What I really hope to accomplish in this campaign
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I am such a foolish person running for President of the United States when I am a political unknown who has never held public office. Right?
Do I really think I can be elected President in 2016? No. Do I even think I could get any delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia? The odds are better here though still unimpressive. Why, then, am I running? Am I a goof off or someone with delusions of living in the White House? Am I a freak? I hope not. Let me explain.
Contrary to the pretense of my running for President of the United States, I do not expect to be elected or even receive many votes at the Democratic National Convention. I am running because I want to inject certain issues into the political discussion. I want to make a proposal which no other candidate for President will touch. I want to challenge paradigms with respect to gender and race. I am willing to risk becoming seen as a fool to accomplish those things.
What makes me think I can accomplish anything in this difficult arena? First, I’ve been there before. I did not win but I was not skunked. This time, I’ll be spending more time and money running a campaign which I am competent to run. Being seventy-four years of age, I do not run to promote myself or future candidacies for public office but to promote issues that affect everyone. (See “second time’s the charm.") I expect my present candidacy to benefit both the Democratic Party and the nation. It will also be a meaningful activity for me.
There are things more effective than being elected President or a government official in any capacity. We need to fix the broken political system. We need to fix our broken economy with respect to jobs. Many people wonder if it makes any difference whether a Republican or Democrat is elected. There’s not “a dime’s worth of difference” between the two parties, someone once said. It doesn't matter who is elected; things stay the same. The political system is bereft of new ideas.
If I were elected President, I could not do what needs to be done without Congressional support. And in our gridlocked government, it is unlikely that I would receive that support. The special interests are so entrenched and the influence of money so great that, even vested with immense political power, it would be hard for me as an elected official to accomplish much of anything. The important thing is to change policy, not elect candidates who promise to do it but do not deliver.
I tell you this: If my campaign goes well in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, I can accomplish some of the things that are needed. I can raise issues which, once raised, will not go away. I can engage in personal demonstrations that may inspire others to do likewise. This will change politics even more than if I were elected to public office. Political power does rest with the people.
Let’s talk about “gatekeepers” - you know: the political pundits, producers of news shows, editorial writers, academic experts, party officials, and others who control the political discussion. They will not let certain topics be discussed or, at least, be discussed in certain ways. Race is one of those topics. Cutting the workweek is another. I intend to raise both those issues in currently unacceptable ways. The gatekeepers cannot stop me. I will travel around the state of New Hampshire talking to small-media people and people on the street expressing concerns which may be on people’s minds but which they are not allowed to articulate. If my campaign gains traction, the political universe will be changed.
Why am I running for public office? Could I not do what I am planning to do in the primary campaign without running for office? Yes, I could, but there would be no score card. There would be no fact indicating the degree to which I had succeeded or failed in advancng my proposals. The number of votes that I receive in the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primary will be a scorecard suggesting how strongly New Hampshire voters agree with my positions. And once the “score” is posted in the election records, the spinmeisters who control the political discussion will have to deal with that fact. I will have concrete evidence of voter sentiment with respect to the issues raised. The voters, not pundits, are the ultimate authority in politics. I hope to win their support.
I saw this happen once before. A bunch of Minneapolis landlords got together to challenge the city’s inspections practices. We first filed a lawsuit but that was thrown out of court. Then we agitated for change. We held monthly meetings that were shown on cable television. We testified at public meetings. We picketed police stations and city hall. We had a free-circulation newspaper. The upshot was that in the 2001 municipal elections, all but one of those mayoral or city council officials that we opposed were defeated while all those that we supported were reelected. That was the scorecard. Pariahs though we were in the city’s political culture for having rental properties in poor neighborhoods ("slumlords"), we rallied the people to support our point of view. Once the voters had spoken, no one could take that away.
Admittedly, I may fall flat on my face in this campaign. There are no guarantees in life. But there is also no upper limit. At this point, I do not know which it will be - success or failure or something in between? But you never achieve anything in life without trying.
Here is what happened in my 2004 campaign for President in Louisiana’s Democratic presidential primary: Then, as now, I was running in a single state’s primary. I knew I would not be elected President. But I also knew that the spotlight of national political attention would be upon the contest for the Democratic nomination for President.
Each week I watched CNN report the primary results from various states. I lived for the day when it would be reporting the results of the Louisiana primary. Wolf Blitzer would ask: “Bill McGaughey? Who is that?” Then someone would pass Blitzer a note explaining that I was a man from Minnesota who was campaigning against free trade. My name would mean little but it would start to register with media people and CNN viewers that someone out there was concerned with trade issues and was against free trade and maybe this sort of thing ought to be taken seriously. For me, it was worth spending five weeks of my life and $5,000 of my personal wealth to create that glimmer of awareness among the millions of Americans tuned to the CNN program as well as other media.
