How it works
We can complain about a loss or we can take a moment to reflect on what we can improve upon to assure we win the next battle, and ultimately, the war.
Running for Office – Current Process
Each of us should consider this premise: money does not guarantee electoral victories. Sadly, elections are more complex than that and rely on a chain we have termed “the chain of carrot and stick.”
Deciding to Run & the First Endorsement & the Domino Effect
For example, X decides to run for office. X is very liked by the local party machine and wealthy individuals who have substantial ties to the community. X is unsurprisingly endorsed by these groups. With that endorsement, a domino effect goes into motion. Party people will help with the ballot access process, canvass for X , fundraise for X, and assure X is not challenged by an opponent or thrown off the ballot. Big money starts coming in because X plays the game. After the first domino falls, business leaders, community leaders, religious leaders, third parties and issue-specific political organizations are all expected to get in line and also endorse X or simply stay out of the race altogether. If they do not endorse X, they may no longer be in the good graces of X and the establishment (who will be in a position to impact their business, influence the approval of certain types of permits their business may require, increase the chance they are audited, etc.). If they boldly run someone against X and X wins the election, they may create lasting enemies in their communities. Thus, with community-based endorsements comes more ground game and more volunteers, and a large base of primary voters start to accumulate. Certain voters are pressured or expected to vote for X, e.g., party-friendly people, union members, and certain members of political organizations. With these endorsements, ties to the community X is running in are greatly enhanced even if X is someone the community does not know well beforehand.
News Media Gets Involved
Next comes the media. Newspapers, being heavily reliant on certain donors in the area, and always desiring access to certain events, information and exclusives, want to make sure they pick the likely winner and don’t upset any powerful people. Journalists and elected officials have cozy friendships. Perhaps, what winds up happening is that all the newspapers go beyond simply endorsing X by additionally leaking a dirty story about X’s opponent in an attempt to discredit him or her. When confronted with the fact that there may be evidence to suggest X is just as corrupted yet those stories didn’t make the front page, the media will encourage their readers and the local community to believe it is all just a coincidence and not one particular candidate was targeted. We know better.
Legal System Comes on Board
Next comes the legal system. Judges, district attorneys and even the public defenders are influenced by local, city, and state politics. They are friendly to the party because they need the party’s help to get elected and/or appointed. The party apparatus can also make the lives of these judges and attorneys miserable by cutting their budget. It is clear that short of the massive reform Politics Reborn is calling for, we cannot rely on the judiciary itself to resolve the corruption stopping our shared Progressive agenda from being implemented.
The Map Effect
Let us not forget that elected officials often get to create the electoral map the way they see fit, pick the poll workers who monitor the election, and often even determine the rules used to decide whose name is placed at the top of the ballot (which can be key in elections with low turnout). In fact, they even shape rules for campaign finance laws and determine who can access certain types of voter data! X will keep winning continuously despite never really having to do much for his or her community. Why? Not just because of the structure discussed above, but also because defeating incumbents is almost statistically impossible. Both parties usually have an agreement where the electoral map is broken up in a way where most areas are heavily blue or heavily red, a phenomenon known as “gerrymandering.” What does that mean? It is impossible to defeat X in a general election because the area either always goes Democratic or Republican, especially in elections with low turnout. Now, it is true that an opponent along the same party lines could run against X in a primary, but the challenger will not get any help from the party (e.g., easy access to voter data, easy time to get on the ballot, and support for fundraising. In addition, running could impede their long-term career by upsetting the party as they normally discourage primaries. So now you may think that the fight against City Hall is impossible to win.
How can we change this cycle?
The system has an Achilles’ heel that will cause this whole structure to come crashing down. Imagine if there was a community organizer in every area, forming relationships with his or her community over the next several years, keeping their neighbors informed about issues their elected officials have ignored. Imagine if they start organizing with their neighbors, and activating various sets of new people while launching a preemptive strike by knocking on doors long before the opponent’s middlemen do.