her home, endured publication of compromising letters and photos, ignored her family and did what she felt she had to do to raise money and to obtain endorsements to win the election. After all, she reasoned, I can’t possibly do any good if I don’t win the election.

Therein lies the problem. How do you get all the Sallys of this world to understand that, despite all they have endured, the best thing in nearly all cases is for them to do nothing?

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