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Help a Reader Run for Office

Jordan Genso is a longtime Dispatches reader from here in Michigan who is now running for the state legislature, and he’s asking for help in building his platform. Because he has little chance of winning, he has the opportunity to say all the things we wish politicians would say. So what would we like him to say? He’s already told me that part of his platform will be mandatory cameras on all police uniforms. What else would you like to see in there? Leave suggestions in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    He’s already told me that part of his platform will be mandatory cameras on all police uniforms.”

    Make ‘em Kodac Instant Cameras. That way, when I get arrested I can see the look on my face.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    A major mass transit initiative – with the vehicles made in Detroit, Flint, Dearborn, etc.

    Lots and lots of support for public schools, and an end to voucher programs.

    Extensive training in first aid & public health for all National Guard members.

    Feed the hungry, house the homeless.

  3. rpjohnston says

    Take opponents to task for everything they say and do. call liars liars and hypocrites hypocrites and evil evil.

    Firm stance in favor of full gay rights – gay marriage, antihate laws, antibullying laws, etc.

    Same for trans* rights.

    No equivocation on abortion: Full and unfettered access. No waffling, about rape and incest exceptions or late term abortions. There was an excellent piece I read awhile – it might have been by Libby Ann, I just got off of work and am too tired to look it up, sorry – on late term abortions: basically no woman carries a watermelon in her belly for 8 months of back pains, morning sickness, worry and caution and planning all sorts of other hell and then decides to discard it at the last hour. Late term abortions rip away a wanted child that is unviable or threatens the life of the mother and those who demonize the woman who has one is stomping on her face for losing a child she almost had in her arms. EVIL.

    Full access to birth control. Covered by health insurance. I don’t particularly care if he supports Obamacare (apart from pointing out that it’s the Republicare that party proposed as an alternative to the Democratic plan to actually attempt to do something back in the mid 2000′s or whenever). Support for a public option or even real socialized healthcare would be a plus.

    I’d like to add something about gun control but aside from existential griping about the gun culture I haven’t followed that enough to be aware of any specific arguments or options =/

    Full support for evidence-based education, including comprehensive sex ed.

    Include somewhere in there something about the fact that no, nobody, not even the very richest people, personally built the 100 years of modern infrasctructure, 500 years of national infrastructure, or 10000 years of civilization that gave them the opportunity to do whatever undoubtedly GENIOUS thing they did to become rich, and they’d damn well better pay back into the system and not be moochers.

    Any policies that help close the pay gap between men and women, and the gap in female STEM professionals, or really any and all other aspects that depress the role and representation of women.

    If he misspeaks, correct himself. If he makes claim proven to be false, apologize. If he offends someone, look them right in the eye and say DAMN RIGHT I JUST SAID THAT.

    In other words: be a radical leftist liberal and properly OWN it.

    Well, that’s my wish list so far. if i think of anything else I might post again.

  4. Bicarbonate says

    I think something needs to be said about demanding accurate reporting from news agencies. I don’t know what form it might take, don’t know if legislation should or could be involved. But it seems that outright reporting of lies and falsehoods should be sanctioned somehow.

    Also, news agencies should somehow be required to check on the accuracy of politicians’ statements.

    As these things would seem to me to be the least common denominator in reporting of any kind, I’m not sure how it should be approached.

    I second these propositions: rpjohnston @ #4

    Take opponents to task for everything they say and do. Call liars liars and hypocrites hypocrites and evil evil.

    and Pierce @#3

    A major mass transit initiative – with the vehicles made in Detroit, Flint, Dearborn, etc.

    But most of all, a return to the redistributive taxes that gave us the post-war middle class. And Krugman style economic analyses.

  5. tfkreference says

    Be clear about how progressive ideals are American ideals. The right has coopted the term patriot; show the constituency that you are patriotic.

  6. ednaz says

    He’s already told me that part of his platform will be mandatory cameras on all police uniforms.

    My Husband and I immediately liked this.
    I said the cameras would have to be run by a group that was NOT the police. My Husband said they would have to live stream it.

    If only this could really happen.

    Our best to Mr. Genso. Here’s to a secular government.

  7. ednaz says

    Please delete the last sentence of my comment. The subject of secular government is not part of the article. Thanks.

  8. mck9 says

    Concentrate on the issues you’re most familiar with. Don’t spread yourself thin by trying to promote a long list of progressive causes.

    Given that you’re not likely actually to win (per Ed), your candidacy is meaningful mostly as way to shift the terms of the debate, and maybe move the Overton window. You can do that only where you can offer a coherent, well-informed, articulate argument, fluently and compellingly.

    If you let yourself get pulled into an issue where you can do little more than mumble, stumble, and grumble, you’ll look foolish, and undermine yourself on the other issues as well.

    For example: suppose that you instinctively favor gun control, but you haven’t really paid a lot of attention to the issues in detail. Then don’t bring it up. Not that gun control isn’t an important issue — it certainly is. But once you bring it up, you need to be ready to respond to what the other side will say (and they will say a lot).

    If somebody else raises the issue, then demur. Don’t be evasive. Just say that you’re not prepared at the moment to discuss the issue with the kind of care that it deserves. Later you can bone up on it, or consult with some friends, and issue a position paper or blog entry.

    You’ve already brought up the police camera idea. On your blog you’ve also addressed voter suppression laws. Good start. Ed’s readers may suggest a long list of other worthy causes, but we can’t tell you which ones you’re most fit to champion. Pick your battles.

