to: political odyssey


“What I learned from politics”

by William McGaughey

Unlike many who follow professional sports, I follow politics. An advantage is that, in contrast with professional athletes, ordinary people can themselves participate in politics. A little commitment goes a long way. My own experience thus contradicts the often expressed, cynical view that large unseen forces control the political process and ordinary citizens are powerless to change or influence this. Yes, politics has been moving in the direction of control by such large self-interested forces, but democracy is not yet dead. The culmination of my political life is to imagine and propose a new type of organization called Gold Party.

In my 66 years of life, I have been both an activist on behalf of political causes and a candidate for public office. Truthfully, neither type of activity has borne noticeable fruit. But it is not quite nothing. I have met some prominent people along the way. I’ve know three U.S. Senators personally (and coauthored a book with one) and shook hands with two future U.S. Presidents when they were campaigning for office. I’ve had opinion pieces published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Christian Science Monitor (twice). Among others, I’ve been interviewed for an hour on the Diane Rehm radio show in Washington, D.C. My book on NAFTA, one of the first on the market, was described by Naum Chomsky in the Nation as “a useful work.” Garrison Keillor sent me a gracious note to the effect that I would “make a better U.S. Senator than the guy who got elected.”

Some of my activities have supported what might be considered a “liberal” political position, and some have supported a “conservative” position. I generally take the unpopular side of a question. I’m sure many people consider me a fringe person, a quack, or worse. But it doesn’t matter. That’s one thing I have learned - it really doesn’t matter what side of a political question you’re on as long as you yourself believe in it and are open and honest in your beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you are not a charismatic, engaging personality whom everyone likes. As long as you have your self-respect, you’re a winner in some sense. You also meet interesting people along the way.

My own political activities include the following: (1) In an era when the unions abandoned this goal, I became an advocate for a shorter workweek and for amending the Fair Labor Standards Act. (2) I fell in with a group of labor activists in the early 1990s which opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (3) After my apartment building was condemned, I joined with some disgruntled landlords in Minneapolis to create a group that became a thorn in the side of city government. (4) I ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 2001. (5) I ran for U.S. Senate in the 2002 Independence Party primary. (6) I ran for U.S. President in Louisiana’s 2004 Democratic primary.

What have I learned from those political activities?

1. Something beats nothing.

In the mid 1970s, I decided that I wanted to champion a meaningful political issue. I chose the cause of a shorter workweek. Being an accountant, my first act was to pore through books of labor statistics compiled by the federal government and make my own tables of significant trends. From this exercise I came to understand the general relationship between productivity, employment, output, and average hours of work. It is: Output equals productivity times employment times average hours.

That knowledge alone was enough to make me an expert on the subject. I wrote a book exploring those concepts. When a group of labor activists persuaded Rep. John Conyers to introduce a shorter-workweek bill in Congress in 1979, I connected with this group and produced literature that it used. Several of my writings were introduced in the Congressional Record. The New York Times article also resulted from this activity. I was not an academic or a labor official but merely someone who had taken the time to study labor statistics. Consequently, when others in this movement expressed themselves in polemical writings, I was able to make a unique contribution by presenting mathematically based arguments. In other words, I had “something”.

The same is true of my relationship with Eugene McCarthy. The former U.S. Senator had read my article in the New York Times. He had saved the clipping. When Sen. McCarthy came to Minnesota in 1982 to campaign for his old seat in the Senate, I read that support of a shorter workweek was one of his campaign issues. I contacted McCarthy’s campaign organization. The Senator recognized my name and we had lunch. In the name of my own shorter-workweek organization, I organized a public meeting for the campaign at which Sen. McCarthy spoke of the need for shorter work hours. McCarthy lost the primary election but we kept in touch. Out of this came a book, Nonfinancial Economics: The Case for Shorter Hours of Work, published by Praeger in 1989. Senator McCarthy became a true friend. I’m sure it was because when he was fighting a lonely battle to champion a long lost cause, he found someone else who had done serious thinking on the subject. I did not have much to offer, but still it was something.

2. Don’t petition; act.

This principle comes from my experience fighting the North American Free Trade Agreement. The independent union in the Ford assembly at Cuautitlan, outside Mexico City, issued an urgent call for international “human rights” observers to come to Mexico to witness the election for union representation at this plant in June 1991. This previous year, goons associated with the official government union had shot a man to death. It was feared that similar violence might mark the contest between the independent and official unions. Armed with a camcorder and a letter from Senator Paul Wellstone requesting a report on the election, I bought a plane ticket to Mexico City. Only one other American had answered the call. We spent a hot day in June with labor activists camped outside the gates of the Cuautitlan Ford plant, observing whatever we could until the election results were announced in the wee hours of the following morning.

