Write Again . . . A formula for failure

Published 4:30 pm Monday, April 4, 2016

How dumb was I? In a word: very.

Should anyone have had any illusion that maybe, just maybe, I was a fairly intelligent chap, then I certainly disabused them of that notion twenty years ago. Oh, yes.

Let me digress. Provide a little history.

In 1996 a young, local lawyer filed to run for the office of state representative against the incumbent, in the Republican primary.

On the Democratic side a young, local man filed to run for the same office. No others filed in his party, thus clearing the way to send him on to the general election.

So. Imagine my surprise when the morning after the primary I find that the challenger on the Republican side had knocked off the incumbent. I was aware of the challenger’s attacks on his opponent, but in my political naivete didn’t think it would really work. But it did. Having as his campaign advisor another local attorney who was a master at tearing down an opponent served him well.

But that’s politics, you say. And so it was.

Then, not so very long after I had a “bright” idea. Why don’t I try and get on the November ballot as an unaffiliated candidate. To do so one needed to gather a certain percentage of votes cast, in the last election, on a petition. I forget the specifics.

Well, now. Because of some very good friends who willingly took on this task, we secured the requisite number of signatures and submitted same to the Board of Elections.

These signatures were examined, certified, and I then became an eligible candidate for the House seat. Oh, Lord. What had we wrought?

It did not take but a few days for it to begin. Ashley Futrell, perhaps the most savvy political observer in these parts, warned me that (name omitted) would “tear you apart.” And was he ever right.

Long before election day arrived — long before — through multimedia advertising my political fortunes, slim to begin with, had turned to misfortunes. I was one bad dude, with a terrible political philosophy, and just about everyone was made aware. Why, I “learned” things about myself I never even knew. I just didn’t realize how bad I was. Talk about driving up the negatives. The campaign guru doing this was masterful, and in his philosophical element, and had effectively eliminated any viability I may had had (non-party affiliated candidates rarely succeed at any level).

By early fall I only wanted it to end. To just be over. I was — and this sounds bad — comforted a bit by the fact that my parents had passed on, and didn’t have to see all of this. All the negative advertising.

My campaign modus operandi was to walk neighborhoods (try that out in the countryside) and pass out a modest little leaflet. One of the other candidates was heavily into visual media, and probably reached more people with a radio or TV commercial in 30 or 60 seconds than I did in weeks of driving and walking. His side spent money, lots of it. The other candidate, a fine young man, knew he could count on a significant portion of the electorate due to birth and party affiliation.

A truly miniscule amount of money was spent on my campaign. That was simply the reality, and in retrospect I’m glad of it. It was never going to happen, anyway.

You see, I thought — or tried to convince myself — that people would respond to a candidate who didn’t disparage his opponents, and who didn’t view things through a rigid ideology or prism of politics. One who would try to work with others to seek common ground. How naive was that?

As I said in the beginning, how dumb was I? Very.

Of course I lost. There could have been no other outcome for me. I didn’t “run” for office. I “walked” for office. And I fell woefully, embarrassingly, short of my goal.

Am I a better person for the experience? I don’t know.

Am I a wiser person for the experience? Now that, friends, is a genuinely rhetorical question if ever there was one.

To his credit, the winner of the election told me afterwards that “If you had run as the Democratic nominee you would have won.”

Despite my mild disagreement with his assessment, he said again, “You would have won.”

We’ll never know, will we?