  9. uncephalized says

    My top priorities:

    -A citizen’s income. Basically non-means tested welfare for everyone, funded by highly progressive income taxes and/or a land value tax and/or natural resource revenues (Alaska does this with the revenues from oil drilling licenses). Eventually I would like to see this done on a fed level–and expanded to the point where everyone gets enough to buy the basics of food, clothing, shelter and healthcare–but the states are a good place to start. Check out citizensincome.org if you’re unfamiliar with the concept and its rationales.

    -Pass equal marriage legislation.

    -Legalize marijuana for use by any adult and decriminalize all drug use. Drugs that cause real problems like meth should be treated as public health issues, not criminal offenses.

    -Laws explicitly forbidding the kind of voter caging/suppression tactics currently in heavy use by the GOTP (Grand Old Tea Party). Not sure how to best protect against future tactics but that’s a problem for the lawyers and scholars.

    -Law requiring that all district lines be determined by the shortest split line method (http://rangevoting.org/GerryExec.html) to eliminate gerrymandering.

    -Expand public transport and bicycle infrastructure. Invest in elementary and high school education. Invest in experimental schooling methods. Invest in renewable energy and sustainability technologies. Think about the future needs of the future constituents of your district and of the country, not just about what the powerful interests want today. In other words, be an actual leader.

    -Tax the rich to feed the poor (this goes with my first point, but it bears repeating). And don’t apologize for it. How we have wandered so far from this basic truth of social justice really speaks volumes about how hijacked by assholes our public discourse has become.

    I’m sure there are more, but that’s what springs to mind right now. Best of luck!

  10. Olav says

    I feel that it is a bit upside-down if someone is running for an election but has to ask others what positions he/she should take. That’s not someone I would ever vote for. So my advice would be: be authentic and promote your own ideas.

    RPJohnston #4:

    In other words: be a radical leftist liberal and properly OWN it.

    If he were a radical leftist he wouldn’t be in the Democratic party, would he?

    Then again I’m not American let alone Michiganese (or how do you call an inhabitant there?) so what do I know. So perhaps the Democrats do have a left wing there. That would be interesting.

  11. Pteryxx says

    Bicarbonate #5:

    I think something needs to be said about demanding accurate reporting from news agencies. I don’t know what form it might take, don’t know if legislation should or could be involved. But it seems that outright reporting of lies and falsehoods should be sanctioned somehow.

    Also, news agencies should somehow be required to check on the accuracy of politicians’ statements.

    As these things would seem to me to be the least common denominator in reporting of any kind, I’m not sure how it should be approached.

    Maybe something like this?

    Everything you need to know about the Fairness Doctrine

    What it was: The Fairness Doctrine, as initially laid out in the report, ”In the Matter of Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees,” required that TV and radio stations holding FCC-issued broadcast licenses to (a) devote some of their programming to controversial issues of public importance and (b) allow the airing of opposing views on those issues. This meant that programs on politics were required to include opposing opinions on the topic under discussion. Broadcasters had an active duty to determine the spectrum of views on a given issue and include those people best suited to representing those views in their programming.

    Additionally, the rule mandated that broadcasters alert anyone subject to a personal attack in their programming and give them a chance to respond, and required any broadcasters who endorse political candidates to invite other candidates to respond. However, the Fairness Doctrine is different from the Equal Time rule, which is still in force and requires equal time be given to legally qualified political candidates.

    see also discussion at Shakesville of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine from 2009. Spoiler: It didn’t happen.

  12. markr1957 says

    I would like to see a greater push to declare that only living breathing humans can be people, and that the Constitution, Bill of Rights and various Amendments apply only to living breathing human people. Revert to the Founding Fathers’ attitudes and opinions of corporations – they exist only to serve the community they exist in, they cannot own property, they may not make a profit and they cease to exist 20 years or less from the instant of incorporation.

  13. Olav says

    Modusoperandi #12:

    “Mishegas”.

    LOL, good one.

    I looked it up (on Wikipedia of course) and I learnt that:

    A person from Michigan is called a Michigander or Michiganian;[51] also at times, but rarely, a “Michiganite”.[52] Residents of the Upper Peninsula are sometimes referred to as “Yoopers” (a phonetic pronunciation of “U.P.ers”), and Upper Peninsula residents sometimes refer to those from the Lower Peninsula as “trolls” because they live below the bridge.[53]

    The trolls under the bridge thing is also quite funny. Does that include Ed?

  14. matty1 says

    @14 “corporations…exist only to serve the community they exist in, they cannot own property, they may not make a profit”

    I’m sympathetic but what would happen to
    1. the existing property where a corporation is a registered owner?
    2. The natural persons who currently receive an income from corporate profits as shareholders (not all of them rich by the way)?

  15. Michael Heath says

    Jordan,

    Maximum economic growth as a top platform priority, especially over less important fiscal and monetary matters, e.g., debt, spending.

    More important than what your platform is, you should attempt to win. That of course would require your getting noticed in a way that generates lots of [free] PR. Perhaps rpjohnston’s first piece of advice would accomplish this objective:

    Take opponents to task for everything they say and do. call liars liars and hypocrites hypocrites and evil evil.

