Mike Kueber's Blog

July 25, 2012

What do I know about political campaigns?

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:53 pm

Jim Palmer, a Hall-of-Fame pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles in the late 60s to early 80s, gave his Hall-of-Fame manager, Earl Weaver, one of the classic put-downs of all time.  Although Weaver managed one of the all-time best rosters of starting pitchers in 1971, with four 20-game winners – Palmer, Quellar, Dobson, and McNally – Weaver had been only a mediocre batter in the minor leagues, and Palmer’s classic put-down was, “The only thing Earl knows about big-league pitching was that he couldn’t hit it.”

I think of that put-down whenever I have the urge to pontificate out how to run a political campaign.  My only experience at running a political campaign occurred in 2009-10, when I was the campaign manager for my Congressional campaign.  (That reminds me of the adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.)  My campaign was an abysmal failure, and I finished fourth in a five-person race, with only 6% of the vote. 

Because of my past electoral failure, I can’t credibly argue that candidates should shift away from their current odious, repellent three-prong strategy – name-identification through signs and billboards, negative ads to malign their opponents, and GOTV efforts (get out the vote).  During my campaign, I ignored these three prongs because they cost a lot of money and do little to inform the voters on substantive issues. Instead, I spent over 80% of my campaign budget mailing and hand-delivering informational brochures to the voters.  Result?  See above. 

It’s disheartening to see elections turn on non-substantive issues, and it’s doubly disheartening when the only people who are allowed to compete on the non-substantive issues are those who can raise a lot of money, usually by prostituting their votes.

It is axiomatic that voters get the politicians they deserve.  President Obama played on that axiom in 2008 (“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for….  We are the change we seek.”), but failed to deliver the promised change.  Instead idealists are left with Teddy Kennedy’s inspiring words in his concession speech in 1980, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”


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