Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Interestingly, I'm finding that this series of pieces has had the same effect upon my readership as my actual campaign had on the voters - driving them away in droves. According to the service which keeps track of these things, the number of folks visiting this page has dropped about 10% with each installment. So much for politics. Tomorrow I'll resume my usual idiocy - as opposed to this idiocy.
To those of you who have stuck around for the whole story, my sincere thanks. If you're just getting here and don't know what the heck I'm jabbering about, here's where it begins and you can probably find your own way to the rest. And, to those of you who are just plain bored to tears by this huge part of my life? You're probably not even reading this, so why am I talking to you?
We come now to the final week or so of the campaign. We've done pretty much all we could to get folks to notice me, at least within our budgetary limitations. We had one more large expenditure, after which I made one more buy with the leftover campaign money.
The last big thing we did was to print up postcards, for a mailing to selected households within the district. One is reproduced directly above. We sent these to every household containing a voter not registered as a Democrat. We couldn't afford a mailing to every voter, so this seemed to be the biggest bang we could get for our buck. Our hope was to at least let everyone without any possible ties to Finneran know that there was someone they might like to vote for on the ballot.
Timing was important, of course. Send these postcards out too early and they would be forgotten by many people when election day actually rolled around. So, we put them into the mail, by my hand-delivering them all to the local post office, the Wednesday prior to the Tuesday election date. We figured one day (Thursday) for sorting; one day (Friday) for processing; and then three days for deliveries (Saturday, Monday, Tuesday). In any case, we assumed that giving the USPS a six-day lead would be sufficient to assure that they arrived prior to the election.
Of course, we assumed wrong. Well, at least partly, anyway. Some postcards arrived when they should have, but I received reports (via phone calls from people who said they would have voted for me, but...) of delivery as late as Saturday following the election. If one had a suspicious sort of mind, one might think that someone in the post office had purposely held them aside until they would be useless.
No, it couldn't have been that.
Then again, maybe it could have. Remember yesterday when I told you that I'd explain my lack of regard for The Dorchester Reporter? Well, you might recall that I purchased advertising in both The Reporter and The Dorchester Argus-Citizen. I had been interviewed by a couple of papers; had done talk radio; had littered the district with flyers; had advertisements on the local trolleys; had gone door-to-door speaking with large numbers of residents; had done stand-outs at busy intersections; had been mentioned in The Phoenix by political reporter Jon Keller; had spoken at numerous functions; and all of the other things that a candidate busts his ass doing during the run of a campaign. Well, I go to the newsstand to buy copies of the local papers. These are the issues just prior to the election, when they run the listings of candidates. I took the papers home and read them. Here is what The Reporter ran, regarding the race for 13th Suffolk:
Nice, huh? You bust your butt for seven months trying to get someone to notice you and you find out that your local newspaper is so fucking prejudiced for the incumbent that they don't even mention you as a candidate, even after taking your money for advertising. Utterly amazing. I mean, hey, if they didn't like me and wanted to say I was a worthless son of a bitch who shouldn't be voted for as dogcatcher, that's their prerogative, what with freedom of the press and all. But, to outright lie to the voters, by telling them that Finneran was unopposed?
To say that I was steamed would be a mighty understatement. It was Sunday morning. I marched out of my house and walked on down to Richmond Street, where I knew the publisher/editor resided. I knocked on his door. He answered in his bathrobe.
"Hi. My name is Jim Sullivan."
"I'm running for state representative against Tommy Finneran, but either you or your political reporter seems not to have noticed. You published a voter's guide telling people that Finneran is running unopposed."
"You're ruining my breakfast. Good-bye."
And he slammed the door in my face, while I stood outside telling him exactly what he could do with his eggs and sausage. Unfortunately, nobody trusts politicians - least of all publishers - so all advertising is paid for in advance. Otherwise, I would have ruined his breakfast the next day, too, by stopping payment on the check.
Not to be outdone, The Boston Globe published The League of Women Voters Guide, which is supposedly a non-partisan publication to inform the voters of their choices. Guess what? Finneran had no opposition there, too. So, the next time you hear something about how The League of Women Voters is non-partisan, don't buy it. They are bi-partisan, but not non-partisan. They published Democrats and Republicans, but no Libertarians, no Independents, nobody not affiliated with the major two. It wasn't just me they screwed.
My campaign chief, Lee Nason (in conjunction with Carlotta Hayes, of the New Alliance Party's Jill Klowden for State Senate campaign) wrote a scathing 5-page letter to both the Globe and the League, demanding a republication of the guide. Of course, we knew the chances of this happening were pretty much non-existent, but we had to try and head off a similar instance the next election cycle. In addition, Lee knew that their charter did call for NON-partisan activity, so there were real legal issues involved concerning their tax-exempt status. A correction ran in the Globe, listing the 28 candidates they had left out of the guide, but it was far less effective a bit than being included within the guide would have been.
Just amazing. All anybody had to do was get a list of candidates from the Secretary of State. I was there. The other candidate, Benzevich, was there. Only total ignorance or complete and utter disregard for fairness could account for the omissions. And these folks weren't dumb.
My God. You have no idea how much this still eats at me, even more than 15 years later. The unfairness of it is just sickening. I can't even imagine myself doing something similar, no matter how much I might have disagreed with a particular candidate. Tampering with the process, by denying the voters pertinent information, is completely beyond anything I'd even consider.
I mentioned an expenditure made with the leftover monies. Well, I realized, with just a couple of days remaining, that we had somewhere around $100, not earmarked for anything, remaining in the treasury. Remaining monies, from campaigns in Massachusetts, could only be carried over to future campaigns. I knew this was probably it for me, so I had to find something useful to do with this cash.
It could have been spent on beer, wine and munchies for my workers, but with our relatively small budget I wasn't comfortable doing that. I figured that the folks who contributed money to my campaign didn't expect it to be eaten. I had personally footed the bill for most of our other dinner meetings during the campaign. They trusted me to use their money in some effort to spread the word, either about me or about the party in general. So, I contracted with WBZ radio to air a one-minute ad on the David Brudnoy show.
I wrote the ad up and went into a studio I had access to and recorded it. I then delivered the tape to WBZ's studios. All well and good, except...
My treasurer, Walter Ziobro, made me aware of the fact that campaign law forbade mentioning other candidates for office, from your party, within an ad for your own campaign. Since WBZ was a 50,000 watt clear channel AM station, Brudnoy's show traveled to some 36 states and Canada on a clear night. I had ended my ad by pitching the other three Libertarian candidates for state rep in Massachusetts, as well as Marrou for President nationally. I figured, why not? There were only so many people listening who would be able to vote for me, but there might be many thousands who could vote for Marrou and the others.
Luckily, this ad drew as much attention as the rest of my campaign, which is to say little. We never received a warning or fine or anything else that would have cost us.
Election day rolled around and I was up bright and early. MY WIFE and I arrived at the polls way before they opened. I wanted us to be first and second into the booths, so that I could honestly say that, at one point in the race, I had the lead. Finneran (and Benzevich) lived in the same ward as me, so I had reason to believe that I probably wouldn't even carry my home polling place, so I wanted the small satisfaction of knowing I did, indeed, lead for at least one brief moment.
I went into the booth. After the hideousness with the newspapers, where they omitted my name as a candidate, I had some irrational thoughts that perhaps the ballot might not actually have me listed. However, there was my name, plain as day, and the tag "Libertarian" right next to it. I got a small rush up my spine as I pulled the lever. It was a thrill that almost made everything worthwhile, in and of itself. It remains one of the proudest moments of my life.
After voting, I set myself up outside to shake hands and ask for votes. It was a rainy, cold, dismal day. MY WIFE stood with me for some time, God bless her, and when I traveled around to other polling places during the day (to visit my poll workers and let them know how much I appreciated their help) she remained at our home polling station, holding a sign and getting chilled to the bone.
My big selling point to voters, aside from whatever political differences there were between Finneran and myself, was that I was the only actual candidate standing there ready to shake their hands and answer their questions. This could be taken one of two ways: either I was a sincerely gung-ho stand-up guy, or else I was the only candidate who didn't know enough to come in out of the rain.
So, it was a hectic day of traveling around the wards and precincts, shaking babies and kissing hands, otherwise uneventful until the evening. Around 6 o'clock, I was standing outside at the polls, talking to MY WIFE, when Tommy Finneran showed up to vote. We shook hands while a photo was taken by somebody, and he thanked me for running a clean race, which I had. I thanked him for the kindness some of his poll workers had shown earlier in the day to MY WIFE. He had sent around a car with some hot foods (soup, chowder, sandwiches) for his people, and they had very nicely invited MY WIFE to partake of this much-needed bounty. I received a couple of similar stories, from other workers, later in the evening. There are some nice things that happen during a campaign, and often some surprisingly nice people involved, no matter where you might disagree on the issues.