  16. Jordan Genso says

    Thank you all for the comments so far. I would like to clarify two things first:

    1) I would love to win, and I would love to serve in the Legislature. I am in a heavy Republican district though, so I recognize that, as a Democrat, the odds are against me. But I also know that that is because many people vote solely based on the ‘R’ after the candidate’s name, because if neither candidate on the ballot ever says anything of substance, you have to vote based on the party identification. I do believe that by being intellectually honest, it will connect with those who are disgusted with the current political environment. It may or may not result in more votes, so it may or may not improve my odds, but either way it is the right thing to do.

    2) I have been planning this campaign for a couple years, and so I have many issues that I’m prepared to include in my campaign. But this is one of the few websites that I visit regularly where I feel I learn a lot from the discussions (along with The Dish). It’s not uncommon that points are brought up here that I’ve not heard anywhere else, and so I’ll consider them when determining my positions. That is why I sent Ed with the request that he post this. So often, elected officials rely on paid lobbyists to help them make policy judgments, but I would rather look to communities such as this one for that type of advice. I may agree with the advice, or I may not. But regardless, I’ll view the advice as genuine.

  17. grumpyoldfart says

    Put into the school curriculum a special course that teaches:
    * The basic steps of the Scientific Method
    * How to recognise Logical Fallacies
    * And an introduction to Probability Theory

  18. Jordan Genso says

    @1 I love you Modusoperandi

    @2 Thank you.

    @3 I have not heard your proposal regarding National Guard members before. While I like it on the surface, are there additional benefits aside from increased disaster-preparedness?

    @4 Your first sentence is dead-on. Same with the third-to-last paragraph (except for the whole ‘offending’ thing, I doubt I’d follow it up with ‘Damn Right’).

    @5 I would be very interested in seeing how to achieve more-accurate news, because I absolutely agree with the concept, but I don’t know what the policy would look like, and it would be possible for the policy to be something I’d have to oppose if it violated the 1st.

    @6 Yep

    @7 Thank you. I do think that that policy will connect with the libertarians in my district.

    @8 The article doesn’t need to mention anything about a ‘secular government’, it should be assumed. On the theocrat-secular scale, I am strongly secular, and proud of it, since that is clearly the only legitimate position under our constitution.

    @9 Absolutely, that is good advice. I plan on focusing my campaign on only a small number of issues, but I do believe it is important for the voters to be able to seek out my positions on additional issues. For instance, when I go door-to-door, I will only discuss the main parts of my platform, but over the next twelve months I want to use my blog to passively provide the voters with more. If I look foolish on an issue, I hope someone points it out to me, and we can have a discussion. I don’t want to be afraid of those discussions, because those discussions are needed if I’m going to learn the issue better and adopt a less-foolish position.
    In other words, if I’m a fool in regards to a certain issue, I believe the voters have the right to know that. And so I do expect to use the advice in your second-to-last paragraph at some point. I’m not afraid to be honest and say “I don’t know”.

  19. Jordan Genso says

    @10 I’m going to respond to each of your points

    1) I’ve not heard of that idea before, so I will look into it. My first thought is that it is too quixotic, but maybe I’m wrong.

    2) Without question, except that we have to undo Proposal 2 from 2004 (which, embarrassingly, I voted for back when I was an uninformed, ignorant voter). I grew up much more conservative than I am now, so when I first exercised my right to vote, I made many poor decisions.

    3) Yep. Marijuana should be treated in a manner similar to alcohol. Other drugs shouldn’t be legal, but it is counter-productive to imprison users.

    4) Yep.

    5) Having been involved in the redistricting process for my county in 2011, I have my own take on how redistricting should be done, but we are in agreement with the overall idea of eliminating gerrymandering.

    6) Yep. All I know is that “the greatest country in the world” should be able to do all of those things. I don’t know other countries well enough to say whether or not ours is the “greatest”, but those who strongly feel we are the greatest are often the same people opposed to doing those things, and I think that is incompatible.

    7) Since I am running for state government, there are some restrictions (such as not being able to have a progressive income tax system) that I have to keep in mind. But I recognize that our current trend in inequality is completely unsustainable, and so I do favor policies that work to reverse those trends by instead rebuilding the middle class from the bottom-up. In terms of tax policy, that would mean eliminating tax deductions that mainly benefit the wealthy, and undoing the recent cuts to things like the EITC.

  20. Jordan Genso says

    @11 I hopefully addressed your comment in @19. I am not so arrogant as to think that I have nothing left to learn, and that only ideas that I’ve created on my own are worth promoting. And if you think that other candidates don’t have campaign committees that do something along the same lines, then you are mistaken. Being a part of this community for years, I realized that this is a resource I would be foolish not to at least ask for advice.
    And while I don’t consider myself ‘radical leftist’, but just a progressive in the same style as Jon Stewart (or Ed), I do feel completely welcome within the Democratic Party.

    @13 I will need to look into the Fairness Doctrine. I’ve heard of it before, but never looked into the details so I don’t know the pros/cons.

    @14 I don’t believe I would have any ability to influence that as a State Representative.

    @17 I think you know Michael that I strongly respect your opinion, and you were the inspiration for me to drop my anonymity on this site several years ago. In response to your points:
    A) Maximizing economic growth HAS to be balanced against doing so in a sustainable way. Although that simply means maximizing economic growth in the long run rather than just the short run, which I can assume you meant, and so it’s not a disagreement but instead a clarification. That is without question though what I think is most important for our state (and the country).
    B) What does it mean to “attempt to win”? Because my campaign approach is to do what is right, and hope it results in a victory. If faced with a choice between doing what is right, or doing something that will increase my odds of winning, I’m going to do the former. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t be faced with that choice since they would be the same thing. But if they were the same thing, then we wouldn’t see other political candidates doing what is wrong.

