ENID, Okla. —
Politics is not a field to be entered into lightly.
Trying to get someone to believe in you enough to mark your name on a ballot is a delicate, difficult undertaking.
A reader recently commented on one of my columns that took politicians to task, asking “When are you going to run for something?” My answer? Never. I would finish third in an election for most popular male in my household (given that we have two tomcats).
Running for office takes time, money and organization, none of which I have in abundance.
In truth, I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to run a political campaign.
I must not be alone. On Saturday, the Oklahoma Republican Party will hold a candidate training school in Montgomery Hall at Northern Oklahoma College Enid.
The school is billed as being for candidates, potential candidates and grassroots activists.
The press release announcing the school made no mention of what sort of topics would be covered.
I can imagine the course will cover practical topics like fundraising, recruiting and motivating volunteers, the care and feeding of the press and the proper placement of yard signs.
And, being that this is the GOP, undoubtedly candidates will be schooled in frequent and disdainful references to President Obama, as well as the proper way to say “Obamacare,” pronouncing the word as if merely saying its four syllables left behind a foul taste.
Speaking of pronunciation, the students in candidate school may well be instructed in the fine art of saying “Democrat,” as if the very effort was both exhausting and disgusting.
Candidate school participants undoubtedly will be coached to use the word “conservative,” early and often. If you are in a primary, it is proper to smear one’s opponent with the label “moderate,” but please spare the l-word for your Democrat foe, if you have one, as it is the campaign version of a nuclear weapon.
Candidates may be taught how to dress for success (red state, red tie), to smile until it hurts, and the proper way to shake dozens of hands in the course of one event without winding up in the emergency room, (not too firm, but not dead-fish loose, either).
Nobody asked me, but I have a few suggestions for topics to be covered in candidate school.
When you speak, say something. If all you do is mouth cliches, all your listeners will hear is “blah, blah, blah,” and you’ll sound like the adults in the Charlie Brown TV cartoons.
Under-promise. That way it is much easier to over-deliver. Always say less and do more, it is harder to get into trouble that way. It is harder to put your foot in your mouth if it is closed.
Listen, and don’t just listen, hear. People may not always be right, but they have a right to have everyone hear how wrong they are.
Don’t lie, ever. You will get caught. Tell the truth even when it hurts, and it will. Don’t tell people one thing and do another. Don’t misrepresent yourself. Don’t try to hide any issues in your past. If you have any skeletons in your closet, they will eventually break free and find their way into print or the glare of television lights.
Don’t look down on anybody, never forget you are above no one save those who work or live on a lower floor of your office or apartment building. Respect everyone, especially yourself.
Which leads us to the next point, don’t let anybody talk you into doing something you don’t want to do, no matter how much money they promise to pump into your campaign. The election will happen on a single day, but you will have to stare at yourself in the mirror every day for the rest of your life. I you don’t like what you see, how can you expect anyone else to?
Not everyone will agree with you. Some will, some won’t. Do your best to get along with both groups, and you’ll have a long career in politics.
Which brings us to the next point, don’t aspire to make a career out of politics. You will find it a singularly insular world detached from reality.
Do not go into any situation with a closed mind. Wishy-washy isn’t good, either, but it is preferable to a total unwillingness to compromise or consider other viewpoints.
And finally, do not run for office just to get elected. Do it because you want to make a difference, to help people, to change the system, to right wrongs.
Never see voters are merely that, as the means to an end, but as those whose interests you represent.
Everyone knows the lemmings, those cold weather rodents wont to follow along so blindly that if one plunges off a cliff, all will. Then there are tigers, who spend most of their life alone, forging their own path, making their own way.
Lemming or tiger, aspiring candidates, it’s your choice.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.