After Finneran left, we went home and waited for some of the other folks to come by with the vote totals they were able to gather. Until I actually heard some numbers, there was always the remote possibility that I could have won, so I was a bit nervous. I knew the reality of the situation, of course, but I had paid a lot of sweat equity for a bit of dreaming, so I indulged myself.
When the returns started coming in, it was obvious that there weren't going to be any stunning upsets in Dorchester that night. Things were pretty steady across the board. I pulled around 10% in most precincts, Benzevich grabbed around 4%, and the remainder went to Tommy Finneran. I was heartened to find that I had received somewhere in the neighborhood of 17% at my home polling place (which, as I mentioned before, was the home station for both Finneran and Benzevich, as well) so I guess I had some pull among my actual neighbors.
There was a funny moment at one of the polling places. My cousin Joe held a sign for me there and he hung around to get the tally. After announcing the presidential totals and others, they announced the state rep race.
"Sullivan - 563, Finneran - 72, Benzevich - 36."
Joe said there was then a general uproar, with many people saying "That can't be right!" and "Count 'em again!". The guy doing the announcing of the votes had, of course, reversed the totals for Finneran and myself. Makes you wonder how often that might happen in a closer race where it wouldn't be so easily detected and corrected.
The final tally showed about 11%, total, for Jim Sullivan. I finished second in a three-way race, which was something I could have small bragging rights about among Libertarians, so long as we didn't delve too deeply into the numbers. Going in we had assumed about 10% as a base to build upon, but we also hadn't counted on a third candidate being in the race, so it was an OK result.
A whole bunch of people worked really hard for me, and there were the folks who contributed money to my campaign, of course, and I wish I could have given them a better total for all of their hard work and money spent. I think I gave it my best shot, but if I knew then what I know now, it would have been better. We learn many lessons in life when it's too late to use that knowledge, unfortunately. In a situation like this, where I wasn't going to run again, the lessons I learned were pretty much useless for the future. Too bad about that.
One more story will end this.
I did the work of driving around to some of the more distant polling places from my house, in order to pick up a couple of folks who had stood outside in the rain for me all day. I figured it was the least I could do. I wasn't going to send someone else who had already given me their entire day.
I was on my way to pick up one fellow, at a school in North Dorchester, and I was driving up a side street where the school was located. I entered an intersection about three blocks from the school and WHAM!
A car, coming from my right, slammed into the rear passenger side of my car, spinning me totally around, so that I ended up facing in the direction I had been coming, on the other side of the intersection. I quickly checked to see if I was hurt. Nothing more than shock. I got out of the car and went to see if the other driver was OK.
He was unhurt, also, though he was very dismayed. It was his parent's car, and he said he thought there was a stop sign on my street, and that was why he was going at such a high rate of speed, thinking that he had the right of way. There was no stop sign, of course, and I had entered the intersection first, and he was way over the speed limit, so it was definitely his fault. In any case, he was just sad, not angry, and I was just shocked, so we didn't come to blows or anything. We exchanged papers. I barely stopped myself from asking him if he might have voted for me earlier. I then continued on up the street to the school, but by the time I got there, there was nobody around, so I headed back home.
My old shitbox of a car still ran, I was unhurt, and I figured to collect a couple of bucks from the kid's (or, rather, his parent's) insurance, so it actually turned out to be a profitable day, after all was said and done. It was a fitting metaphor for the campaign, which was something of a wreck in and of itself, but probably turned out to have been profitable in the long run for future candidates from the party.
Here are the actual numbers:
Finneran (D) - 7,086
Sullivan (L) - 871
Benzevich (U) - 310
When you consider that the protest vote - that is, the people who would have voted against Finneran even if Hitler was the opponent - was probably split evenly between Benzevich and myself, our campaigning had reached an additional 500+ folks who felt that voting for a Libertarian wasn't all that horrible a thing to do. Not too bad.
Thanks again for reading. I probably don't have to tell you, if you slogged through this whole series, but it ain't easy running for office, especially if you don't have the resources of a major party. The next time you're tempted to dismiss some minor candidate as just a nutjob, cut him or her a little slack. They're really trying their best to do something that not many folks have the guts to even attempt. Even if you totally disagree with them, give them credit for courage.
See you tomorrow.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Here's where you can find the previous entries: I, II, III, IV,
and V. If you just don't give a damn about this history, then you could go here and ask that this blog be included.
My posters were in place on the trolleys, my pamphlets were printed, we had had as many strategy meetings as we could find a reasonable excuse for (these were also dinners, so that made them more fun), and I had exhausted all possibilities of garnering free publicity via trying to interest PACs, newspapers, DJs, etc., in the importance of my running against someone whom it appeared I had very little realistic chance of beating.
I received a couple of invitations to speak at functions. One was the MassCann rally on the Boston Common. This is an annual event wherein those interested in changing the marijuana laws (and those interested in just blowing some dope) gather together on the Common to hear speeches, listen to a few bands, visit the various activist booths, and otherwise pretend to be making a difference.
That's snarky, but not wholly unjustified. The event has grown considerably over the years, but the composition of the crowd is perhaps 10% folks who really are trying to affect change and 90% folks who just want an excuse to smoke a bone in public. While the organizers are extremely sincere and hard-working, and they do try to use the event for as much political capital as possible, the overall effect is less than imagined, IMHO.
Anyway, I was asked to speak at the event and so I did. I was scheduled to take the stage after another speaker whose sole purpose, it seemed, was to encourage the crowd to try and make change via the established political parties and not to waste their time with fringe groups, e.g., most of the folks who organized the event. I was more than happy to have the opportunity to follow him.
I got up to the mic and said that the reason we were all here today was because of the established political parties. They were the ones who had put the laws into place, so how likely was it that they were going to do a complete 180 and change them? The only reasonable course of action was to vote for different people, and parties, than the ones now ensconced in the State House. I gave a general call for voting Libertarian, but emphasized that voting for any party not now in power was probably a surer route to real change than voting for those currently holding the power. I ended by naming the Libertarian candidates on the ballot and asking for votes. I received a goodly amount of applause.
I then went down into the crowd and circulated a bit, unlike most of the other politicians who took off after speaking. I figured here was an opportunity to really make myself memorable to these people, as opposed to the folks who spoke and left. I talked to a few folks (one of whom was firmly convinced there were 52 states, which gives you an idea of the general IQ of the crowd) and just about everybody I spoke with congratulated me on my rhetoric and offered me hits from various bongs, joints, pipes and what-have-you.
By the time I was done circulating the crowd, I was easily the most stoned state rep candidate on the ballot. Probably not a great move on my part, but you have to walk the walk after talking the talk. Of course, now I could barely do either. I wanted a burger, real bad. And a drink. And fries, too. Yeah, some fries would be awesome.
I hung around for a few more minutes, listening to a band called Fleshflower (who had an excellent singer named Doug Thoms, by the way) doing their version of "Sweet Leaf", and then my campaign chief, Lee Nason, steered me over to the McDonald's on Tremont Street so I could cure my munchies. None of the other speaking engagements I had were nearly as much fun.
We did a few stand outs. That is, a few of us stood on streetcorners or intersections, holding my poster and waving inanely at cars, as though we knew everybody passing by and were loved by one and all. A couple of folks did honk horns in appreciation, and some people I actually did know drove by and gave me a thumbs up, but there were also more than one or two drivers who gave me the finger. I just smiled and waved at them as though they were pledging me their eternal support, rather than telling me to go and fuck myself.
I walked as many neighborhoods as I reasonably could, considering I was working two part-time jobs while this run was happening. I dropped a pamphlet inside every door and spoke to as many folks as were willing to come to the door and take the pamphlet by hand. Sometimes the folks were appreciative of the effort of someone running, even if they didn't necessarily agree with all I stood for. Those are the really good folks and God bless them. If you don't readily agree with someone, but you still appreciate their effort? You're a good soul and I wish there were more of your type.
Of course, there were those who told me they liked me but, since I didn't have a chance, they wouldn't vote for me. I felt like saying, "No shit, Sherlock, I don't have a chance as long as you have your head up your ass and refuse to vote for the person you really like. Stop being an idiotic asshole and vote for who you really want, you dope", but you can't really say that when you're running on other people's money, so I just said, "Well, I hope you'll reconsider. Thanks for your time!" and moved on to the next house.
We were able to place signs on lawns and in windows, but not more than a handful or so.
I'll note that campaigning can be a wonderful way to get in shape. By the time election day rolled around, I had lost over 10 pounds, mostly due to running up and down people's stairs to place pamphlets in their doors and give them the gladhand. Dorchester is a very hilly place, so I did a lot of climbing.