Regrettably, this did not happen. Why not? “Super Tuesday” came the week before the Louisiana primary, and on that day John Kerry cinched the Democratic nomination. Therefore, as I sat watching the election returns with a reporter in Alexandria, CNN was not covering the Louisiana primary returns at all. Instead, Kerry was shown giving a speech in another state. Had I not been kicked off the ballot in South Carolina at the express command of the DNC chair, I might have run a moderately successful primary campaign in that state and my vote total been among the campaign returns reported on CNN. I was counting on a 1-2 punch: a credible result in South Carolina followed by an even more impressive one in Louisiana once my credibility had previously been established. But it did not happen. There are no guarantees in life. Even so, the 2004 presidential race was a positive experience for me.
I enjoyed campaigning. Even though it required personal discipline and at times caused anxiety, the life of a solo campaigner has its rewards. I had the opportunity to drive around a beautiful state before Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans and talk with newspaper editors about things of local and national interest, taking time out for the Mardi Gras parades. Yes, there must have been people who regarded me as a fool in running for President but, on the whole, most newspaper reporters understood what I was doing and why. We were co-participants in that great political experiment called American democracy.
Now I will be traveling through another state, New Hampshire, the granite state, which like my own state of Minnesota is in the far north of the country. Campaigning in the dead of winter may be a challenge but I can handle this if my car keeps running. My brother, Andy, graduated from Exeter in 1960. He and I went to China in 1987 with a group of Exeter alumni who included the former U.S. ambassador to China, James Lillie, and his wife. Another brother, David, graduated from Putney school in Vermont, just across the state line. They are both deceased. A sister, Margaret, lives in Brunswick, Maine. Although I attended college in Connecticut, I have not spent much time in New England lately but hope to become reacquainted. Honestly, this will be my first time visiting most New Hampshire cities and towns.
The New Hampshire primary is an American institution. In 1968, it made the political reputation of Senator Eugene McCarthy, who became my friend later in life; while, in the same year, poor polling results from New Hampshire derailed the presidential campaign of my father’s friend and business colleague, George Romney, who had previously been a front runner in the Republican contest for President. For me, it is the be all and end all of my belated career as a politician.
After I fail to win the Democratic nomination, I plan to publish a book in the field of big history titled History of the Triple Existence. (See bighistorysite.com.) This publishing activity, too, I have done before, with mixed results. I will also be helping my new wife raise a toddler, her grandson, Dale, who is half Ojibway and the other half, African American and Italian.
I think owe an explanation of this “white man’s walk” that I am planning to stage during the primary campaign. Yes, it is about white dignity and pride but it is not about opposition to other racial groups. It is not about claims of supremacy. Some Democrats and Republicans may not be happy with my raising this issue but walking and talking is good medicine to take in this age of increasing racial divide. I do feel that a political stigma is attached to the white race in America and this is my way of dealing with it. For a more extensive discussion, see “about the politics of gender and race”.
To summarize: I am running for President in the New Hampshire primary mainly to focus attention on the four-day, thirty-two hour workweek as a means of creating new jobs and improving people’s lives. I would be delighted if some of the other candidates also began discussing this. At some point, American policymakers will be forced to deal more realistically with the challenge of automated production, but it would be well for this to happen sooner rather than later.
I am also running to help cure the spiritual sickness that has resulted from America’s majority population - white people - having their racial identity denigrated and repressed to the extent that it is. This serves no one’s interest except for an exploitative elite. The beauty of this issue is that I do not have to beg government to give my positive identity back. I can claim it myself by refusing to be intimidated. Success, in this instance, comes when others join me on this “walk” and we enjoy each other’s company.
Why I am I running for President? Look, in this arteriosclerotic politics of ours, sometimes the issues or proposals that our nation most needs are blocked by insurmountable taboos. I have chosen two of the worst on which to base my campaign. I have nothing to lose by breaking with the conventional wisdom. The "major" candidates do.
Do you think that "Dancing with the Stars"- like candidate debates are the best way to pick a President? Then you will not have an opportunity to become acquainted with me or my views. But if we should happen to meet on the street or in cafes or other places, then we can discuss some of these topics that the debate moderators will never mention. I don't have to win the Presidency to contribute to the process of political redemption.
In that spirit, I look forward to walking the sidewalks of New Hampshire cities and towns in my star-spangled suspenders during the primary season.
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See my report on the 2016 campaign for President in the New Hampshire primary