“There’s never been a colored, a Jew, a Democrat, a Yankee, a queer, or a woman as Mayor of this town and there never will be!”
I glanced up from my notes to study the odd little man in his Oshkosh overalls, Penny’s plaid shirt, knee-high Frye boots and Tom Mix hat.
His cohorts called him Red. I don’t know if he was christened that, or nicknamed for the color of his neck — but it certainly didn’t stem from embarrassment by him, or any of the men at that district Republican Committee meeting rewarding him with whistles and a rousing applause as I sat alone in the far, back corner of the small auditorium, recording the forum as a favor to the (absent) president of our local Republican club.
And, all I could think was — what luck!
No, not because I was a committee member and could object. I wasn’t.
But I was born in the small town that hosted the first Republican convention, “Here, under the oaks, July 6, 1854” where an obscure granite rock with a bruised bronze plague once sat on a tiny patch of treeless grass, three short blocks from where I spent my most misinformative years.
Back then, the rites of passage included adopting both the religion and political party affiliation of your parents. My parents were protestant and Republican. I’m neither, but during my juvenescence, I feigned being both.
The reality is, religion and politics have never been roadblocks for me. I tend to accept that we’re all going to believe what we need to believe in order to survive our slippery slope slide from here into hereafter.
However, the pretense of politics alarms me, and is the reason I encourage every woman to run for public office.
It’s easier than you think, and more satisfying than you dare imagine.
After filling out the simple forms with the Americanized spelling of my last name and paying a nominal filing fee, I learned you aren’t required to raise money, put up signs, hand out cards, take out ads, stand on street corners in inclement weather inhaling exhaust while waving to commuters — or even to serve if elected.
Which I did not do.
Instead, I entered the citywide race for Mayor because I could.
And, because the Mayor of our town is in charge of the police force that was alleged to have created computer software profiling every resident according to age, gender, race, religion, political affiliation, marital status and coded lifestyle.
I ran because the Mayor had the power to veto city council legislation.
I ran because the personal voting records of all residents, their addresses, and phone numbers are made available to campaign camps via their candidate.
I ran because it’s possible for local elected officials to access sensitive census information about their neighbors.
I ran because I’d be invited to all candidate gatherings, lunches, forums, debates, and media interviews with equal time to speak, followed by unlimited time to answer questions. Places where I could tell the people about the alleged profiling, the veto capability, the reality of records, and the potential for both discrimination and profiteering to detriment of the electorate should the (professed private) census information be misused by unscrupulous officials with a personal agenda to advance.
But primarily, I ran because I was told:
“And yet, I can.”
“You can’t run as a Republican.”
“Unless I’m registered as a Republican. Then I can.”
“It’s a nonpartisan race, so no one will know.”
“Unless it’s leaked.”
“You won’t have the backing of the Republican Party.”
Aye, there’s the sub rosa.
Most of us like to think we’re supporting a candidate who shares our convictions and has our best interests in mind.
Run for office.
That’s when you learn it’s the RNC (Republican National Committee), the DNC (Democratic National Committee), and corporate funding that dictates the conversation, feeds the media, and virtually runs this country in a Charlie-McCarthy-meet-Jerry-Mahoney-manner, where those connected contingents funnel all the money solicited from donors into the war chests of the candidates they’ve preselected to win.
I kid you not.
The nominees of both the RNC and DNC sign a Party platform pledge to toe the Party line, in order to receive the financial clout of the RNC, or DNC, because the chances of winning an election for those who don’t sign — even on a local level — are zip, zero, nada, and nil.
And, get this: Those war chests can be used to funnel funds for phone banks to robo-call citizens who have a voting record history of going to the polls on odd, even, and ‘off’ years.
They can funnel ‘independent’ surveys with contrived questions for the ostensible purpose of suggesting nonexistent improprieties practiced by the opposing party.
They can funnel for spamming newspapers with testimonial templates to praise one candidate, or deride the other, or push an agenda, or create confusion, or imply majority support, with each letter signed and sent by a party faithful — so it appears to the public as an original thought and legitimate concern rather than a parroted message.
They can funnel for business owners to be visited by party members offering recommendations on which candidates to support, along with a friendly suggestion of how valuable it is to have a customer base of political party members.
They can funnel for whisper campaigns, leaked to small presses, controlled by deep pocket party pleasers, linked to online sites willing to post the disinformation.
And, get this, too: The strategies for beating your opponent are all recorded (or was when I ran) in an instruction manual detailing how to sway an election to a preferred candidate with news stories clouded by opinion. Where inserting the words of ‘could, might, rumored, alleged, contend, claim, suppose, may’ and ‘if” in news coverage to replace ‘is, are’ and ‘will’ as indicators of truth. Where technical corrections to falsehoods are buried in places no one reads. Where editorials aren’t required to be factual.
That’s where running for political office serves as the American dream. Because running to lose by telling the unmitigated truth assures that your voice will be heard.
And isn’t that what we all want? To be heard.
When I ran for office, my words were so well heard — by the time election day rolled around they’d been stolen and used to further the campaigns of others running for even higher offices.
So, ladies, that’s how you make change happen. Not by sitting behind a safe screen, typing out rhetoric about what’s wrong with the country and who’s to blame. And, not by writing a check, convinced your donation will contribute to making this nation better and stronger.
Instead, run for office.
Attend every avenue available for you to get up and speak. Recognize that freedom of speech for the priceless gift it is. Say what’s in your heart. Ignore naysayers. Concentrate on connecting with real people. And experience the exhilaration that comes from putting your mouth where your mind is.
In the final analysis, the financial reports required to be filed by all candidates indicated the incumbent spent around one hundred and twenty-five dollars per ballot cast in favor of him to wage his campaign against me.
I spent next to zero, zip, nada, and nil.
I lost by less than 75 votes.
No, not once.
# # #
Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine, October 8, 2015
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
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