I had an opportunity to talk on a couple of radio shows, most notably David Brudnoy's. Of course, he was a Libertarian himself, so he always had an open microphone for a Libertarian candidate, if nobody else was scheduled. I phoned in and spoke on his air for about 10 minutes. Other interviews were done on various college radio stations, few of which had any audience members in Dorchester or Mattapan, but the secondary reason for my running was to familiarize anybody I could reach with the concept of libertarianism, so not a total loss.
I was interviewed by two newspapers, as I recall. One was one of the local Dorchester papers I had contracted with for my ads. The other was one of those "weekly shopper" deals. Insofar as the Globe, Herald, etc., were concerned? They had no interest, nor do they usually in state rep races, really, so it wasn't just a matter of bias. Jon Keller gave me a mention in The Phoenix. He called my campaign "a quixotic quest". Thanks, Jon!
(It was actually a somewhat kind mention. And I thanked him, in person, at a campaign rally one night. He's one of the best political reporters in Boston, for my money.)
I'll mention one other event that occurred during my campaign, although it was for another candidate. You may recall hearing of a bar in Boston called The Eire Pub. It gained a small amount of fame for being where Ronald Reagan stopped in 1983 for a drink, and where Bill Clinton stopped by while campaigning in 1992. In any case, it was famous for having hosted one president and one presidential nominee while they were in Boston. You can read a brief history here at The ratshit Dorchester Reporter, which you'll see tomorrow why I hold it in such high regard.
Anyway, I found out that the Libertarian presidential candidate, Andre Marrou, would be hitting Boston for some talk radio appearances and whatnot. Now, I thought it might be a clever hook to have him stop by the Eire Pub. I worked up a press release and sent it to all of the media outlets I could think of - tv, radio, newspapers, telegraph, ham radio... I covered it all. I cleared it with the bar owner before it happened, telling him that it might be a crowded night. His exact words, as I remember, were, "Who? Yeah, knock yourself out. I don't give a shit."
I thought it was a cute idea. We can do the same silly shit the big boys do, etc.
At the least, I thought we might get a photo op that the major papers could use for filler. They could give it a caption like "Losers Stop At The Eire, Too" for all I cared. ANY publicity would be welcome, since they pretty much ignored us otherwise.
Turns out that the Herald did think it was a cute idea, so they sent a photographer. The photo at the top of this piece was one of the ones shot. However, they never did run any of the shots taken. Andre (who is the bearded one in the dark sports jacket in the middle of the photo) sat at the bar and answered as many rude questions as he could stand, while hurriedly grabbing a few bites of a pastrami sandwich. Such is the life of a third-party presidential candidate. You'll notice the lack of secret service agents in the photo.
Lee Nason, my campaign chief, is third from the right, while the entirely indefatigable Matt Taylor, from my campaign staff, is third from the left. I'm the one standing next to Andre, in shirtsleeves and tie, once again with my hands in my pockets, since I have no brains when it comes to photo ops. My mother and stepfather, fourth and second from the right, respectively, were kind enough to come down and lend their support.
Between Andre and me is a fellow who was at the bar when we arrived, and probably had been there since that morning from the look of him. We talked him into coming outside and posing with us so that it would look like a bigger group.
One of my biggest contributors, Dan Fitzgerald, is at the extreme left. Good fellow to whom I still owe a big favor, unless he's reading this.
Just kidding, Dan. Any time, any place.
Tomorrow, the results, and why the Dorchester Reporter sucks.
Go to The Finale!
If you haven't seen parts I through IV, start here and work your way up.
Our budget was (to the best of my recollection - no paperwork to refer to here) about $7,000. This is miniscule compared to the funds raised by major party candidates, even for a state rep race.
We considered a number of other advertising options, aside from the handout pamphlets. These included billboards, TV, radio and bumper stickers. The billboards were too expensive for our budget. TV and radio were considered too diffuse an audience for something as localized as a state rep race. In any case, TV was way beyond our means. Radio was doable - I could produce the ads myself, thus cutting the cost appreciably - but, again, it seemed as though we wouldn't be reaching our target audience very effectively. Finally, we considered the bumper stickers a decent option for reinforcing a message, but not a very efficient vehicle for a primary message. We could really only afford primary messages.
We narrowed our focus to two areas: public transit and local newspapers. These were both doable within the budget and would guarantee exposure to only those within the district.
We designed posters to be placed on the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley line. This trolley serviced a good portion of the periphery of the district. We felt that a message here might reach some voters who otherwise would be completely uncaring about a state rep race. We figured that reaching out to those voters who felt disenfranchised in some way would be a fair bet. The posters were printed at a decent cost and we got at least one placed on every trolley in service. MY WIFE did an interesting artistic service with these, hand-painting gold glitter onto the star which appeared above the "I" in Jim on every poster, making them that much more eye-catching. These were on the trolleys for about a three month period, or at least that was what was contracted. One or two of them remained in place well into the following year.
I took the trolley a good deal myself in those days, and it was oddly embarrassing to be sitting there with a poster advertising me. Thankfully, I never overheard anyone saying, "Jim Sullivan? What a jerk!" or "I wouldn't vote for that bum if he was handing out hundred-dollar-bills at the polling place!" Of course, I didn't hear anyone praising me, either, so...
In addition, we would use posters for the stand-outs at traffic lights, for supporters to place as lawn signs or in their windows, and for our poll-workers to hold on election day.
(I don't have a copy of the poster to scan for you. I wish I did.)
The newspaper ads were placed in the Dorchester Argus-Citizen and the Dorchester Reporter, and ran for the two weeks prior to the election. These were somewhat wordy ads, as I look back on them, with the only graphic being my logo and my signature. It probably would have been better to have placed a small photo within the text, or at least something to break it up a bit and make it easier on the eyes. These were in the form of an appeal to the voter to choose carefully and consider exactly what they wanted. If they liked what the incumbent was doing, OK, but please remember that you have a choice this time around, etc., and thank you very much for considering me. No hard sell.
The dual purpose of placing the newspaper ads - which were a quarter page - was to also keep the editors of those papers alert to the fact that there was opposition to the incumbent. More on what transpired regarding this later on.
I suppose I should finish this segment by telling you about the incumbent. He was a fellow by the name of Tommy Finneran. If you're from Massachusetts, you know the name and you know the formidable task which lay ahead of me.
At the time of my running, Finneran was a seven-term incumbent. He was also Chair of the Ways And Means committee, a powerful post. He had run completely unopposed the previous three or four elections. After this election, he would go on to become Speaker Of The House, probably the most powerful position in Massachusetts politics, at least for the past twenty years or so. This is because, while Republican governors have been elected every time since Michael Dukakis last held the post, the legislature has remained overwhelmingly Democratic. Therefore, the Speaker holds the power to trash anything the governor proposes and the ability to ram through any agenda he wishes, so long as he doesn't totally alienate his colleagues.
There was a wild card in the deck, as well. Anthony Benzevich was an independent candidate, although he had previously been a registered Republican. His entry into the race was something we hadn't counted upon at all. Since Finneran had run unopposed previously, and the Republicans showed no inclination to field any candidates in the district, we assumed it would be a two-way race. Benzevich's entry fouled up that dynamic.
I tried to get Benzevich to drop out. I didn't try very hard, as he had as much right to run as I did, obviously, but I tried to explain to him that, by splitting the vote against Finneran, neither one of us could possibly win. There is always a certain segment of the electorate who will automatically cast a vote for whomever is running against the incumbent. By halving this vote between us, we were effectively dead in the water. He remained in the race.
There was some speculation that perhaps Finneran had placed him on the ballot himself, in order to split the protest vote. I found this to be highly unlikely, as I wasn't a high-profile candidate with a large war chest. It was unlikely that he would find a challenge from a Libertarian candidate to be that much of a concern, especially considering his position of power within the house and his long incumbency. Anyway, Benzevich appeared to have some sort of personal grudge, from my brief conversations with him, and that was why he decided to run. No doubt, he was as sad to see me in the race as I was to see him.
So, there we are. It's a three-way race. You know my approximate budget and the ways we chose to spend it. Now it was a matter of doing the stand-outs, handing out the pamphlets, going to as many doors as I could and introducing myself, making a speech here and there, and whatever else came up in the meantime. I'll talk about some of these things tomorrow, and then probably wrap it up on Wednesday.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions concerning a specific area of the campaign, please feel free to ask. I'm likely to have left out some detail or other, so will be glad to have you jog my memory, if you wish.
Go to Part VI
Thursday, January 19, 2006
You know what I'm liking about writing this? It's the first time I've ever written anything that took more than two parts. I get to use roman numerals, just like the Super Bowl!
Other than that, it's kind of a pain.