Our English-speaking guide was a journalist specializing in labor affairs, Matt Witt, who later became communications director of the Teamsters. He is the one who gave me the insight that effective political persuasion lay in “action” rather than persuading government officials. Witt was arguing that the other American and I were helping to change the situation more by “acting” - coming down to Mexico City to observe and report on the election - than if we had merely talked about it to others at home. He said, in words to this effect: Most people think that you effect political change by petitioning the government or some other powerful organization to do what you want it to do. That approach seldom, if ever, works. The officials may listen politely but in the end you’ll get the brush off. What does work, said Witt, is to act. Without seeking anyone’s permission, just do something. Even if you are a tiny player in the game, the big guys will be forced to change to deal with the consequences of your action.

3. If the politicians are abusing you, don’t be nice to them hoping they will reciprocate. Instead, hit them over the head with a two-by-four.

This principle, which is related to the previous one, also comes from my experience with the labor people. I heard that the Machinists union was dogging Rep. Dick Gephardt for not coming out against NAFTA. Gephardt, the House’s most powerful Democrat, was considered a staunch friend of labor; yet the unions were punishing him for not being with them on this issue. Gephardt later came around to their position and relations were again friendly between him and the unions. I realized from this situation that, as a political activist, you need not treat elected officials as if they are gods. Get “down and dirty” with them. Hit them over the head with a two-by-four if they are doing other than what you want them to do. That way, they’ll take you seriously.

If you dress up in your best suit and hope you can persuade the politician with your polite, intelligent arguments, they will size you up as a political newcomer who can be turned down without consequences. You need, instead, to show the politician that you are capable of fighting. You don’t reward the politician for doing what you recommend; you punish him if he doesn’t do it. This lesson was put to good use in later dealings with the City of Minneapolis. (Now, of course, if you have large sums of money to contribute to his reelection campaign, the “nice” approach can be effective.)

4. Don’t try to pass yourself off as the “good guy”.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.

My introduction to landlord politics came in January 1995 when I returned home to Minneapolis, after a week-long event at United Nations headquarters in New York, and learned that the city of Minneapolis was condemning my apartment building. Suddenly, my political future changed course. I had a full scale financial crisis on my hands. After a week, I learned that the neighborhood organization in my area had printed and distributed literature about a public meeting at which I would be personally denounced for my role in promoting or condoning crime in the neighborhood. I was being summoned to explain my actions. It was reminiscent of a Red Guard event in Maoist China at which I, wearing a dunce cap, would be encouraged to confess my sins as a means of getting back into the good graces of the community.

What should I do? I knew I was not promoting or condoning crime but in fact, without the help of the neighborhood or the police, trying to deal promptly with drug dealing or other such activity whenever it was brought to my activity. I also learned of conversations about various individuals intending to buy my property at a low price when I would be forced to sell. So I decided that my accusers were bums. At the meeting, I sat alone in the front row with empty seats on all sides. Forty others sat in the back.

When the City Council President addressed the group, I caught her in a lie. The manager of property across the street accused me, through my negligence, of operating a headquarters for crime. I pointed out that, after several months, she had not yet removed the painted gang graffiti from her own building. I then told the entire group that I had sent out a press release to the media announcing this meeting and another one at my home, following the meeting, which anyone who wished to hear the facts of the case was welcome to attend. Otherwise, they were a group of hypocrites who had done little to solve the neighborhood’s crime problem, I said.

This was my baptism into the fact that the city’s political culture considered me to be a “slumlord” and there was little I would do about that. Stereotypes of my particular occupation were so ingrained that it would take an unusually openminded person to listen to my side of the story, let alone agree with me. Persons who did agree with me were generally other landlords who had similar experiences. Fortunately, there was a group of such landlords who were meeting each week to discuss suing the city over alleged inspections abuse. I readily joined the group and took an active part in its affairs.

