Today after Rotary, Kathryn F. buttonholed me and started egging me to run for office. Hey, it’s easy for her to say — I’m the one who would be making a fool of himself, not to mention having to go to all those chicken dinners.
In this case, it’s specifically Congress that I’m being coy about.
Kathryn’s not the only one, by the way. Nathan Ballentine asked me about it when I ran into him this morning. Of course, he said it with a smile.
Anyway, I gave Kathryn all the reasons why I can’t run, and she tried to knock them all down:
- Neither of the parties can stomach me, and I can’t stomach the parties. And so far, no member of the UnParty has been elected to Congress. There’s a reason for this: Anything as stretched out and gerrymandered as a congressional district in the former Confederacy is really tough to win by shoe leather and personal perseverance. A state House seat, maybe. But a district that stretches to Beaufort sort of needs the simple answers and mass media approach and organization that only a party can provide. And on some of the hot-button issues that separate the parties, I agree with one side, and on some of them with the other. And on some of those issues, I have no easily explained opinion, but explaining WHY I don’t have a position is the work of at least a newspaper column, and how do you get a majority of voters in a congressional district to pay attention to something with that kind of nuance?
- I don’t have a job, and I need to get one and get some money coming in soon. Kathryn says running for Congress would BE my job. But far as I know, you’re not allowed to pay your mortgage and personal phone and light bills with campaign contributions — assuming I can get campaign contributions (and who’s going to contribute to someone who’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican?). And when I get a job, the odds are that it will be one that wouldn’t allow me to run for Congress. Most jobs wouldn’t allow you to run for Congress. If I were independently wealthy, yeah, this would be a great time to run. But as things are…
- Who would vote for me? Based on the kinds of comments I get here, not even a majority of my putative base here on the blog would vote for me. I mean, if the overall electorate receives my ideas the way some of y’all do, I’ll be lucky not to be ridden out of the district on a rail. I’m way too candid with y’all about too many things to be a successful candidate for high office.
- Of the three offices I’m not running for, Congress would be my least favorite. Running for governor or state legislator, I would feel pretty confident that I would know the issues better than just about anyone who ran against me, and the issues aren’t nearly as bifurcated according to party. There’s more room for a Third Way kind of guy like me. With Congress, every conversation is a big political battle. Say I tell folks what I think about health care — well, that would automatically label me as being to the left of Barack Obama (that’s the area assigned to us single-payer types), which would endear me to the Democrats (some of them) and make me persona non grata to the Republicans. And there’d be no avoiding that issue. But suppose abortion comes up (no reason it should since we’re not talking about the Senate, but suppose it did)? On that one I’d be solid with the Republicans, and the Democrats would despise me. And people would accuse me of waffling, when it is my personal belief that I’m the coherent one, and “left” and “right” as they are currently defined don’t make sense. But could I sell that, with all the other messages out there being against me?
And lots and lots of other reasons. Y’all can probably think of more reasons than I can — after all, I would vote for myself.
At least, I think I would. The idea of sending myself up to Ground Zero of all the partisan madness I constantly decry… well, it’s not something I’d wish on a yaller dog. Or an elephant.
But at least Kathryn has given me a small taste of that phenomenon that causes candidates to piously claim that they’re only running because of the people urging them to do so…
Anyway, now that I’ve totally turned you off with my self-absorption — and made some of you laugh because it may sound like I’m actually considering this… Think about this: Almost any normal person who thinks about running for office goes through these same sorts of thoughts. And for almost any normal person, the answers to all these questions would add up to a big, resounding NO. In fact, you have to ask, given that there are all these natural objections to running for office, what it is that’s wrong with the people who actually DO? And you begin to understand why politics is as messed up as it is…