OK, I don't mean that, really. It's sort of fun dredging up the old memories and remembering the good people who helped me in my quest. It was certainly fun to drag out the scrapbook I kept and getting to see all of the silly crap I wrote - that is, position papers and press releases (none of which were ever released by the press after I released them to them, of course.) And it's turning out to be a fairly entertaining series of entries, I think, although you're the final judge of that. However, I'm of the Oscar Madison school - I hate writing, but love having writ.
(That may be a quote from someone else, but I heard the character of Oscar say it once, so that's my source.)
I suppose I'll amend that just a bit, by saying that I don't hate writing, but I much more enjoy reviewing the finished product than I do working on it.
Anyway, that's pretty much how I feel about having run for office, too. I'll probably never do it again, but I'm glad that I did once. Now, onward we go! If you're here for the first time, what kept you? You can catch up here and here and here.
Now it was time to raise some money. This had to be done in order to then waste it in a futile attempt at familiarizing folks with the fact that I was running.
Oh, that's a sour grapes comment made from hindsight, of course. At the time, we were full of optimism and figured that I might have a small chance of actually winning. Of more importance - since we knew that winning was definitely a longshot - was the goal of letting folks know a bit about the party philosophy as a whole, thus setting the stage for future candidates to have a better chance. Also, we wanted to let people see that an actual living breathing Libertarian wasn't some sort of political Frankenstein monster to be driven out of town with torches.
The larger political parties have relatively little trouble getting funds. I say this knowing full well that it's still a pain in the ass for the individuals involved, no matter how large the parent organization, but the main point is that Democrats and Republicans can count on reliable specific sources for a great deal of working capital. For instance, Democrats can generally rely on organized labor, and the folks padded onto the government payrolls, to kick in a few bucks. Republicans have the religious right, major oil corporations, and, well, other Republicans. Various PACs are willing to align themselves with both parties, knowing that they'll get their payoff no matter which one holds power.
See, the thing is that Democrats and Republicans both, when holding power, dole out the goodies to their constituents. The only difference is the constituency, and sometimes not even that. This makes it very easy to raise funds; it's only a business transaction. Group A gives Politician B some bucks. Politician B, in return, votes benefits to Group A, if and when he is elected. Not clean, but certainly simple.
On the other hand, a Libertarian can't go around promising to be an IRS-funded Santa Claus. All a Libertarian has to offer is an honest effort at increasing freedom. Our big sales pitch is a true reduction in government power, and this certainly wouldn't make for more goodies. A dollar benefit might be realized in lower taxes, since we are generally for that, but since we have elected relatively few to higher offices, we don't have a long track record to point to which would help to pry open an otherwise penurious contributor's wallet. Anyway, the Republicans generally have that market cornered, although they've really made little actual reduction in government when they've had the power to do so.
(If you doubt this - if you hold the general opinion that Republicans dismantle government and cut programs - all you have to do is look at the budgets that have been approved when Republicans have held both the Presidency and a majority in Congress. In many instances, spending has risen at an even greater rate than when the supposed tax-and-spend Democrats have held similar power. As I said before, it's just a matter of which constituency gets the favors.)
One other thing - most Libertarians will not accept government-granted matching funds, as a matter of principle. While most Democrats and Republicans have no problem with lining their pockets at the expense of the taxpayer, in order to run campaigns that perhaps 50% or more of those taxpayers aren't in agreement with, Libertarians feel that theft, by any name, is still theft. Your mileage may vary.
Anyway, I had no track record and neither (for the most part) did my party. This pretty much limited my fundraising activities to friends, family and party members. I made some attempt at interesting a few PACs in my campaign, by answering their questionnaires and making my own personal appeals to them, but no go. No matter that I held views and expressed opinions which were more strongly in favor of the PAC's positions than my opposition did; he was the incumbent and he had the power, so the money flowed to him - or, at least, not to me.
Insofar as family and friends were concerned, I didn't push it. If they offered, I accepted graciously. However, I've never looked upon my personal relationships as a source of money, especially not for something as self-serving as a political campaign. I know, I know. If you really believe in yourself and in your political goals, then it isn't really self-serving and you're trying to do something for the common good, blah, blah, blah. Hey, I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell, so I wasn't going to push my loved ones into an uncomfortable situation. That's just me, and probably another reason why I wasn't cut out to be a successful politician. Anyway, I'm saving my relatives and buddies for when I'm truly destitute and can use them totally for my own personal gain and not have to split the takings with anyone else.
Fundraising within the party faithful was what remained, after I had collected what I reasonably could from my own circles. This was accomplished through a few judicious phone calls to those who might be larger contributors and a nice fundraising letter to others less well-heeled. The results were, I was told by those with more experience at these sorts of things, about average.
There were some misgivings concerning the fundraising appeal which I penned. However, I was adamant about some particulars. I knew what turned me off from appeals I had received, so I wanted no part of those things within my appeal. For instance, I immediately trash any letter I receive that shows me a series of checkboxes next to a series of pre-determined amounts, wherein one of the amounts (usually the second lowest) is circled in red, with the words "This amount would really help!" printed in a font resembling a handwritten appeal. God, that pisses me off! Do you mean to say that if I give a lower amount, it doesn't help? Fuck off, letter, and go live with my coffee grounds!
I also wanted it to be short. The industry standard for fundraisers is four pages - that is, two sheets printed front and back. And it usually contains two or three postscripts (PS's) after the signature, used to hammer home the most persuasive points already given in the body of the letter. I made my letter one page, no PS.
I also wanted to drop the bullshit completely. Everybody knows that, when they receive unsolicited mail, it's a pitch for their money. The very first line of my letter was "Please contribute money to my campaign." I then went on to explain that I was told, by experts, that this was a horrible way to start a fundraising letter, but I wasn't out to bullshit anyone (I used nicer language) and I would always treat my contributors with honesty and respect. I included specifics concerning the campaign, outlined a few ideas we had concerning advertising, etc., and threw in an emotional appeal at the end about how our liberties were being eroded every day and that this was an opportunity to stem the tide, at least a little bit.
As I said, the results were about equal to the usual fundraisers which included the things I didn't like, so nothing lost. It might have been a small gain, when all was said and done, since the printing costs were less for my shorter letter.
As with all aspects of my campaign, I am still thankful to those who contributed in any way - time, money, ideas or just plain sweat. I don't know if I can stress that enough, but I never want to leave the impression that I'm ungrateful. I know my writing is sometimes flip, but that shouldn't be taken to mean that I feel anything less than gratitude for help received.
And now, having raised some money for such things as the handouts seen at the top of this entry and above, we're on to some other advertising strategies and the actual grunt work of getting out and talking to folks.
(By the way, I know. I know I should have ditched the hat, shaved the beard, worn a suit, and twenty other mistakes. I can only plead ignorance, which in my case is certainly a believable defense. I wanted to portray myself as a regular neighborhood guy, no better or worse than the folks that I thought might be voting for me. I've since come to the realization that most people want to vote for someone just a little bit better than themselves, whether economically or socially. File it under "Lesson Learned Too Late To Do Any Good".)
[continued on Monday]
Go to Part V
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Isn't that a swell shot for the front of my pamphlet? Hands in my pockets. Ugh. Looks like I'm playing pocket pool. "Hnnngghh. Hnnngghh. Vote for me, Lady. Hnnngghh."
If you have no idea what this has to do with anything, see Part One and further unto that, Part Two, after which you'll be no more knowledgeable than you were before, but at least you'll be on a level plain of confusion with the rest of us.
So, I came home and told MY WIFE that I was running for office. To her eternal credit, she didn't do this---->
... but, instead, became one of my most valuable campaign assets, contributing her time, money, skills and ideas, without complaint and with a maximum of grace. She was just amazing in her support of this harebrained and quixotic quest, and I still owe her big time.
So, now we come to the actual running of a campaign. What is the first thing that has to be done in any campaign? Finding out who has the money and fleecing them as quickly and expertly as possible. No, no. That's just a joke. Kind of.
What really has to be done is to actually get onto the ballot. And that's done by collecting signatures from registered voters. This was... I'm searching for the right sentiment here. Fun? No, that's not it. Hard work, but worth it in the end? That's closer, but still not what I'm looking for. A tremendous pain in the ass that I wouldn't ever want to undertake again, similar to having my head on fire and finding out that the only way to put it out is by going door-to-door and asking people to piss on me? I think that's about right. Yeah, let's go with that.
I'll mention here that, by state law at that time, anyone could sign my papers. It didn't matter if they were registered as a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, or under any other category. So long as the person was a registered voter, they could sign and be counted towards the number I needed.