    I’m going to work hard to demonstrate to the voters that I would be a better State Representative than their other options. But there will be opportunities for me to gain votes that I will pass up, if they required that I disregard my intellectual honesty.

    @18 Years ago, a friend of mine suggested to me that we need a state bank along the same lines as (IIRC) Montana’s (or was it North Dakota?). I’m open to the idea, but I don’t know it well enough to really promote it.

  21. Olav says

    Jordan Genso #23:

    @11 I hopefully addressed your comment in @19. I am not so arrogant as to think that I have nothing left to learn, and that only ideas that I’ve created on my own are worth promoting. And if you think that other candidates don’t have campaign committees that do something along the same lines, then you are mistaken. Being a part of this community for years, I realized that this is a resource I would be foolish not to at least ask for advice.

    Good for you. I hope you understand that in #11 I reacted not to you (I don’t know you) but more to Ed’s post above which, to a cynical reader such as myself, unfortunately made you appear as somewhat of a blanke slate politician looking for things people might want to hear in order to make a name for himself. You know the kind. I would not expect Ed to promote such a person but a misunderstanding of some kind can never be ruled out…

    And while I don’t consider myself ‘radical leftist’, but just a progressive in the same style as Jon Stewart (or Ed), I do feel completely welcome within the Democratic Party.

    Now this could be problem. If they still tolerate you, you are clearly doing something wrong ;-P

  22. Michael Heath says

    Jordan Genso,

    Re my suggesting you prioritize “economic growth”:

    I think my suggestion may not be a realistic perspective to take though I promote it anyway given you can’t play it safe and win.

    Take Barack Obama’s rhetoric as an illustrative example on why emphasizing economic growth is perhaps not effective in attracting voters. At the start of Mr. Obama’s campaign to win the presidential election in 2008, it was clear he knew little about economics. However he’s had and has a very strong set of economic advisors and is a demonstrably quick learner. But as his literacy has increased and he increases his talking points about economic growth, his emphasis on what’s in it for certain target audiences continues to dominate.

    There’s almost no doubt that maximizing economic growth solves a whole host of problems. That includes making the servicing of debt payments a smaller share of a particular year’s governmental budget, it creates a far healthier job market – particularly for labor, and increases rates of median discretionary income which all ideologies at least claim to want.

    This last fact is particularly irksome to me because it receives so little emphasis from the economic growth angle. Optimal economic growth rates requires at least fiscal policy in line with policies already supported by the liberal to moderate powerful wing of the current Democratic party (though not the far left wing). In many cases Democratic policy is also in line with traditional monetary policy but only if fiscal policy is sufficiently liberal*. So why not emphasize maximal growth rates and here’s what the experts say needs to done to achieve such results? It reduces the dependency on partisan talking points and instead uses a non-idealogical perspective that’s more difficult to criticize without looking like a partisan blowhard in bed with special interests.

    Liberal to moderate fiscal policy promotes increased rates of median discretionary income. Over the past couple of decades we’ve also learned that more income equality not only increases social mobility, but also optimizes long-term economic growth rates. This is why the northern European countries now excel in these two areas over the U.S., competent liberalism is now business-friendly which in turn has these N. European countries enjoying the fruits of their results. We empirically understand we can have a robust social safety net and be friendly to business, that in fact, this is the optimal manner to sustain long-term economic growth if its coupled to a government whose making wise investments. Butter is good and it wins over guns.

    So why does President Obama emphasize jobs and favors to the middle and working classes, which is divisive rhetoric, over the emphasis on economic growth? His policies favor growth so why not emphasize that?

    Promoting economic growth as a primary end can’t be credibly rebutted by conservatives, though it can certainly be demagogued – which they’re going to do no matter what. I surmise the president doesn’t focus on maximum economic growth as an end in itself, in spite of his increasing realization this is true, is because the president’s target audience finds arguments about economic growth to be too abstract, pollsters perceive voters want to merely know what’s in it for them. Like conservatives leveraging fear and bigotry, liberals are relying on the collective selfishness of their target audience.

    However I think this diminution of voters by even the Democrats is not immutable. Plus I observe that non-conservative voters authentically do care about the national interest and therefore are open to consider optimal results rather than focusing solely on what’s in it for them. I’ve repeatedly seen Americans move into a solid majority on positions that are complex and abstract, e.g., the need to increase the marginal tax rates on the top end – even when one is in the top end (though not politically conservative), immigration policy, the need for universal access to health insurance, and interventionism through the projection of U.S. military power outside our borders being a few.

    So here I make the case that because your odds are low where you need to attempt to hit a homer to win. It’s a way to distinguish yourself from standard issue politicians in a way that presents you as a more credible candidate than those who obviously pander to the audience.

    BTW – I’d vote for you in a heartbeat. You’ve earned my respect with your comment posts.

    *The Fed is traditionally biased towards defending against inflation, at the expense of full employment (higher economic growth rates). I think this bias can arguably be is justified, but only if fiscal policy is sufficiently expansionary during both down part of the business cycle and even in the up part if there’s big opportunities for growth, e.g., California in post-WWII. Obviously I favor quantitative easing and its continuation, which the business sector does as well in spite of the fact their party hates it.