My own philosophy, which the group generally shared, was that we should support each other wholeheartedly in our common enterprise and not succumb to the temptation, being urged upon us, to evaluate or judge each other for how we ran our businesses. If the city considered us to be “slumlords”, so be it. Whatever they called us, the politicians were even worse. Numerous well-meaning persons would come to me and say: Your group could be more effective if you adopted a code of ethics, weeded out the “bad landlords”, and improved your reputation. I would consistently reject that advice. We were not a professional association professing to improve “quality” but more like a landlord union for whom an injury to one was an injury to all.” I would begin to care what the neighborhood groups and politicians thought about me if I came to feel they were fair and reasonable people. Such a nonjudgmental attitude contributed to the group’s strength.

5. To be effective, a political organization needs a core of activist members.

You can’t fight City Hall alone. If a particular landlord is accused of wrong doing by city officials, whatever he says in defense will be tainted by the suspicion that he will do anything to exculpate himself. Another landlord, not facing such an accusation, will be in a stronger position to make such arguments. The organization that I tried to create to promote shorter work hours was largely a shell organization, an extension of myself. In contrast, the landlord group, led by a former table-tennis promoter, was an organization with real members. Its leader, Charlie Disney, knew how to build and maintain such organizations. The secret, he said, was “to make thousands of phone calls”. Though unelected to his position, Disney was the acknowledged leader of the group by virtue of his personality and central role in the communication process. He was ceaselessly trying to recruit new members and bring out the various talents of members. This made all the difference.

6. Public opinion is the place to start if you want to change society.

The landlord group began as individual property owners who contributed money to hire a lawyer and sue the city of Minneapolis over inspections abuse. Its class-action suit was soon thrown out of federal court. The group then continued with a focus on publicity. First, it staged protest activities for which media coverage was sought. Second, the group videotaped its meetings and aired the tapes on cable television.

Suddenly the conversations at the monthly meetings were heard by thousands of people around town. By maintaining a consistent theme and roster of guests, the show created a drumbeat of opinion in favor of landlords. Disney, the moderator, repeated thoughts such as: “It’s people who cause crimes, not buildings” or “Why is the city tearing down structurally sound buildings when we have a shortage of affordable housing?” Such concepts, though hardly radical, contradicted what city officials were telling their constituencies. Our point of view made more sense.

We knew we were on to something when aspiring politicians sought invitations to our show. The payoff came in the 2001 city elections when candidates we favored consistently won and our main opponents lost. Intangible public opinion proved more substantial than many had supposed.

7. Successful political groups need their own communications media.

Gone are the days when fearless investigative reporters on metropolitan newspapers will delve into the wrongdoings of local government, following an objective trail of evidence leading to the truth. Today, newspaper editors and reporters have political attitudes. They play to institutional stereotypes that determine what a suitable story is. If you or your group are negatively stereotyped, your activities will be reported mainly if you make fools of yourself. Private-sector landlords with properties in poor neighborhoods are one such group. Almost by definition, they are self-interested business people taking advantage of the poor. In contrast, persons working for housing non-profits that rent to much the same clientele are considered to be idealistically serving a social need. We had some favorable publicity in the early days but, once a certain City Hall reporter was reassigned, coverage from that newspaper stopped. Our saving grace was the cable-television show and a free-circulation which one of the members published. In a much smaller way, we could still deliver our message to the public.

8. Blocking for the running back also helps to win games.

This observation applies to my short, unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Minneapolis in 2001. The plan was first that Charlie Disney run for mayor. When Charlie withdrew from the race, I became a candidate. Because of family obligations, my campaign in the mayoral primary lasted little more than a week. I printed up several thousand leaflets listing all the bad things that the incumbent administration had done and, carrying bundles of them to distribute, walked around the downtown area with a picket sign. The result of my campaign was abysmal. With 143 votes citywide, I finished twelfth among twenty-two candidates. The voting took place, incidentally, on September 11, 2001. For me and many others, of course, the day was a total disaster.

However, this election - the general election, not the primary - also brought the greatest political triumph that I have experienced. With the landlords playing an active role in the election, the incumbent mayor and seven of the thirteen City Council members were replaced. I must have come across as a simpleton with my picket sign; and my negative campaign literature would not have inspired anyone to vote for me. But I like to think that I was an energetic and effective “blocker” for the candidate who won. My purpose in running for office was not to start a new career in government but to remove those city officials who were harassing landlords. And among those officials defeated in the general election was the City Council President. She was the same person who had been at the neighborhood meeting that denounced me six years earlier.