It was amazing to me how many folks wouldn't give up a crummy signature. It would cost them nothing but a few strokes of a pen (which I provided) and less than a minute of their time. And, by signing my nomination papers, they were not endorsing my candidacy or pledging me their support in any way. I didn't campaign while collecting the signatures. I didn't tell anyone anything about myself or my political views unless I was asked for particulars. I stated that I was trying to get onto the ballot as a candidate for state rep and that I needed 150 (valid) signatures to do so. I was well-dressed and mannerly. I apologized for taking up their time and I explained how much I'd really appreciate it if they'd help. I also explained that it was just a formality of election law, and that their signing in no way obligated them to either me or my campaign. You would have thought, by the reactions of some folk, that I was asking them for a meal and a place to sleep for the night and, oh by the way, can I nail your daughter before going to bed?
To be truthful (and I try to be so, which is one reason why I didn't win) I did meet some nice folks who were more than willing to sign my papers. One or two even called their spouses or kids in from the other room to get them to add their John Hancock to the form. These folks I remember with gratitude. However, some people just slammed the door in my face or even cursed me. Quite disheartening.
I tried collecting signatures at the Mattapan trolley station one morning. That was a hard lesson in political reality, let me tell you. It would take the fingers on both of my hands, as well as a fair amount of toes, to tally up how many people told me that they were registered voters, but they couldn't sign my papers because they were registered as Democrats. These weren't people who didn't want to sign my papers because they were Democrats, but poor souls (immigrants, judging from their accents) who truly believed that, by registering as Democrats, they were unable by law to sign the papers of anyone who wasn't a Democrat. The natural inference from this is that they also believed that they couldn't vote for anyone aside from Democrats. Now, I wonder how these people became registered as Democrats and how they came to hold this mistaken belief? Three guesses and the first two don't count. I did my level best to give these folks a brief and polite lesson in civics, but I don't know if more than one or two of them actually understood.
Well, as you've probably guessed (since this wouldn't be much of a story if it was any other outcome) I did get the signatures (and I was helped by my team in this - I don't want to give the impression that I did it all by myself) and I turned them in to the Secretary Of State's office. They validated way more than the 150 I needed, and I was now officially on the ballot, becoming the first candidate for State Representative in the history of the state of Massachusetts to be on the ballot with the designation "Libertarian" aside his name. I sent "thank you" notes to all of the folks who were kind enough to sign my petitions and whose signatures were validated.
I then met with my campaign team and began devising ways for spreading the word concerning my candidacy. It was time to plot our advertising strategy and get my name into as many minds as possible. Now, it was time to fleece some money from people!
Go to Part IV
When we last saw our hero (that is, me) I was returning from my wonderful honeymoon and also from a less than stirring side trip to Libertarian Party headquarters in Washington, DC. You can read all about it here.
(I will now point out something that should be obvious to even the most casual observer. I write without a net. That is, I just sit down and type; I never write up an outline beforehand or anything like that. So, sometimes it flows in a fine linear fashion, while other times I end up going back and forth trying to piece everything together at the last minute so that it makes at least a little sense.
In this instance, I have actually taken the trouble to write down some notes. However, they don't take effect until tomorrow's chapter [yes, it will be continued] so please bear with me. Also, I had some campaign materials which I wanted to scan and put in the body of this entry, but I can't [as usual] make heads nor tails of anything having to do with modern technology, so no pictures today. Sorry, on all accounts.)
We arrived home in March of 1992. I found out about a meeting of the local branch of the Libertarians, happening in Cambridge on the coming weekend. I told MY WIFE that I was going to attend and possibly see about becoming active in some way.
The last thing she said, before I went out the door, was, “Whatever you do, don’t volunteer for anything. You know how you are.”
I said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m just going to sit back and watch. I just want to see what kind of people they are. I’ll probably be home early.”
When I arrived home, later than expected, I walked in the door and she knew. She absolutely knew. She probably knew before I left, but we’d only been married for two weeks, so maybe she wasn’t positive.
She said, “So?”
I replied, with an embarrassed grin, “Say hello to the Libertarian candidate for state representative from the 13th Suffolk district.”
I honestly had gone there not expecting to sign up for anything. I really didn’t want to get so highly involved right from the get go. I only wanted to sit there quietly and listen to what happened at such a meeting. I had never been to any sort of political get-together before, of any type, so I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I had a vague idea that there might be a speech or two and perhaps some talk of strategy. Maybe there would be more literature for me to read. I liked that.
The meeting was held at an Italian restaurant in Cambridge. It was, however, the Boston chapter of the party. That might have tipped me off to the fact that something wasn’t quite right, but I figured that any party that had its national HQ on the second floor of a walk-up slum tenement might not be all that particular about where they met locally, so I didn’t give it a great deal of thought.
I entered the restaurant and asked a waiter where the meeting was. I was directed to a back room, where I saw five or six folks sitting around a table. I introduced myself and was warmly greeted, then invited to sit down. I told my story of going to the hovel in DC; that I was recently married; and that I worked as an announcer and producer. It seemed to impress them. There were the usual questions (“Have you done anything that I might have heard?”) and while I was making with the small talk, another five or six people showed up, and then the meeting proper got underway.
There weren’t any speeches. It was all just more or less small talk, albeit concerning politics. Some of the talk centered around the fact that, in the past elections, a referendum was passed allowing voters to register as Libertarians (or, for that matter, as whatever else they wished, so long as there were at least 50 of that particular whatever) so the coming elections were going to be the first opportunity to actually place candidates on the ballot with the label “Libertarian”, as opposed to “Unaffiliated”.
Naturally, after that subject, the next subject was the search for actual candidates. The person to my right (a very politically-intelligent woman by the name of Lee Nason) asked me if I might be interested in running. While I initially deferred, I’m nothing if not easily flattered. As she continued listing my supposed attributes – intelligence, a good voice, a decent appearance (I wore a three-piece suit to the meeting – how was I to know most everybody else would be in shirtsleeves and jeans?), a good Irish name, etc. - I was imagining my picture in the paper and a ballot with my name on it. I liked the thought of that. It would be a kick to be able to walk into the voting booth and actually pull the lever for someone I knew I liked and admired - myself. And I wouldn’t mind making a speech or two. Wouldn’t mind? Hah! You’ve seen how pompous I can be when I’m writing. Imagine what I’m like in person. I finally said yes and everybody applauded.
Dinner was ordered and just about everybody there volunteered to be some part of my campaign team. Lee would be my chief of staff and a very nice woman by the name of Tonya Grimes volunteered to be my manager. Tonya was actually from Dorchester and she was black, so we both figured that might be of help in swaying some precincts. Others who joined in were Jeff Chase, Walter Ziobro (my treasurer), Howard Pearce, and a very energetic college student by the name of Matt Taylor. There were others who pitched in to help as time went on - and I once again thank you if you're reading this - but these are the main characters who I'll refer to as the story continues.
And continue it will, tomorrow, when I am able to give you some graphics, some actual tales of the campaign, and perhaps a story with actual flow. Until then...
Go to Part III
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
As you know by now, if you’ve read my stuff at all, I’m a Libertarian. The existence of such shows as Wife Swap, however, makes me wonder if we wouldn’t be better off in a totalitarian state.
(That’s just a cheap joke, of course, but I couldn’t think of a better introduction, so there you go.)
In 1992, I ran for the office of state representative. I did so, as you might have guessed, as a Libertarian candidate. That probably gives away the ending of the story right there, but I’m going to tell you all about it anyway. Pretend that I had a chance to win and it might make a better tale.
Some background is useful (for filling up space) so here goes.
I first found out about the Libertarian Party in 1975 or so. My drug usage made me amenable to their blandishments - if that doesn’t sound too Victorian - and I endeavored to find out everything I could about them. This was easier said than done, because (then, as now) the major media doesn’t cover politics so much as they do celebrities. Unless a candidate has some sort of celebrity prior to a run, he/she isn’t going to have any because of a run. So, I had to really scratch for information about the group.
The only lead I had was a pamphlet I had received in the subway. This was an advertisement for Roger MacBride, the party’s presidential candidate for 1976. It outlined the basics of the Libertarian platform; generally, absolute freedom with the proviso that no harm come to another as a result. I agreed with that. There was an address on the pamphlet, so I wrote to that address and requested as much information as they could send to me. As a result, I received a couple of more pamphlets in the mail some weeks later. I found that I agreed totally with what was said in these pamphlets.
In Massachusetts - as is the case in many states - when a person registers to vote, he or she must choose to register as a member of a political party or as an unaffiliated voter, a.k.a. independent. I had originally registered as a Democrat, since that was my heritage. My Family had had a number of people heavily involved in politics, as Democrats. A few of my ancestors had been elected to office and others had worked within various governmental administrations and agencies. However, I now wanted to re-register as a Libertarian.
