Each campaign season brings a new crop of candidates who pump fresh blood into the body politic. Good thing, too: The body politic could use a transfusion, or at least iron supplements.
Most years, some newbies call for advice, which Spin Control is prohibited by the newspaper’s owner, long-standing journalism policies and several admonitions in the Bible from providing. As we did at the start of last year’s campaign season, however, we will offer our eight “rules to live by” for candidates and campaigns.
1. No whining. We will congratulate winners and console losers, but we will brook no whining, especially on things that are “part of the deal,” like filing paperwork online if that’s required. No lame excuses like not being good with computers. Come into the 21st century or find a 12-year-old with a laptop.
2. Keep track of the money people give you. If you can’t add or subtract, hire an accountant or bookkeeper who can. Come to think of it, if you can’t add or subtract, what are you doing running for office? Double-check your work because your opponent will be all too happy to rat you out if you don’t file properly or on time. When that happens, see No. 1.
3. Have something to say. People who announce a campaign claiming they’re running because so many people encouraged them aren’t taking ownership for their first political decision, so why should anyone trust them with a second? When asked what they plan to do about taxes or budget deficits or highways or health care or crime or anything voters will want them to handle if elected, they try to stall with “That’s something I’m studying really closely, and expect to discuss soon.” If you do that and no one bothers to check back, see No. 1.
4. Know something about the job. Candidates occasionally run for City Council by offering great ideas to improve schools, or for the Legislature on a platform of ending the war. Cities in Washington don’t run schools, and the Legislature ain’t Congress. If you’re passionate about an issue decided in another arena, run for that office.
5. Don’t say “I’m not a politician” followed by some variation of “I’m just a good person who just wants to give back by doing good things for the good people of this great community.” By running, you are, de facto, a politician; don’t act like the term is synonymous with terrorist or child molester.
6. NFUOASND. This is an old axiom in journalism, which roughly stands for “never foul up on a slow news day.” It recognizes that a mistake made on the day terrorists fly planes into the Twin Towers gets less notice than on a day when editors have nothing to put on the front page. How do you know it will be a slow news day? You don’t; to be safe, don’t mess up.
7. When you do mess up, ’fess up. Since everyone makes a mistake sometime, admit yours and take your lumps. You look foolish – and prolong the story – by insisting you did nothing wrong and everybody is out to get you so they’ve lost your paperwork, blocked your lawsuit or forged records in an elaborate conspiracy. (See No. 1.)
8. It’s called public office because there’s not much privacy. You want the public to hire you for a job; like most bosses, the public wants to know about you before giving you the job, and check up on you afterward. If you don’t want to file financial disclosure forms that explain how you make your money, don’t like phone calls late at night or early in the morning, don’t want your divorce records combed through by an opponent, or in general don’t like people, that’s understandable. Just don’t run for office.
If you do, and you run into problems – which you will – see No. 1.