9. Parochial victories go unnoticed. You need to swim in the pond of big politics to have a lasting impact.

The landlord group reached a peak in 2001 when the municipal elections validated our approach that favored shaping public opinion. By that time, however, Charlie Disney had suffered a heart attack and left the group. While the woman who succeeded him was also an able communicator, the landlord group gradually lost its focus. It was becoming exclusively concerned with the cable-television show featuring pleasant discussions between the moderator and various well-known guests. We needed to keep up the heat on city government.

I realized that victory in the 2001 elections meant that our group would have to change. We no longer had the ogre of the previous city administration as a negative rallying point for our members. Moreover, as the housing boom of the early 2000s brought rising prices, many property owners cashed in and got out of the business. We lost members that way. What I did not realize is that the new city administration, owing its initial election partly to us, was adopting many of the same anti-landlord policies as the old administration. No longer feared, our group had lost much of its clout. It were as if in the absence of diligent yard work, the weeds had grown back as noxiously as before. Evidently, all our organization and hard work had counted for nothing.

Since the newspapers gave us no credit for the result of the 2001 election, our landlord group became politically invisible. Only the Watchdog newspaper kept the fight alive; and that, mainly in St. Paul. My conclusion was that, without an organizer of Charlie Disney’s caliber, it would be hard to resurrect what we had once had.

Landlords as a group stood on weak political ground. Political conservatives, friendly to us as property-rights advocates, nevertheless tended to consider us beneath their dignity because ours was a low-class occupation. We took on the political coloration of our welfare tenants. Political liberals, on the other hand, tended to demonize us as a prelude to stealing our property. The stereotype of landlords was such that the public would not sympathize with our plight. Our unglamorous situation was not worthy of anyone’s attention.

My conclusion was that we needed to take our election victory to the next level. The landlord group would gain solid respect if its organization became a model for other political groups. We had shown what we could do. Unfortunately, we were the only ones that realized this. Now it was time to open up the process to political groups in general.

I thought of starting a new organization called Orange Party. I printed up flyers for this “party” and spent an entire day passing them out at the Republican state convention at the Xcel center in St. Paul in June 2002. The idea was that we would create an organization like that of the landlords which any group could use to promote its cause. Alas, the concept was confusing. The term “orange party” had unhelpful connotations of the political conflict in Ireland.

Gold Party is the direct successor to this idea; but it, too, has sat for some time awaiting a favorable moment to be introduced. Gold Party would have some of the landlord group’s political DNA combined with its own element of weighted voting. We inner-city landlords would finally get some respect as the progenitor of a political movement with limitless potential.

10. Don’t worry that your message will offend someone when you’re the little guy.

So, I had received only 143 votes in my campaign for mayor - Why not run soon for another office? The opportunity presented itself at the 2002 Independence Party convention held in St. Cloud, Minnesota. At the convention, I listened to candidates positioning the party as “neither left nor right but in the middle.” “Socially liberal, financially conservative” was another formulation. This kind of talk came across as mush. It seemed to me that the Independence Party of Minnesota - a party which then had a sitting governor - was not staking a position that distinguished itself sufficiently from the Democrats or Republicans. Who but political junkies would care whether a candidate was “in the middle”? What does that offer the average Jane or Joe? I thought I could do better. The Independence Party had to take chances, not be a pale imitation of the two major parties.

For a confidence builder, I had experience organizing events and sending out press releases for activities of the landlord group. The mechanics of communication I thought I could handle. As a landlord group, one of our strengths lay in the fact that people knew exactly where we stood, even if many disagreed with our position. I would do the same for electoral politics. To distinguish myself from the Democratic and Republican candidates, I would first determine what those two parties stood for and then pick the opposite position.

By my reckoning, big business was the core constituency of the Republicans. Organized labor was their enemy. I therefore would support one of labor’s main objectives in the early days: reduced work time. My campaign platform included this plank: “I believe that the Federal Government should reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010.” Conversely, I determined that the Democrats’ core constituency was the Civil Rights coalition. Blacks struggling against segregationist society in the south were the original constituency but then came women struggling for equality with men, gays and lesbians, native Americans, immigrants, etc.. I would therefore support the demographic group stereotypically in the residual, majority population: white males. My campaign plank read: “I believe in the full citizenship, dignity and equality of white males (and of everyone else, too.” I had a picket sign made with those two slogans inscribed on opposite sides.