  23. Michael Heath says

    Jordan Genso writes:

    What does it mean to “attempt to win”? Because my campaign approach is to do what is right, and hope it results in a victory. If faced with a choice between doing what is right, or doing something that will increase my odds of winning, I’m going to do the former. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t be faced with that choice since they would be the same thing. But if they were the same thing, then we wouldn’t see other political candidates doing what is wrong.

    I’m going to work hard to demonstrate to the voters that I would be a better State Representative than their other options. But there will be opportunities for me to gain votes that I will pass up, if they required that I disregard my intellectual honesty.

    The framing I was presented with prior to suggesting you make some news was that your chances of winning are low. I offered two suggestions that I hope would make you a more recognizable brand. It’s basic marketing, to win there first needs to be brand awareness since you’re up against a district with a lot of straight-ticket Republican voters. That’ll require you to, in some combination:
    1) Reduce Republican turn-out by making Republicans embarrassed about their candidate
    2) Attract non-partisans at a vastly disproportionate rate – but first they need to know who you are in language that is not partisan (the suggestion to focus on economic growth, perhaps to call bad behavior out for what it is, outrageous lies, evil, hypocrisy, etc.)
    3) Optimize Democratic turn-out by getting Dems to identify with you.

    I never even insinuated you should compromise integrity. In fact doing so would hurt you in all three aspects above. Instead I merely noted that playing to win will require you to make your brand well known. Leveraging the media is a cheap way to do that, but it requires some combination of very provocative rhetoric with a noticeably different approach that the same ol’ we constantly see from Democrats who lose elections.

    In 2010 my U.S. district was lost to a Tea Bagger when Dan Benishek beat Gary McDowell. Neither candidate was an incumbent. Mr. McDowell had previously proven to be a very competent legislator respected on both sides of the aisle when he served in the state legislature. Benishek had fear and bigotry and little else. Mr. McDowell didn’t have much money and he didn’t make any noise, he was crushed in a district that was long-served by moderate Democrat (Bart Stupak).

    McDowell’s biggest mistake wasn’t that he didn’t do anything to compromise his integrity, but instead, that he wasn’t able to rise above the noise. Playing to win will require that of you. So the question is, how do you do that? There may be a better way that calling out lies and evil. That’s a mere brain storm, the context is instead what can you do to become well known in a way that achieves a sufficient change in the three numbered factors above.

  24. Walton says

    Immigrants’ rights! Although a state legislature can’t change federal immigration law, there are a number of things which states can do and which you can pledge to campaign for:

    *Stopping your state’s police agencies participating in the “Secure Communities” program, with a law similar to the MA Trust Act.
    *In-state tuition for undocumented residents at state universities.
    *Drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents.
    *No immigration status checks for accessing state or local services.
    *Raising awareness of the plight of undocumented people and making the case for immigration reform at a national level.

    There are likely to be grassroots immigrants’ rights groups in your area who you can work with.

  25. Jordan Genso says

    Michael Heath,

    I surmise the president doesn’t focus on maximum economic growth as an end in itself, in spite of his increasing realization this is true, is because the president’s target audience finds arguments about economic growth to be too abstract, pollsters perceive voters want to merely know what’s in it for them.

    I also think most politicians avoid issues that are academic in nature, regardless of whether or not they are abstract. It may be based on an assumption that voters don’t understand economics, and so they don’t promote their economic policies that require some basic knowledge about economics (instead sticking to easy-to-understand concepts like “trickle down” economics, even if those concepts are severely flawed). But I do agree that I should do my best to make the case for good economic policy.

    So here I make the case that because your odds are low where you need to attempt to hit a homer to win.

    I very much like the way you put that, and I will take that advice to heart.

    1) Reduce Republican turn-out by making Republicans embarrassed about their candidate

    I will disagree with you there, only because I want everyone to vote, even if they are going to vote for one of my opponents. I would hope that if they are embarrassed by their candidate, then they would be more open to voting for me (or third party), but even if it means that they are voting for someone they are embarrassed by, I would prefer they vote rather than stay home (although I wouldn’t be opposed to them skipping over my race, and instead only voting for governor et al.). Without question though one of my main priorities is to increase voter turnout, which would help achieve #2 and #3.

    Instead I merely noted that playing to win will require you to make your brand well known.

    This is something that I’ve worked on for a couple years. When my community was considering getting rid of fluoride from the water, I called out the conspiracy theorists for what they were (both to their face at their meetings, and also in the media)- although they did succeed in getting rid of fluoride. During my time as Chair of the county party, I tried to demonstrate that I was only interested in what was right rather than worrying about trying to score political points. I’ve also been a consistent commenter on our county newspaper’s website.

    So the question is, how do you do that?

    And that’s where my campaign is a potential test-case in search of that answer.

  26. flex says

    As both an elected official (not at the state level), and having worked on a large number of campaigns over the years, I’m not going to comment on the issues, but on tactics. You may already know these things, so I apologize if what I’m writing is not very useful.

    First, door-knocking. You, the candidate, need to knock on as many doors as possible. Let them know that you are the candidate. This is the most effective means of gathering votes. The citizens know that you made an effort to approach them. This is the best compliment you can give them, that you went out of your way to see them. In a large district you can’t avoid using helpers, but cover as much territory as you can. Representative Aldo Vagnozzi, Democrat and ex-mayor from Farmington Hills, spent almost every weekend walking his district and in heavily Republican Farmington Hills in 2004 he won about 80% of the vote while Bush Jr. also won about 80%. Just because your district is Republican, doesn’t mean you cannot connect to the voters and garner their vote.

