by user Michael Smith
The question comes in several forms. It’s usually delivered with a tone of skepticism, often accompanied with a smirk, and sometimes even a preemptive roll of the eyes. “You’re running for President?” or “President of what?” In an early election cycle where it seems everyone is running for President, people seem dumbfounded to actually encounter someone with the audacity to present his own point of view in person.
I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore – or something like that? Actually, I’m not mad as hell. I was on the verge of turning my back on the entire political process as the 2006 races began to accelerate. I didn’t hear anything much from either party that I could get excited about, and as a lifelong Republican I was increasingly embarrassed by the negative rhetoric from the GOP. I wasn’t mad as hell; I was rather disgusted – and frustrated that the rhetoric ran contrary to what I understood as the core principles of Republicanism.
So what can a regular guy do to influence the system? When we’re offered a choice of candidates we can vote up or down in agreement, but what if we don’t like the choices? We can influence the choice somewhat in the primary process, or we can volunteer to stuff envelopes. Nah – what if we really want a different choice? What if we want a choice that rejects the money-driven interests or runs contrary to the talk-radio nattering?
The great mythical act of American democracy; Run for President! School kids are told that if they study and work hard they can grow up to be President. Of course in practice, that’s nonsense. Most of us have little chance of gaining the funding or connections necessary to hold significant political office. But there’s a germ of truth in the myth; any of us can run for President.
What’s to be gained by simply running for President? Within the system of Party primaries I figure there are opportunities to make a point. My home state of Oregon represents such an opportunity. Oregon’s primary comes late in the process – the competition has often fallen aside and our primary is little more than a rubber stamp of a nomination already sewed up in the early primaries. Yet if I can win ten percent of the primary vote I can win several delegates to the national convention. With the credibility of a couple of delegates behind me, I figure I can highlight a different perspective. I’ll concede it might not be the majority perspective, but I believe it is better anchored in Republican principles than much of the nonsense from the frontrunners.
Is ten percent, a couple of delegates, an achievable goal? It won’t be easy, but I think it can be done. In the 2000 Republican primary, George W. Bush was challenged by only one official candidate; Alan Keyes. Keyes did not run a vigorous Oregon campaign, yet he received 13% of the primary vote. At a minimum, I believe the voters of Oregon deserve an option on the primary ballot. Particularly if the frontrunner is a polarizing social conservative, I believe I can represent a philosophical contrast.
What do I believe in, and who should care? I’ll tackle that in my next post.
(I’m Michael Charles Smith, a 45 year old corporate cubicle worker who filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for the Republican presidential nomination. I have a negligible budget, a full-time job, and my family will revolt if I burn all my vacation time on a wild-goose chase. This post is part of a series intended to highlight the process followed by an outsider as I attempt to engage the American political establishment. For more information on my campaign see www.smithforpresident.com. I’m serious about this, but I’m also realistic about the odds.)