I found out that it was impossible to do so. It turned out that the choices were limited to Democrat, Republican, or Independent. You could not designate yourself as anything other than those three choices. This was my first clue that I was definitely on the right track in my choice of political parties. I mean, if the government would only allow you to self-designate as one of their three pre-approved choices, it meant that there was definitely room to grow insofar as freedom of speech was concerned, at the very least.
After the 1976 election passed, with MacBride and the Libertarians not winning through the mere force of righteousness, I was slightly dismayed - though hardly surprised - and I didn’t linger on politics very much. I was going to be a rock-n-roll star, after all, and I figured I’d make my own rules, so whuffo I need that shit? I did very little politically, beyond a small bit of proselytizing to my dope-smoking brethren, to really affect change.
Fast forward now, through the 1980’s. I didn’t become a rock star. I worked a series of nowhere jobs, for nowhere money, while shooting for my big break. I continued to vote for Libertarians, whenever one appeared on the ballot – which was pretty much once every four years - but I wasn’t actually involved in the party. When the subject turned to politics, I mentioned the philosophy to people, but I didn’t beat them about the head with it. That was about it.
A number of major changes took place in my life between 1986 and 1990. Many of these changes will make interesting stories of their own, but would only serve to detract from this story, so I won’t go into them here. However, they include: my addiction to cocaine, the loss of a job I had held for four years (which was longer than I had held any other job in my life), a ‘Dear John’ letter from my girlfriend of the time, a temporary insanity, meeting MY WIFE, going to broadcasting school, and getting married, which is where we once again pick up the story.
MY WIFE and I were married in 1992. We honeymooned all over the eastern seaboard, ending up in Washington, DC, for the final part of our sojourn.
(I’ll explain here that MY WIFE knew of my political leanings, but she agreed to marry me anyway. Interestingly, she was something of a socialist. Now, you can’t find two political theories much further apart than libertarianism and socialism, but love conquers all, as they say, so we got spliced in spite of our differences. We both cared about politics, and we both believed in systems that were on the mere fringe of acceptance in American society, so we had that much in common. Beyond that, we were able to see past such ephemera as politics, to the essential goodness of each other. At least, I was able to see that in her. What she saw in me, I don’t know; perhaps a reclamation project. However, I have reached the usual point in my stories where I have digressed beyond all reasonable bounds, so I now return you to your originally scheduled programming.)
Why did we choose DC as our final destination? Well, we wanted to take a train trip, and that seemed like a reasonable place to end it. We spent some time in Hershey, some time in Delaware, and then on to Washington. We both enjoy history somewhat and knew there was lots of good stuff to see there. We also wanted to tour The Smithsonian. In addition, I wanted to make a side trip to see the Libertarian Party headquarters, which I imagined to be a sleek and bustling affair, full of bright-eyed and efficient justice-seeking radicals, as would befit an organization that had in the near past garnered close to one million votes in a national election.
It was a great honeymoon. I’ll tell you more at a later date, since it’s another good story, but now I’m coming out of the Metro, Washington’s subway, in the middle of what can only be described as a ghetto and I’m wondering if I got the directions wrong. I wandered around a bit, looking for the street address, and it turned out I had the directions right because there it was.
I’m working from memory here, and it may be faulty memory, as often happens when one has been in a state of shock and the brain blots out that bad stuff. It was a building I never would have entered had it not been for the fact that it supposedly contained the center for dispensation of my political beliefs. I’m not unfamiliar with slums, nor with areas that might be dangerous for a stranger to be in, so I knew enough to carry myself as if I knew where I was going and what I was doing, but even so I was not as self-assured as I had been when I began my pilgrimage that morning.
I mean, it was a hovel. It was a tenement, basically, and the door I entered through was (as I remember) dented steel, and the stairs I climbed to the office on the second floor were not entirely clear of trash. I entered the office and was amazed to see two people collating piles of leaflets from atop an ancient wooden table.
And that was it; two people! There were a couple of filing cabinets, some crummy desks, and not much else. I introduced myself to the two people doing the work, and found out that one of them was the national director of the party. He seemed pleased to see me, and his co-worker also, but I’m sure the shock of what I was seeing showed on my face. I made some small talk, asked if I could have some literature to add to my small collection at home, and then made my way out the door and back to the subway, all the while wondering what this organization could do if they actually had some money. I mean, they organized a 50-state presidential campaign out of this rat trap. What could they do given the resources available to the “major” parties?
I returned to our hotel knowing that, upon my return to Boston, I would seek out the local branch of the party to see what I could do to help. It was time to fish or cut bait, so to speak.
However, it is now time for me to do some actual work, so we’ll pick up the story tomorrow, back in Boston. See you then!
Go to Part II
Friday, January 13, 2006
Are you triskaidecaphobic? I'm not, but I like to take every opportunity I can to throw around double-jointed words in an attempt to show you that I'm a smart cookie!
A short one, as it's shaping up to be a somewhat busy day here at work. Just a couple of addenda to yesterday's piece concerning Libertarianism.
I want to make clear that the Libertarian Party isn't just about drugs. I think I probably did make that point, but it never hurts to emphasize it. Some folks, as soon as they see or hear anything about drugs, block out everything else being said. Congressmen are particularly ept* at that sort of thing.
The LP (as we like to call it, with the mistaken assumption that anybody outside of the party will know that we aren't talking about a phonograph record) is concerned with all forms of liberty, not just the liberty to get high. However, it was their stance concerning drug usage that attracted me to the party (no pun intended) and I might never have found them otherwise. Once I found them, I then discovered that I agreed with just about everything else they espoused.
This is not to say that I am in total agreement with everything every member of the party says. I believe there are precious few of us in complete lockstep with any party platform. However, I agree with the Libertarian platform to a greater extent than I do any other party's. I find that, after having a chance to discuss political views at length, some people are voting for candidates with whom they disagree a majority of the time. How strange and sad, when there are always alternatives available.
My best advice (as if you asked for it) is to never vote for anyone unless you agree with most of what they say. In all instances, look for the candidate with whom you agree most often. If you can find no one that you agree with a majority of the time? Vote for yourself. I assume you agree with yourself, and a write-in vote is (IMHO) a clearer indication of your dissatisfaction than an empty ballot.
I've been promising you (or, to use this same joke again for about the hundredth time, threatening you) that I'd tell you all about my run for the office of state rep. I'm going to write it up over the weekend and have it for you on Tuesday. Until then, have a great long weekend and thanks again for stopping by and indulging my diatribes.
* Ept is the opposite of inept, which is what congressmen usually are.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I warned you. I’m a man of my word, at least when it doesn’t cost me anything.
This is NOT a primer on Libertarianism. It is, instead, the story of how (and why) I became involved with the party, and we'll get to that in a minute. However, as background for those of you wholly unfamiliar with the Libertarian Party, I will put into one somewhat succinct sentence the essence of the political philosophy.
Every human being should be free to do whatever he or she pleases, so long as what he or she does, does not harm anyone else - and so long as he or she is willing to accept the consequences of his or her actions.
That's a fairly simple philosophy and I have yet to find anyone that disagrees with it upon first presentation. Deep down in their bones, just about every American agrees with that sentiment. However, once we start getting into particulars, that's where people sometimes peel off. There are any number of pet peeves, that people have with others, that they wish the government to control. However, as soon as you grant the government power to control someone else's life, you are simultaneously granting them control over your life. If you want total freedom (within the bounds of the previously mentioned 'no harm to anyone else') then you have to be willing to allow others that same freedom and responsibility.
However, as I said, this is not a primer, so I'll take the philosophical train of thought no further. If you wish to go to the next station on your own, then see FAQ concerning Libertarianism, or these articles on a variety of topics, written by Two-Time Libertarian Presidential Candidate Harry Browne. In addition, you may enjoy going to The World's Smallest Political Quiz, where you can find out quickly whether or not you are a Libertarian.
For the historians among you, a brief overview of LP history, and then on to my involvement.
The party was founded in 1971, by people disenchanted with both major parties. They felt that the only answer was a strong third party. They ran their first candidate for president (Dr. John Hospers, of USC) in 1972. For the trivia buffs among you, the first woman to ever receive an electoral vote was Dr. Hospers’ running mate, Tonie Nathan. One of the electors pledged to Nixon and Agnew – in another instance of how the electoral college is where the real power resides, by the way – defected and voted for Hospers/Nathan.
1980 was the high water mark for a national race, with Ed Clark garnering almost one million votes, accounting for better than 1% of the popular total. He was the first candidate for president, other than a Democrat or Republican, to appear on 50 state ballots. Clark polled as high as 11% in one state.