    Second, door knocking. Technically you are not soliciting (although some people will expect that their ‘no solicitors’ sign does refer to you), but if a home-owner has put significant barriers to approach you can probably pass them by. After knocking or ringing the bell, step back from the door. Do not encroach on the door, it will make the occupant nervous. On a narrow porch I’ve been known to retreat to the first step, and leave the porch entirely. Don’t engage them in conversation unless they initiate it. You are interrupting them, which gives you about 20 seconds to introduce yourself, ask if they want literature, and request that they consider supporting you. Do not force literature on them, be polite and request them if they want it. Do not tell them they should vote for you, tell them to consider voting for you.

    Third, door knocking. Some campaigns use publicly available information to target households. The theory is that by avoiding those voters who have always voted democrat or always voted republican (and in Michigan because you must declare a party in a primary this information is available for purchase from the state parties), you can dedicate your resources to the people who are not so strongly attached to a party. I recommend not using this strategy. It sounds good, but since you and your people will be knocking on doors on the street anyway, taking a little extra time to reinforce strong democrats or add some doubt to strong republicans will be a benefit. It will also avoid any resentment from voters who know your people are knocking on doors, but pass by their house (and strangely enough there are people who would hate to answer the door if they were the only one in the street being targeted, but would feel left out if they were the only one not targeted).

    Fourth, door knocking. While I prefer to walk alone, many campaign workers prefer to work a neighborhood as a group. This is especially common among your female campaign workers, and there is a certain amount of reason for it. If groups are sent out they can cover a lot of ground quickly. However, as a tip, no more than 2 people should approach a single door. Too many people make a homeowner less likely to open the door.

    Fifth, door knocking. Your appearance is important. Do not look like a religious proselytizer. This means avoiding solid color shirts, and don’t wear a tie. The only t-shirts which are acceptable are those which have your name on them. Button-up shirts and polo shirts are usually fine, but avoid those which advertise. In working class neighborhoods in Ypsilanti I’ve worn workshirts and khaki’s, in white-color neighborhoods in Farmington I’ve worn striped or patterned dress shirts and slacks. As a candidate I would avoid jeans, but the important thing is to look professional.

    Seventh, door knocking. You will be lucky if 30% of the doors you knock on get a response. Don’t let that get you down. In some streets it will in 1 in 10. This is normal, it does not mean you are especially scary. The best times seem to be weekdays from 5:00-7:00, Saturdays from 10:00-1:00, Sundays from 12:00-2:00. After 7:00 on weekdays people will be settling into their evening routine, strangely enough people seem happier if you interrupt their supper than their favorite television show. People usually awake by 10:00 on Saturday, but by the afternoon you are interrupting their plans. You will miss some people who do their shopping at that time on Saturday morning, but you will catch those people who get their shopping done earlier. After church on Sundays is a good plan, but again, you don’t want to interrupt a football game. You may find some variance in your own community.

    Seventh, literature. If you can afford it, have two types of literature, one small, cheap piece which you give to people who are not all that interested, but willing to take it. The cheap literature should have your picture and bullet points on your issues, as well as web-site information. The more expensive literature should be given to those people who appear more interested in your platform. I watched a challenge to a federal representative fail because the candidate got a lot of money which was dumped into full-page, glossy, literature, which was used to litter a parade route. It was a tremendous waste of money. Literature is important, but will not by itself sway voters.

    Eighth, signs. Put them up a month before the election, both primary and general. Take them down the next day. Get them down rapidly because people will remember if your signs are still defacing the landscape a month later, and the memory will not be favorable. Many municipalities also have laws requiring political signs to be removed within 72 hours after an election or the campaign is fined. Signs should be simple, and give your name (last is usually fine), the office you are running for, and your party. High contrast is important, but avoid neon colors. As a democrat you should use blue, the current color associated with the party; or green, the original color of the democratic party. As a democrat, use a union shop to print the signs if you can.

    I know that this is long, and may be superfluous. I don’t know you and you may well, like myself, have 20 years of local campaigning beneath your belt. You may also know your area better than I, and so what I have written above may not be applicable.

    However, there is no reason you cannot win. My friends who are county commissioners are already knocking on doors for next year.

    Oh, and if you want to push for something which would help improve good government, get rid of term limits. They are not working. The problem is that it takes 3-4 years for a representative to learn the job, and then they only have a couple years before they are term-limited out of office. So their staff and the lobbyists tend have far more impact on legislation than representatives themselves. Term limits are flawed.

  27. flex says

    Okay,

    It looks like you have served some time in the party, so much of the above is probably already known to you.

    Although I have known exceptions. :)

    Good luck

  28. Michael Heath says

    Re flex’s post:

    I noted earlier that my long-term U.S. Representative for MI’s 1st District was Bart Stupak. He is a moderate who consistently won in our predominately red district. It’s also one of the largest districts east of the Mississippi River.

    When Stupak held office this district was drawn in a way where there was only two very small cities (Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie) and the rest were mostly villages (like Gaylord where I live) and deep woods .

