The following first appeared in the Boise Weekly two days ago. (4/5/17)
So, friend, you were in the Women’s March, You went to the airport to protest the Muslim ban, You rallied with the kids at the capitol building to support public schools and with outdoorsmen to support public lands. You were there trying (in vain) to meet with the slippery Senator Risch. You’ve spent so much time writing letters to Congressmen that your tendonitis is back. You called the representatives’ offices faithfully, until their voice mail was backed up like a plugged toilet. Whenever a petition pops up on your Facebook news feed, you sign it. Every link asking if you’re for impeachment, you give a “Like.” Every time a post asks if you think Jeff Sessions (Betsy DeVos, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, Devon Nunes, •ad infinitum•) must go, you click “Yes.” You’ve joined every “Resist” group you know about. You’re spending more time at planning sessions and discussion groups than you are at home. In short, you’ve done every damn thing you can imagine to do to fight the leprous rot eating at this nation … and it still doesn’t feel like enough.
It’s not. There is one more bridge you must cross, soldier. You must run for office.
Oh my goodness, I just felt a sudden gust of wind. Must be from all the readers shaking their heads in unison.
Can’t say as I blame you. At one time—just short of 30 years ago—I felt the same way when an Ada County Democrat official asked me to run for the Legislature. My bowels did a dosey-doe, just to think about all the events I would have to attend, all the hands I would have to shake, and most terrifying, all the public speaking I would have to do in order to conduct a serious campaign. I told the official it was impossible, that my oratory skills ranged from mumbling to hemming and hawing.
In the end, though, I ran. And in spite of losing, it turned out to be one of the most fulfilling, satisfying episodes in my life. If you remember that proud afterglow of citizenship you felt as you walked out of a polling station after casting your ballot for the first time? … multiply that by a 1000.
It is a big decision, though. To run for office is time consuming, can be expensive, and is daunting, especially for an Idaho Democrat. However, one reason the ‘Rs’ have such an advantage in this state is because, too frequently, the incumbent is running unopposed. Democracy is an empty promise if there are not options to choose from. And in Idaho our options often range from the least offensive Republican to the bucket-of-nuts you’d least want to sit next to on a bar stool.
Yet if my political instincts have any legs left, the political river is carving a new course. With the escalating onslaughts on public lands, public schools, and public health, the threat to popular programs like PBS and Meals-on-Wheels, the escalating sense of outrage among Americans—not to mention the sobering reality that the bucket-of-nuts you’d least want to sit next to on a bar stool is now the President of the United States—if there were ever a time for reasonable people to run for office, it is now.
I thought it might be helpful to offer a strategy or two which, in my humble opinion, every Democrat running for office next year should adopt, be it in Idaho or anywhere else. Each is in the spirit of resistance enveloping our land.
- Start now—or as soon as possible. To be out campaigning, face to face, attending events, shaking hands, telling voters who you are and where you stand, as early as this summer, will be in stark contrast to Republicans scampering for cover to avoid direct contact with their constituents.
- Don’t lie. The truth is often hard to pin down—especially now, when the corrupt machine you’ll be running against is nothing but lies, from the top down to the Fox/Breitbart fools in the base. Yet I am convinced that responsible Americans are desperate, if not for indisputable truths, then for indisputable honesty. If you don’t have an answer to everything, tell them. They will appreciate your candor, especially when it’s contrasted with a slick and incessant smear of glib bullshit from a Trump toadie like Raul Labrador, or the ideological automatons in the Legislature’s majority caucus. The yearning for authenticity will become evermore acute, day by day, as the hypocrisy and duplicity of the GOP is exposed.
- Get cantankerous! This will be hard for many of you. Democrats are not generally known for their aggressive natures. I would argue this is what has attracted people to the party for several generations: the concern they have shown to the disadvantaged of every stripe; the operative principles that diversity is healthy, that justice and opportunity for all is essential, that kindness is superior to cruelty; the overall sense that, like it or not, America is one, indivisible community, and without compromise, compassion and cooperation, our community will wither and die.
But as the Republicans rip it apart like a wounded animal, if you are angry about the brutalization to this community—and I know you are, or you wouldn’t be thinking about running—show it! There is no shame in expressing outrage when there is so much to be enraged about. To do otherwise would be a lie. (Reference bullet point no. 2)