I won’t bore you with endless details of lost races or overblown recounting of glorious victories. The Libertarians are, by most standards, easily the third-largest political party in America. They have elected to offices as high as state representative in three states (New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska) and have put more candidates on ballots than any other political organization outside of the major two. They are the only party outside of the Ds and Rs to field a full slate of congressional candidates in any election year; that is, one that, if all were elected, would have constituted a majority in congress. There are currently some 600+ elective offices held by Libertarians in the United States, more than all other third parties combined.
More history is available here.
Now, as for myself...
I was born a Libertarian. I didn’t realize it until I was 18 or so, though, as my parents were both (for the most part) good Democrats and so they raised me as though I were one. They naturally assumed that I was one of that breed, God bless them. However, I had one thing in my life that they didn’t have in theirs, and this one thing is what made me realize my true political calling. I smoked dope.
Now, let’s understand what I just said. I smoked dope; that is, marijuana. Otherwise known as grass, weed, reefer, wacky tobacky, and (in government pamphlets only, as I never actually heard any sane human call it this) Mary Jane. When I say that this made me realize that I was a Libertarian, I don’t mean to say that I had some sort of smoke-induced epiphany, nor do I mean that I became so addled from drug abuse that I fell in with some cult. No, what happened was that, due to smoking dope during a time when the smoking of dope was often considered an overtly revolutionary action, I became aware of the politics associated with drug usage.
I smoked my first joint at age 15. It was common in my neighborhood. Everybody I hung with, and that is to say every teenager within three blocks of my home, smoked dope. It was no big deal to us. We quickly realized that smoking dope left you with no hangover (unlike booze), left you in fair control of your actions (unlike booze), tended to make you contemplative and serene (unlike booze), and could result in you getting locked away for many years if you were caught with it (unlike booze).
The realization that just having a weed in your pocket could result in hard time with murderers, rapists, and thieves was a defining moment for most of us. And, for many of us, it meant that we gave up on politics. Some of us, however, explored the possibility that there might be a politician or two who might see the insanity of the nation’s drug policy. For some who thought that there might be a fight worth fighting, the search only went as far as the Democratic Party. They reasoned that this was the liberal party – the party of the people, as opposed to the party of the rich and uptight – and that they would surely move the nation towards a reasonable drug policy.
These people were well intended, but surely misguided. The drug laws in this country weren’t just put into place by the Republicans, after all. Congress at this time had a Democratic majority, and if they had really been the party to change this absurdity they could have done so. Those few of us who realized this explored further. That’s when I found the Libertarians.
In 1976, I was eligible to vote in a presidential election for the first time, having turned 18 the previous year. I had one big question concerning every candidate. I read all of their literature and listened to every speech I could. My question was, “Will you work to completely legalize marijuana?” The only one who unequivocally said, “Yes”, was Roger MacBride of the Libertarian Party. The only party that said, “Yes”, as a whole, was the Libertarians. Everybody else either wanted to throw my ass in jail for smoking a weed or they hemmed and hawed like the cowardly bullshit artists that they were, which meant the same thing to my ass.
In those days prior to internet access, you had to really dig to find some answers. The major media was then as it is now – restricted to that information which they deem useful, meaning that anything not yet of interest to a large number of people isn’t going to make the papers or the evening newscast. So, how did I find out about the Libertarians? I was handed a pamphlet in the subway.
I read the pamphlet and discovered that I agreed with just about everything these people said. They didn’t have to sell me; I was already sold. I just hadn’t known where to buy before now.
You see, aside from my dope smoking, I had really paid attention in civics class. I had swallowed whole everything that I was taught concerning the Bill Of Rights and The Revolutionary War and all of the other righteous things this country was built upon. I only wanted my politicians to uphold what was already the foundation of my country. However, the only people I found who were willing to do so, 100% of the time, were the Libertarians.
(I have in my possession, by the way, letters from Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis and Jimmy Carter, all expressing their desire to decriminalize marijuana usage. They really came through on that deal, huh? It’s not like I didn’t give the Democrats a chance.)
Anyway, in 1976 MacBride of the Libertarians was on the ballot in 31 states, receiving some 175,000 votes. I cast one of those votes. And I’ve never voted for a winning presidential candidate since then, either.
Dope, however, is still illegal. And there are thousands of people rotting in prison because they did nothing more than possess the leaves of a tremendously benign plant. These people, who are no more dangerous to the general populace than you or I, are taking up space in federal facilities at the cost of millions upon millions of your tax dollars. And the federal government is spending millions and millions more, every day, trying to catch more of them (us) and fill up some more cells, making lovely bunk buddies for the murderers, rapists, child molesters and others who deserve to be behind bars. And, outside of the rarely exceptional individual here and there, the Democrats and Republicans are no more likely to truly try to address this problem than they were in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The Libertarians are still the only political party that unflinchingly endorses the freedom of the individual to carry a weed in his or her pocket. So, I am still a Libertarian. Please understand something – if you have smoked dope, do smoke dope, or have a family member or friend who smokes dope, you or they are only one bust away from becoming a statistic. The Libertarians are the only political party that is willing to consider the fact that you might be a human being who happens to like to get high once in a while, and not some ravening animal that deserves to be in a cage.
Someday, I’ll tell you about my run for state representative, but I expect that I’ve gone on long enough for now. Thanks for indulging me, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Yesterday, I threatened... um, promised you that I would talk about Libertarians today. Well, you got a reprieve. Here's why.
I've told you that I write this blog at work because it is the only place where I have internet access. This is 100% true. However, like most things I tell you here, it may be true but it might not be the whole story.
I have a computer at home. It is not hooked up to the internet, so it's mainly just something that takes up space. However, if you let it take the 10 minutes it needs to warm up, you can write stuff on it and then transfer that to a disk for posting to the internet from a computer that realizes it lives in the 21st century. So, last night (while watching the Celtics finally win one of those games they should have been winning all year) I wrote a story about how I became a Libertarian.
I copied the story to a floppy, intending to bring it with me this morning. However, it is still sitting on top of my dishwasher, doing nobody any good whatsoever, which begs the question of whether it will do anybody any good once I remember to bring it with me, but I digress. So, there you have it.
In the meantime, I have been asked (by my Mom) to update you on whether or not I did break my hand the other day. I think I did, but it's getting better every day. I haven't been to a doctor about it because I hate going to doctors. No matter what you come in for, they always have a temperance lecture for you.
Two years ago, I came down with chicken pox. This was on a trip to Las Vegas. My last day in Vegas was utterly miserable. I was sweating profusely, felt weak, etc., and the ride home on the airplane was as hideous a six hours as I've ever had in my life. I piled on as many blankets as they could give me, and MY WIFE was as comforting as she could be, but I still shook and shivered and sweated through my clothes all at the same time. Absolutely hellish. Anyway, when I arrived home, we immediately got me to a doctor, to find out what the hell was the matter with me.
Some background information: this was during the time of the SARS epidemic scare.
Now, I walk into the doctor's office with a fever, chills, headache, body aches, et cetera. The doctor immediately sends me to the emergency room at Mount Auburn Hospital, and he phones ahead to tell them to give me absolute priority. I still don't know what's the matter with me, nor does MY WIFE. All we know is that I'm feeling miserable and I'm still sweating buckets.
When I get to Mount Auburn, they immediately usher me into a secluded room and have me strip down and put on a johnny. I haven't even filled out any forms, which will tell you that they thought this was serious stuff they were dealing with. People start coming in dressed in (I'm not kidding) yellow radiation suits - taking my temperature; taking blood; doing this, that and the other to try and determine just what the hell I have. In the meantime, I am now not only sweating and shivering, my face is breaking out in red bumps.
I'll cut to the chase. After three freakin' hours, and six different doctors examining me, they finally figured out that I had chicken pox. In the meantime, though, they didn't know what it was and I could have been dying from something hideous. While I'm lying there miserable and wondering if I might have some horrendous disease that's going to off me within the next couple hours, one of these dopes asks me if I smoke. I tell her yes. She says that I should quit.
What in bloody fucking hell are you telling me this for at that time? For all she knew, I was going to be dead in half a day from whatever crap I was infected with, but she has to lecture me about smoking?
And that's why I suspect I have a broken hand, but I don't know for sure and I'm willing to live with it a while and see what happens. See you tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
(This is one damn clever photo I put up here, but only if you know who it is. However, I'm digressing and I haven't even started yet. This will probably give you a clue as to what sort of reading enjoyment you're in for today.)
Good a title as any, since probably more than half of you won't be interested in what I'm putting out here today. Oh, well. I have to get this stuff out of my system every so often or else the good stuff will be overwhelmed by it, and then you get nothing.
What's that you say? There is no good stuff? How cruel! Just for that, you're going to have to listen to me talk about Libertarians tomorrow. In the meantime...