    I read flex’s advice where I observed Rep. Stupak following his advice to the letter here in the village of Gaylord. Mr. Stupak and his aides also knocked on doors early-Sunday afternoons even when he was incumbent. I thought he a shoo-in where Republicans never spent much money on their candidate after Stupak won the seat. That’s again in spite of this being a red state district. So I was impressed that Mr. Stupak wasn’t taking anything for granted and worked the weekends knocking on doors even after he’d been in office for 10+ years.

    The last time I saw him he wore a navy blue sport coat over an open-necked oxford shirt. Retail politics still has a place.

  29. Jordan Genso says

    Thank you flex. While I’ve done a lot of legwork for other candidates the past three cycles (I didn’t become politically aware or active until 2008), I always enjoy seeing what others have found to be the “best practices” when it comes to canvassing, phone banking, literature, etc. What I’ve found to be true has a lot of overlap with what you stated, and I was already planning on doing many of the things you stated, but it feels good reading advice I already agree with.

    If you get a chance, please take a look at my Facebook page, as the banner shows what I’ve been planning as my campaign colors (I don’t know if you would consider the blue to be ‘neon’ or not). I really liked the blue that Jocelyn Benson used in 2010, but I also think that Rick Snyder’s signs were well-designed having a near-black background against his white “Rick” and neon green “Michigan”. And I know that this may sound crazy, but I’m thinking that any large signs I buy will simply have my campaign slogan (“Learn the Issues, Vote Accordingly”), and my yard signs will be the same color scheme, and just say “Genso (in blue) for State Rep (in white)”. The main reason I’d not put my name on the large signs is because when I drive around town, I’d rather see large political signs promoting a positive message rather than a candidate. I do recognize though that supporters usually want to display the candidate’s name in their yard, which is why I would have the smaller signs for them. I’m also going to adopt the policy that I won’t put my signs anywhere I didn’t get specific permission from the owner. That will also disadvantage me, but I do consider the public corners where every candidate puts their sign to be a type of visual pollution, and so I don’t want to contribute to it.

  30. Jordan Genso says

    Michael Heath,

    if you are willing, please email me at my campaign address: gensoforstaterep at gmail dot com. I have an idea that I’ve been mulling for some time, and would like to get your opinion on, but I’d prefer not to discuss it yet on a public blog. Thank you.

  31. flex says

    Jordan Genso wrote @32,

    I also think that Rick Snyder’s signs were well-designed having a near-black background against his white “Rick” and neon green “Michigan”.

    I wouldn’t call that neon, but bright. Bright is fine, when I think of neon, I’m thinking of the eye-scalding shades where the letters seem to run together because their hue overpowers the background. I can’t view your facebook page from work, so I can’t comment on your chosen colors. However, I doubt that you are going to make the mistake of using colors where the contrast is so low that the sign is illegible from greater than 10 feet. I’ve also seen signs where the candidate puts their entire CV on the sign, I know you will avoid that mistake.

    I know that this may sound crazy, but I’m thinking that any large signs I buy will simply have my campaign slogan (“Learn the Issues, Vote Accordingly”),….

    Yes, that does sound crazy. Although everyone reading this blog is politically aware and follows the issues (and votes accordingly), we are a self-selected sample of the electorate. There will be people who will vote for a democrat regardless of the name, and some people who vote republican regardless of the name. Many of these people think that they do understand the issues and have chosen their party (possibly years ago) based on the issues. They don’t feel they have anything to learn. They are not going to take the time to follow your advice. The sign you are proposing is likely to re-enforce their pre-existing beliefs, not challenge them to question the beliefs they already have.

    In a heavy republican district you need to convince the voters that you are the right person for the job. I think the slogan you have chosen is a good one, but you need to still have your name (as a minimum) on the sign. Stealth campaigns do not work.

    The reason to put the party affiliation on the sign is to help the voters in the booth. As Michigan has a system where you can only vote for a single party in the primary, you want the voters to be able to find your name on the ballot in the primary. Leaving your party off the literature means that voters have to search for your name first, which may mean that they can’t find it because they never look at the right part of the ballot. Now, if you are running unchallenged in the primary, you can probably get away with leaving off your party affiliation. But I strongly suggest putting your name on all signs and literature.

    Of course, my advice is only that. If you think your campaign would be better served by posters without your name on it, that is your decision.

    As far as your policy to not place signs without owner’s permission, that is the correct thing to do. I generally put some signs up along the public highways (not in directly in front of anyone’s home), because even though I consider it a form of pollution, signs do work. I also record where I place every sign so I can pick them up afterward. To save some money on signs, rather than pay for an extra 50 signs to be saved for the polls on election day, plan to re-locate signs which have been on street corners for the last month to the polling locations on election day. You will loose about 10% of the signs you place. Also, if you can design your signs so they can be used on the next election. So don’t put dates on your signs.

    Oh, and one more thing before I take a break for lunch, I’ve often put the date of the election on my literature. You won’t be able to re-use it, and having a reminder date makes it a little more likely that it will be retained as useful.

    Now to conclude this short note and get some lunch. Good luck.

  32. Jordan Genso says

    Thank you flex. That is good advice.

    There is unfortunately a conflict between what is ideal, and what is effective. Putting signs on public corners is a good example of that.

  33. says

    The right has coopted the term patriot; show the constituency that you are patriotic.

