Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Politics of Politics

One of the effects of the 2008 elections, the bailouts, the stimulus, Obamacare, etc., has been the rise of n00bs in political activism.

For the non-gamer crowd, “n00b” is originally the term for a person who is a novice in a particular video game. Actually, the word is “newb,” (i.e. “newbie” or new guy) when used to refer to a new person trying to learn the ropes. But if the newb becomes cocky, inhibits other gamer's playing or is generally annoying, the spelling changes and becomes “n00b.”

Recently, the Republican Party has been flooded with both newbs and n00bs. The newbs have donated to candidates, gone to TEA parties, shown up to hand out flyers, knock doors or run phone banks. The newbs show up and want to help and learn and work together to achieve our common Conservative goals. It is a beautiful thing and something specially American.

However, with newbs come n00bs. These are the ones who have never been to a precinct meeting, never volunteered on a campaign (maybe wore a t-shirt for their 2008 presidential candidate of choice), just started watching Glenn Beck, and have, until recently, been apathetic – or at least inactive – regarding the political workings of our country. And then suddenly, without any real experience in the mechanics of elections, have decided to run for office.

Fresh ideas and new blood are good. We need them, not just now, but all the time.

The problem is that with politics, as with anything, there is a learning curve. And when it comes to the politics of politics, there is a very steep learning curve.

Very few n00bs who run for office come away uncorrupted. Either they lose (or, more accurately, are crushed in) their race and become disillusioned, bitter and withdraw – or else they win, and once in office, are so inexperienced with the behind-the-doors dealings they wind up makings deals with devils they didn’t even know existed.

Campaign Managers

One example is the political consulting machine (or “racket,” as I prefer to call it). It’s common practice for a new political aspirer to either be found by or referred to a political consultant or campaign manager. And for n00bs, this is like manna from heaven. After all, the n00b has never run a campaign before, or really even worked in one. So why not rely on someone with years of experience of successful campaign organizing?

The problem is that campaign managers are rarely there out of principles’ sake. They don’t want to run your campaign because they believe in your cause (at least the seasoned ones). They want to run your campaign so they can take your money. They tend to prey on the inexperienced and suck campaign funds that could be better used elsewhere than paying somebody's consulting fees. Frankly, I have no respect for those of this profession on the local and state level.

Now, I’m all for capitalism. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that they should be making a living getting politicians elected. Here’s an example: right now in Oklahoma we are in primary campaign season. We have a couple of people running for governor on either side of the ticket. I know of a campaign manager/consultant who is managing the campaigns of both a Republican gubernatorial candidate and a Democrat gubernatorial candidate. This, to me, is not ethical. But it sure is profitable.

Of course, it goes without saying that you can win an election without a paid campaign manager, at least on the local and state levels. Do you need organization, advisors, all that jazz? Sure, but instead of going to former elected officials or grassroots activists and asking for help, n00bs set the dangerous precedent of hiring these scam artists – and once you hire them, you can never get rid of them, or guess what? They will run the campaign of your next opponent.

Candidate Recruiting

Another common local practice is the recruiting of n00bs to be candidates in local races. Consider this situation (played out often in reality but this is a composite of several I know of): a team of corporate welfare recipients and disgraced former elected officials (outed for illegal activity) launch an effort to recruit a n00b to run against the elected official who most openly opposed them, and more often than not, defeated their corporate welfare schemes or else gathered the information exposing their illegal activities. After asking almost 30 people, they finally find a n00b ambitious enough to run without asking many questions – you know, like “was I your first choice, what makes you think I want to run, and who all is involved here?”

Before being contacted, the idea of running for that particular office had never entered his mind. But suddenly he is being told he is perfect for this job and needs to run – and guess what, we’ll run your campaign and finance it and everything! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Thankfully, this plan doesn't always work. But the n00b is a sad tool in their political vendetta, and now has alliances he may never be able (or see the need) to rid himself of.

Procedural Ignorance

The last issue with n00b candidates is the high level of naïveté among elected n00bs. There’s a difference, obviously, between a n00b on the school board and a n00b on Capital Hill. You can get a n00b on a school board or city council, and it can be a good proving ground. But n00bs never go for school board. Why would they? That’s small potatoes.

Within local Republican infrastructure there are all sorts of people who have gotten elected and stay elected, particularly to state legislative office, by forming evil alliances with those across the aisle that they rail against during the campaign.

A n00b goes in with his two or three goals for that legislative session and the wolves descend. Suddenly the n00b finds that people he never thought agreed with his goals do, and want to help him succeed in those goals, all he has to do is vote ‘Y’ on a couple of bills they are co-authoring – or else he finds himself inundated with crying mothers wanting him to “protect” their families by increasing government intrusion in their lives (i.e. pet breed legislation), and after all, he’s there to serve his constituents, and he begins the slippery slope of appeasement and backdoor dealings that are the demise, if not of political careers, of Conservative values.

Now, these are all addressed on the microcosmic level of state and local elections. However, this is creeping into the federal level, too, which to me seems even more dangerous. In Oklahoma, we have an unprecedented number of both newbs and n00bs running for federal office (I’ll leave it to you to form your opinion of which is which) and while I appreciate the enthusiasm, I am deeply concerned with the preparedness of a number of said candidates.

I am in no way postulating that only “certain” people should be “allowed” to run for office. But the level of inexperience and ignorance of the politics of politics among today’s n00bs can be destructive, not just to our larger conservative principles, but to that individual n00b himself

. So what’s the answer?

The solution is this: Channel your newfound political conscience into learning the process. Know who the players are - on both sides of the aisle. Learn that not everyone who wants to help you really wants to help you. And the only way this happens is by being involved BEFORE running for office yourself. Get over that initial learning curve of process, procedure and personalities. And dive in head-first, because we need all the newbs we can get.

**the identities of all candidates in the above examples have been deliberately withheld. I have no documentation of the situations described, only my personal eyewitness account.