New Campaign Thoughts
by Richard Lamping, October 14, 2003
I awoke with campaign visions a couple nights ago. Candidates were signing up, ready to do it again. What might the next campaign bring? What might we learn, or create?
If you ran for office last year, consider my personal wisdom about campaigning: Nobody ever wins the first time.
Some people prioritize things differently than I do, and some of these ideas may seem obvious to you. If so, good for you.
An abstract of votes, available at the Secretary of State's Office ($10) may give you some insight into what you did, and where it fits in a larger picture. In many ways this is a smaller picture too, as numbers are so limited in what they can tell you.
But what you can learn is numbers that do matter. The number of people registered to vote vs. the number of people that did vote. This is different in every location, and helps to frame a better understanding of voter apathy in a region. It may relate to the age of the population. You can learn how many votes it takes to win, which allows you to speculate on where those votes might come from. A definable market is the place to start. From this market definition comes a strategy for reaching them. For breaking in to these markets and offering your product, Libertarian politics.
What are my issues? Who will I speak to next? When will I announce? What are my goals for this cycle?
Wow. These are big questions. They are, almost without exception, questions that are left until spring of election year. At that last possible moment no one can ever claim enough money or time to make a serious challenge to the incumbent. Every excuse for being a line-holder is offered, and accepted. All that is said is "thank you."
But I am not speaking to the line-holder. I am speaking to the person that really thought he or she might win a few times. The person that saw a voter nod, and say "you have my vote."
"I want you to give me a chance. See what I can do. Give me one vote, and see what I do with it. Even if I lose, see what I do with it that makes you feel a little proud for supporting me and my ideas."
Ask. You must ask for a man's vote. You must ask for a woman's vote. If you ask, and they say "yes," then it is up to you to remind them of that handshake and what it meant to you. You are building a relationship in which that person is trusting you with voicing reasoned words on their behalf. They are having to trust you.
Trust is the most sacred thing. This is what you are asking, and what the voter is offering. This is the magnitude of politics, and it is weighty.
This said, the psychological framework created in voters over the past several decades by choppy, low value, television production, bad ideas wrapped in brilliant animation, has created a challenge for campaigners. The campaign must consider the short attention span of the average voter, and focus on needing less attention than the voter has to offer. Focus the message, aim and shoot, in less time than a doctor can smile and casually slip the needle in without the patient noticing. Keep them talking, slip the message in. Smile and laugh. "Are you done already? I didn't feel a thing."
It is important to enter the trance of one who is absorbing a message, and find the vein. This is the role of the political leader in today's world. The message of freedom must move forward without resistance. It must move forward without undermining the principle of "force only as a means of defense." Without resistance, you can smile and move your message.
Let us begin with this premise: most people still do not know what a Libertarian is. If this is true, then telling them you are a Libertarian will mean nothing until they are clear what that means, and more importantly, what it means to you. Tight concepts in tight language is your best bet. "Live and Let Live" is one slogan I have used successfully. This is a very generic phrase, but it has value to most people, and most identify with it, even if they don't live like they do.
Take a slogan and make it yours. Or make one. Either way, it should not be easy to grow out of in an election cycle, and something that brings you back to your issues and allows you to embellish further. How is the slogan Libertarian? What does it mean to your issues? Is it the core of your message, around which your issues float comfortably? Or is it a confusing abstraction, not clearly leading to your issues and where you stand on them?
Your slogan allows you to find your place whenever you get lost in thought. It allows you a road back to your ideas from wherever you find yourself in conversation.
The slogan is the global message, and around it I recommend a campaign with three main issues. Campaigns are short, and topics for discussion are many. To create a three pronged attack, with strong supporting arguments, which all draw a line back to the slogan, is the mental framework that allows a campaign to focus and move forward. Too many issues and the campaign gets bogged down, too few and the campaign is dismissed upon first review as a single-issue campaign by all but those committed to that issue.
The issues should be very local, and relevant to your constituency. If you are applying for the job of leader, you will only get there if you show sensitivity and knowledge of the reality of those you are asking to lead. What is their life like? What do they think about? What do they care about? What issues are they going to need to hear me on, in order to trust me with their vote? Am I prepared to speak to them about the Drug War? Am I prepared to offer a proper Libertarian defense of the Second Amendment, without sounding like a freak? Am I prepared to ask for their vote, even if they disagree with me on some issues?
Once you know what you are going to say, and how you are going to spin your particular message, it is time to start pulling together resources.