    The right have also co-opted the word “Christian,” and you’d probably have a better chence of winning if you can show how they’re not at all in line with what Jesus actually taught. Quote the words of Jesus as appropriate, and show how progressive he really was (for his time at least). A lot of your opposition will come from Bible-thumpers, and you’ll have a better chance of winning if you can show how totally bogus their brand of Christianity really is — and hopefully sow enough doubt on their side to slow their movement down a bit, if not stall it. Talk about the most vile and corrupt actions of Christian churches when they arise, and ask which local Christian groups stand up against it. (Maybe start with that Nigerian witch-hunter — that should really rattle the “pro-life” crowd to see their churches supporting the torture and murder of babies.)

    More locally, how’s wind power doing in your state? You could push that as a means of making energy cheaper, giving farmers another source of income, and CREATING JOBS. Maybe you can also talk about pollution and the health of the local farm economy.

    Oh, and stop talking about how you don’t really expect to win. CREATE the fucking expectation — that’s the only way you’ll get anyone to listen to you at all.

  34. says

    If faced with a choice between doing what is right, or doing something that will increase my odds of winning, I’m going to do the former.

    Yeah, that sounds nice and all, but every candidate who takes that attitude LOSES, and is expected in advance to lose, so no one has any reason to give a shit how right they are. If you and your supporters don’t expect to win, you will lose. Politics is about leadership and getting things done, and people support one politician so he/she can WIN an important policy battle with someone else who opposes their interests.

    The above quoted sentence represents a false dichotomy: you don’t have to choose one or the other (both of those options suck); you have to find a way to do BOTH AT ONCE, all the fucking time.

  35. says

    Another thing: I saw a 2000 map of the 47th lege district, and it’s shaped kinda wierd. Can you point us to a more recent map? And is gerrymandering a big issue there?

  36. says

    I grew up much more conservative than I am now, so when I first exercised my right to vote, I made many poor decisions.

    This is something you should emphasize BIG TIME: you’re not a clueless academic liberal out of touch with “Real America,” you’ve been where probably a huge chunk of your constituents are, and you’ve learned from experience that many of the things they think (and you thought) were good ideas, weren’t. You can easily use this to trump blind or outdated ideology with the practical reality that real people have to deal with every day. I think this will be one of your best ways of appealing to the liberal base (if any) and moderates/independents at the same time.

  37. Jordan Genso says

    Thank you for the advice Raging Bee.

    The above quoted sentence represents a false dichotomy: you don’t have to choose one or the other (both of those options suck); you have to find a way to do BOTH AT ONCE, all the fucking time.

    I will do my best to do so, but I’m trying to be realistic. If it were possible to do both all the time, then we wouldn’t see other politicians doing the things we all hate.

    Now if you view it like a corporation that has to choose whether to do what is right, or do what is competitively “best”, there are times when companies have been able to succeed at doing both (as you suggest). But there is a big difference between trying to get a majority to support you (politics), or just a niche that supports you enough to keep you profitable (business).

    Can you point us to a more recent map?

    http://www.livgov.com/clerk/elections/Documents/USStateDistricts.pdf

    The district actually became more rationally shaped than it was prior to 2011, but the 47th became more Republican as a result. The 42nd became a little more competitive, but the Democratic candidate will still be facing an uphill challenge.

    Oh, and stop talking about how you don’t really expect to win. CREATE the fucking expectation — that’s the only way you’ll get anyone to listen to you at all.

    What is the intellectually honest thing to do? I view it as acknowledging that I am an underdog. The odds are against me, so if you were to “expect” an outcome, it would be for the Republican to win. That doesn’t mean I can’t win, it just means that it is less likely.

    When Mitt Romney was absurdly overconfident about his chances on election day, we can all point to that as an example of something we shouldn’t want politicians doing. It’s how you get people claiming “the polls are skewed”. I don’t want to fall into that same trap. I want to win. I’m going to try to win. It is possible that I will win. But nothing I do is likely to put the overall odds in my favor. That is just being realistic. If you are saying that I should lie (or become delusional) in order to get people to pay more attention to me, I have to reject that advice.

    And that is an example for when the choice is not a false dichotomy.

  38. says

    If you are saying that I should lie (or become delusional) in order to get people to pay more attention to me…

    I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying — just for starters — that you should make a habit of reaching out to people and offering deals, either general or specific, to build a coalition, instead of just broadcasting your own ideas without any attempt to make it meaningful to your speficic audience. Listen to people (and, yes, to significant interest-groups in your area) and look for ways to make your platform meaningful to them and sow doubt in their minds about your opponents. One slogan I heard says it best: the people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

    I offer this sort of advice because I’ve seen (and sometimes worked for) too many otherwise decent and intelligent people just getting their names on a ballot and then rigidly refusing to do any actual political work, and calling the basic work of coalition-building “dishonest” or “compromising.” People like that always say they’re “running” to “highlight” some issue, but they always fail even at that because they’re not trying to win, so no one wastes any time listening to them, and no one remembers what issues they were trying to “highlight.”

  39. Jordan Genso says

    Absolutely. That was something I was planning on doing, but not as prioritized as I will now make it. Thank you.

  40. Michael Heath says

    Jordan Genso @ 33:

    Michael Heath,

    if you are willing, please email me at my campaign address: gensoforstaterep at gmail dot com. I have an idea that I’ve been mulling for some time, and would like to get your opinion on, but I’d prefer not to discuss it yet on a public blog. Thank you.

    I sent you an email yesterday at 11:48 a.m. I note that here in case you don’t see it in your Inbox.

  41. Jordan Genso says

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