Recognizing that voters don’t respect poverty-stricken candidates who walk around town with picket signs, I limited use of my sign to campaign photographs. I had myself photographed with the sign in various interesting places - on Nicollet mall in downtown Minneapolis, inside the State Capitol building in St. Paul, and (my favorite) in front of the wooden statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji - displaying the slogan on one or the other side on this sign. Then I systematically visited newspaper offices around the state, dropping off these photographs and campaign literature and talking with editors or reporters whenever possible. After a six week primary campaign, the election results were announced. I had finished second to the party-endorsed candidate with 8,482 votes or 31% of the total. There was also a third candidate who received 19% of the vote.

I was pleased with this result not only because of the dramatic improvement from my showing in the Minneapolis mayoral primary a year earlier but also because I had demonstrated that ridiculous campaign positions need not be a deterrent to attracting votes. The plank which called for a 32-hour workweek in eight years - a goal which even organized labor has abandoned - marked me as someone way out in left field, hopelessly idealistic if not delusional. My support of “dignity for white males” was even worse. This marked me as an overt or closet white racist with misogynistic inclinations who, given the opportunity, might lynch someone. But the IP voters evidently didn’t care. I was offending the media gatekeepers, not them. My general conclusion was that people will respect you, whatever your views, so long as you are open, forthright, and reasonably cheerful in expressing them.

11. Big media are an enemy. Small media are your friend.

Success in electoral politics depends on connecting with the voters. It depends upon communicating with them in ways that will create a positive image. To campaign in a state with 5 million residents requires either a long campaign with many personal appearances or a short one that receives coverage in the media. I was a self-financed candidate with no campaign organization who had less than two months to campaign. The most effective use of my time, therefore, was to visit as many newspaper offices as possible. I was also in one debate and on Minnesota Public Radio’s hour-long interview show with the “minor” candidates for U.S. Senate.

While the state’s second largest newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, had balanced coverage of the Independence Party (and Green Party) primary for U.S. Senate, the largest newspaper, the Star Tribune, did not. It ran a front-page story on the primary mentioning only the party-endorsed candidate. Readers would not have known that the primary was contested. And this was all that the Minneapolis paper chose to report for the duration of the campaign. I began to realize something was amiss when the Star Tribune refused my paid advertisement because it contained the words “dignity for white males”. This explained the situation. I was considered a white racist and, by golly, that socially upright newspaper which safeguarded respectable political opinion in the city of Minneapolis would not let my views see the light of day.

I came to generalize about big and little newspapers. The big newspapers (or television networks) are too full of themselves. Having real power to control political discussion, they relish the gatekeeper function. They know they can make or break candidates and occasionally do it, especially when provoked. Little newspapers, on the other hand, are located in the political hinterland where people still believe in democracy. The idea that any citizen can run for any political office in a fair and open election appeals to these small-town people. Therefore, when a candidate such as me, having little chance of election, comes to town, the editors of newspapers in those towns do not sneer. They appreciate the fact that you made the effort to drive out to their out-of-the-way community. Your political visit is a kind of “news” item. The fact that you would make this effort shows that you were working hard on the campaign, not just sitting back waiting for the election results to be announced.

In summary, unlike the big-city media Brahmin, these small-town newspaper editors and I were partners in the quadrennial exercise of a democratic election for public office. We retained an old-fashioned belief in the country’s political institutions. My favorite kind of political experience, then, is to drive around a state such as Minnesota seeing new sights and talking to people in the newspaper offices. My shoe-string campaigns are all run on that principle. You have to go out into the country to appreciate what American elections are about.

12. Internet communication doesn’t translate into an effective campaign.

I lost the Independence Party primary but was encouraged by the results. The party would have no further statewide elections in four years. Meanwhile, there was a presidential race scheduled for 2004. President Bush would surely be renominated by the Republicans. The Democrats, however, had a wide-open contest. My decision, then, in June 2003, was to announce that I would be a candidate for President of the United States, running in the Democratic primaries. With my Independence Party background, I would be an “outsider” offering a critique of the Democratic party (as if anyone really wanted that from me).

A lesson from that experience was that you have to be physically present to gain any traction in a campaign. On my very first day, I hung around the Radisson Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul where the state chairs of the Democratic Party were meeting to hear from the presidential candidates. While I was not an invited guest, I did have the opportunity to meet Alexandra Pelosi, a documentary maker for HBO, and, through her, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, Sen. Art Torres. I also talked with a future U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, and other interesting people. But then the campaign went into a seven-month slump. Two trips to Iowa amounted to nothing. Mainly I was writing issues statements and sending them to media people and others around the country who I thought might work some of this material into their own activities.