I know that some of you aren't especially thrilled when I write about sports. Well, if you're one of those people, then this just isn't your day. This is going to be all about sports. I'm going to do a bit of venting and a bit of prognosticating. However, if you don't give a rat's ass, you could go here and probably agree with it. I'll see you tomorrow, I hope, pretty please with sugar on top.
First, let us consider the Red Sox. Have they lost their collective mind? J.T. Snow? J.T. Frickin' Snow? Do these people realize that they have Kevin Youkilis on the roster? What has Youkilis done to piss these people off?
Listen up, Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis is your first baseman. Every time he manages to get off the bench and into the line-up, he produces. He has a great eye and is a fine on-base percentage guy. He has a fair amount of power. He isn't a gold-glover, but he doesn't have hands of steel, either. So, why in the hell are you signing J.T. Snow for $2,000,000?
I would have said that Youkilis is your third baseman, but you already made the deal for Lowell, and another deal for Marte, so I figured you had some sense left and had him pegged for 1B. You're certainly not going to use him at DH. So, are you going to let him waste away in Pawtucket or on the bench, for another frickin' year? Not smart.
Speaking of not smart, let's consider the Celtics.
I still think this is a team that will do great things in a year or two, but this opinion of mine is contingent upon their gaining experience and building chemistry with each other. They also have to know what their roles are. However, the way Doc Rivers is playing these guys, this is not going to happen, IMHO.
Rivers hasn't had a set starting line-up for three straight games all year. Pierce and Davis are constants, and so is Delonte West, for the most part. However, Blount, Perkins, LaFrentz and Jefferson have rotated in and out of the starting five with what seems like little rhyme or reason. Perkins might play 30 minutes one night, while the next he sits for all but 2 minutes. Jefferson is the current starter of choice, and I agree with that choice, but will he continue in this role? Who knows? Rivers may have some idea what he's doing, but I sure as hell can't figure it out.
If you're going to acquire chemistry, you have to have the same guys playing with one another for extended stretches of time. You can't keep mixing it up willy-nilly hoping to stumble upon some magic formula. It isn't going to happen playing Tony Allen 28 minutes one night and Marcus Banks 28 minutes the next and then neither of them for more than 5 minutes the night after. Choose your five starters, Doc, and let them play. Mix in your three or four best off the bench, as your first five need a breather or encounter foul trouble. Use the other guys in emergencies and garbage time. That's how you build chemistry and define roles.
I'll say one thing in Doc's defense. None of these guys have any quit in them and that has to be partially the coach's doing. However, this team should be playing at least .500 ball. They've had a good handful of games they should have won and haven't. Is it just totally lack of execution, lack of experience, or is it bad coaching?
I think this team will make the playoffs this year, and I sure hope they do because they need that sort of experience. Will they advance beyond the first round? Probably not, but they'll make it worth watching.
One more thing about the Celts: I'm scared that Danny Ainge is going to do something out of panic. Please don't, Danny. Leave this team alone to jell for a year. If they need a different coach to accomplish this, OK, but please don't screw with the team itself. Please do NOT trade Pierce or Davis for draft choices. Please do what you're doing now, which is sitting back and watching their progress. Give it this year and the start of next, please. You've got something good here, but it needs time to develop. You've done a good job of getting the pieces. Don't throw any away now.
Finally, let's talk about a really smart team. Let's talk about the Patriots.
Well, I'm not really going to talk about them too much. I just have to sit back and admire them. Every time somebody writes them off, they step it up and deliver. It should be a fun game against Denver. I expect them to win. The last time in Denver, when they lost, they were not the team they are now. Denver ran off 4 or 5 looooong gainers, which I don't expect to happen this Saturday. We'll see. I'll say 23 - 20, Pats, and then on to Indy for a trial by fire.
See you tomorrow, with 100% sports-free (but Libertarian-filled) content!
Monday, January 09, 2006
MY WIFE and I celebrate Christmas on January 6th.
Let me amend that. We celebrate Christmas on December 25th, like most of the world, but we delay our own exchanging of gifts and whatnot until the Feast of the Epiphany, which is on January 6th. According to legend, that is the day when the Wise Men presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus. It is also known, in some circles, as Little Christmas. Some Christians, mostly of older eastern orthodox branches, consider it the major day of celebration.
We chose to celebrate on Little Christmas, a few years back, for a number of reasons. The most compelling of these was that we could concentrate upon our time with family and friends during the "normal" season, without the added bother of shopping and buying and wrapping for ourselves factored in. By delaying for those twelve days (which, by the way, is where the twelve days of Christmas come from) we would make the season much less hectic and stressful overall.
It has turned out to be a marvelous way to do things, at least for us. An added benefit, though by no means the major reason we do it, is that many items go on sale immediately following Christmas day, so we are also able to cash in on a few bargains here and there. This year, this was almost no factor at all, as we decided to not exchange presents with each other. We decided to do this because of our economic situation. In other words, we be broke.
Well, we're not broke; that's an exaggeration. However, we are not as flush as we once were, so we decided that this would be a decent place to cut back. It's not like we don't have enough stuff, anyway. We both kind of figure that whatever we get each other will mostly be superfluous, even if loving and heartfelt. Now, having said that, we still ended up getting each other a few small items. We just love each other too much to have not done so.
MY WIFE bought me a couple of DVDs she saw on sale. One is a Bob Denver compilation, which includes some Gilligan's Island and which also features three episodes from a bizarre TV series called Dusty's Trail, which was basically Gilligan in the Wild West. It was done after the original Gilligan had been cancelled and it is almost a carbon copy of that show. Instead of the SS Minnow, there is a stagecoach. Instead of The Skipper and Gilligan, there is The Wagonmaster (Forrest Tucker) and Dusty (Denver). There is a millionaire and his wife, a brainy schoolteacher, an innocent farm girl, and a good-looking starlet/saloon singer. And, instead of being marooned on a desert island, they are just plain lost in the desert, which gives it an almost Old Testament connotation, now that I think of it.
For my part, I extended MY WIFE's subscription to Guideposts, a monthly magazine that contains inspiring stories of faith. She has been a subscriber for many years and it is one heck of a good read at times. I also knew that she needed a calendar for her office, so I made her one. You may remember me mentioning that I had done this for my Grandfather for a number of years when I was a child, so it was fun to do so again. My skills as an artist are fairly limited, but they've improved a little in the almost forty years since I last did one, so she shouldn't be too embarrassed to hang it on her cubicle wall. I'd say that 9 or 10 of the 12 drawings I did don't look completely like a kid did them, so it's passable on the whole.
One other thing she bought for me was also a calendar. It is a desktop "page-a-day" type, and I'll end this by quoting a few pages here, after I tell you a little about it. It is called Life's Journeys According To Mister Rogers, and it is wonderful. So was the man.
We hold a special place in our hearts for Fred Rogers. Many people do, of course, having grown up with him as a television friend, but we became even more admiring of him as adults. This may sound a bit strange, but there was a time, a few years back, when we would tape his daily show and then watch it together after work. While some adults found the pace of his show aggravating, we found the leisurely nature of it extremely relaxing after some stressful days at work. It was our video martini.
As a person involved in an aspect of entertainment (albeit a somewhat strange and minor offshoot) I became curious about the behind-the-scenes stuff. I wrote Fred Rogers a letter, asking a number of lengthy questions concerning technical aspects of the show. He was kind enough to answer my letter with a very detailed three-page letter of his own. He also included some 25 or 30 pages of background material about the show, as well as a very lovingly inscribed autographed photo, which we framed and now have displayed in a prominent place in our living room.
There are few celebrities who would have gone out of their way to such an extent in order to satisfy a fan. He did much more than could have reasonably been expected. The time it took him to answer in such detail must have consumed at least a couple of hours, and the personal nature of his reply was a profound testament to the fact that the man, as you saw him on the screen, was exactly as he appeared. His caring and gentle nature was no put on for the camera. I was very touched by it all, as was MY WIFE.
When he died, we were severely saddened. I cried. I assure you that he is the only person I can say that about who I never actually met.
In any case, the calendar contains one bit of Rogers' philosophy of life per day. Below are selections from the first few days. They are simple pronouncements concerning humanity- at first glance, perhaps so simplistic as to be dismissed as puerile. However, as one considers them at length, they are revealed as profound (though simply worded) and I truly cannot think of a better person to guide my daily dealings with others. I hope I can remember them when I need them.
"Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind."
"I wish that many times I had heard 'Just who you are at this moment, with the way that you're feeling, is fine. You don't have to be anything more than who you are right now.' I'd like to think it's also something that's happened to me through the years, that I'm more able to accept myself as I happen to be, rather than as somebody thought I should be."
"It's really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it's the opposite that's true: What we are ultimately determines what we do!"
"I believe that appreciation is a holy thing - that when we look for what's best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something sacred."
What of importance can I possibly say to follow that? See you tomorrow.