It is a bit premature to be talking about the 2004 Democratic primaries, but
here are 10 steps for prospective candidates.
1) Utilize the liberal base. The liberal side of the Democratic Party has
always formed its base in primaries, even though it has been snubbed during
the last three presidential-election cycles. Organize the rank and file away
from the centrist position and build an alternative vision for the future.
All the groups abandoned by the Democratic Partyís moneyed interests, like
labor, environmentalists, and reformers, are waiting for someone to pick up
their mantles and run. If, however, Democratic candidates are just going to
blather on about how great nuclear power is (as Senator John Kerry from Mass.
recently did), or how virtuous welfare reform is while low-skill, decent-wage
work is shipped overseas, they shouldnít bother running.
2) Utilize the independents. In 2004, there probably wonít be a pseudo-reform
candidate like John McCain conning independents and liberal-minded Democrats
to cross party lines and vote Republican. This gives candidates an advantage
that was basically taken away from Bill Bradley last year. What a perfect
opportunity not just to talk about a reform campaign, but to run one! Cast
out the big-money demon from the temple of the political process and run a
clean campaign. With a full field of candidates, it wonít be hard for a clean
candidate to stand apart from the herd. Jerry Brown ran that way in 1992, and
though he didnít win, he was the only candidate left standing against Bill
Clinton ó proof that a clean campaign can be run, if the candidates have the
guts and integrity to talk straight.
3) Donít lie, exaggerate, or plagiarize. Voters despise these things more
than anything, and it drives them away from participating. Candidates, if you
think you might not get caught speaking a half-truth, copping someone elseís
speeches, cheating on your spouse, or padding your rťsumť, think again. In
todayís 24/7 electronic media, a reporter will find out.
4) Donít talk down to the voters like they are children. Some of us have
children. Some of us have fought or lost loved ones in wars just so you could
run for the highest office in the land. In some cases, we really do know
better than you do. So please, donít lecture us.
5) Have ideas. Voters are sick of politicians who regurgitate results from
polling data or whispers heard from political-consulting wizards. Donít just
babble on about what the talking heads on the Sunday-morning shows want to
hear. Have your own ideas and think about how to convey them in a coherent
and sensible fashion. The shock of not being talked down to might just snap
mind-numbed voters out of their lack of interest in the Democrats.
6) If you support the environment, prove it. Sell your SUV. Sell your
Occidental Petroleum stock. Sell (or clean up) your polluting zinc mine in
Tennessee. Change the arsenic water standards on your way into office, not on
the way out. And support a Kyoto treaty that makes countries like Brazil and
China adhere to the same standards as our nation. Donít just write a book
that no one reads and tell us you support the environment, then show us by
your actions that you really donít give a damn.
7) Stand for something. And at this point, anything will be sufficient. The
modern candidate is driving voters away with negativity and corruption. Donít
you realize that these are peopleís lives you are messing with, and that what
you do and say does matter? Also, please, know who and what you are about
before you run for president. Donít let us find out you are paying some
consultant to teach you how to dress, or how to be manlier.
8) Be dramatic in your choice of a running mate. While Joe Lieberman was a
novel choice as the first Orthodox Jew nominated to a major-party ticket, it
was an insipid move to put two conservative Democrats together. There wasnít
any balance, and no one had the common sense to realize it. This is
surprising, since the corporate, conservative wing of the Democratic Party is
always so quick to realize when things are becoming "too liberal." Donít make
the same mistake twice. Think of it this way: while there is never a
guarantee that a candidate will win, a truly dynamic choice will at least
make your mark in history.
9) If you lose, have some dignity. This is not a student-council race. When
the votes have been counted, recounted, and recounted again, donít call your
lawyers and tear the nation apart to preserve your own ego. Your actions
could give control of the election to politically appointed lawyers. Concede
with self-respect and honor. Then, go and do something worthwhile with the
rest of your life, as Jimmy Carter did by devoting himself to building
housing for the homeless following his loss in 1980.
10) Most important, donít cry, complain, whimper, or stamp your feet if
voters abandon your candidacy to make a more idealistic choice. The party you
represent is a shell of what it once was. If it continues to stifle the will
of the people, the voters will have no choice but to look elsewhere.
Anthony Schinella (ASchinella@aol.com) was NH state coordinator for the Nader/LaDuke campaign last
year. He is currently a newspaper reporter for Community Newspaper Co. in
Boston and is working on a book about political consultants.