My first message, titled “A Challenge to My Opponents”, argued that loss of U.S. jobs was the main issue in the presidential campaign and that, while my opponents had little idea of how to solve the problem, I did. It was mailed to several large newspapers on August 21, 2003. A series of other writings followed. Some were sent by mail, and some by fax, but the greater part of my communications went out by email. (Technologically challenged, it took me awhile to figure out how to send email messages efficiently to the hundreds of people on my list.) I sent out messages on jobs, U.S. trade policy in Iraq, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election in California, the “lump-of-labor fallacy”, the race question (after Howard Dean was criticized for a race-tinged statement), the Kennedy assassination, and, attempting to inject off-the-wall humor into my campaign, a claim that I was the most “clairvoyant” candidate in the race for President based on the fact that a web site I had created was then #2 on Google for the search words “predict the future”.

The response was deafening silence. With each new communication, I received a few more requests from journalists to take their names off my email list. My only “success” in this phase involved a radio station, KSOO-AM, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The producer of an afternoon interview show called “Viewpoint University”, who had once lived in Minneapolis, called to invite me to participate on the program. In fact, I was twice a guest on that show.

Otherwise, with one other exception, my attempts to attract media attention to the campaign drew a blank. (That exception was the editor of the online version of a Pittsburgh newspaper who called me “a goof with too much money and time to waste” because I was running for President. For months, his diatribe headed the Google listing under my name.) From late August through the end of December, this consistently futile barrage of messages continued as I sat creatively and hopefully in front of a computer screen. Finally, it was time to file for the primaries and begin the campaign proper. I picked a cute title, “campaign sitting at a red light”, to signal to my vast but unresponsive email audience that the “light” was about to change and I would soon be on the campaign trail.

I filed both in the South Carolina and the Louisiana primaries. My South Carolina filing drew an immediate, sharp response when I learned that the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terence R. McAuliffe, had stricken my name from that state’s primary ballot because he did not consider me to be a good Democrat. Well, at least he was taking my candidacy seriously.

Then, in early February, I went to Louisiana where state election laws did not permit such interference by party officials. There I waged a five-week campaign, traveling around the state to newspaper offices or radio stations, much as I had done two years earlier in Minnesota. My sole campaign issue was to support what I called “employer-specific tariffs” to control job loss to outsourcing. John Kerry locked up the Democratic nomination a week before the date of the Louisiana primary. But the primary election was still held and I finished fifth among seven candidates with 3,161 votes or 2% of the total. Even though I had expected somewhat better results, it was a good experience.

13. Not everyone shares your interest in politics. You need to find an appropriate time and place to do your campaigning or the effort may be counterproductive.

This insight came to me when my campaign schedule collided with Mardi Gras season. Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”, which is the last day of the carnival period, came on February 24, 2004, which was two weeks before the Democratic presidential primary. On one hand, I welcomed this event because it would give me the opportunity to wear my large purple Mexican hat without looking so ridiculous. On the other hand, the crowds gathered for Mardi Gras parades are interested in catching beads, not being approached by presidential candidates with little chance of winning.

That was the problem. I thought I might interest the New Orleans media in my appearances at Mardi Gras parades. The Times-Picayune newspaper may or may not have informed its reporters that I would be available for an on-the-spot interview. However, when I called a television station, a manager sternly informed me that Mardi Gras was “a family event” and not for campaigning. He further berated me for mispronouncing “Metairie”, a suburban section of New Orleans near Lake Pontchartrain. I had better luck in Lafayette where a television crew did actually catch up with me along the parade route and in Lake Charles where I talked with several interested persons in a parking lot before the evening “boat” parade.

However, the idea of horning in on someone else’s event made me uncomfortable. It was like trying to sell life insurance at a wake or wedding reception. Politicians need to present themselves as more than unscrupulous hucksters who will exploit any opportunity to pursue votes. This realization made me appreciate all the time those events or occasions where it is acceptable to do political campaigning: at state and county fairs, at meetings of politically interested organizations, at official “candidate debates”, at fund raisers organized by campaign supporters, etc. A solitary candidate such as I was at a disadvantage in that respect. Some events require invitations while others, as I learned in the Independence Party primary, give access only to the party-endorsed candidates. The party’s State Fair booth is an example.

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