Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Not-So-Insane Campaign

Well, I have to apologize for not writing in such a long time ... well, I don't really have to apologize, since this is my own blog, but ... I feel it's owed to you, dear readers, since I made no announcement of my impending absence in this space. I had to know that moving a taking a third job would monopolize the remainder of my free time for at least a couple of weeks, but I nonetheless felt compelled to deny myself a "cop out" to avoid blogging. Because, you know, guys who work three jobs deserve no break whatsoever, and especially from themselves.

Regardless, I'm here now, so let's get up to date. I'm living with my friend Jeff George, not the former NFL quarterback but a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 14th District of Florida, which includes Fort Myers and Naples. In return for my room, I'm volunteering on his campaign That's right -- the inevitable drift toward politics has finally brought me into loggerheads with an ice floe in the form of a gonzo, independent run for office that calls itself Crazy for Congress. It had to happen.

So I'd like to chronicle my experience with the campaign here. Only, who knows how long I'll be involved with this? I'm supposed to take a job in Sebring with my old paper in January -- but that position may not be around in January, or February, or ever, for that matter, since the parent company is not exactly in the best financial shape. And then I've also been interviewing for other positions that pay a living wage, too, so I don't have to work three jobs just to stay in the neighborhood of financial solvency (never mind actually making enough money to live on). So I have no idea what I'll be doing in a matter of weeks. It's a hell of a time, in all senses of the phrase.

But for the time being ... the campaign. Jeff is running on a platform of "Transparency, Integrity and Accountability," which is a vague way of saying he wants to open up the workings of democracy so everyone can see what influences it and exert their own influence as they see fit. Ideally, what we'd like to have happen is for democracy to no longer be a "pay for play" sort of arrangement in this country, and for the ideals of democracy to supercede the ideals of capitalism, or at the very least co-exist with them. Because otherwise you have an oligarchy and not a democracy. Capitalism is an economic system, not a form of government.

Naturally, sentiments like this relegate you to the back of the pack in any election. The story is no different here, but Jeff would also like to position himself as an outsider/alternative for political outsiders of all stripes, the kind of populist candidate who gets elected whenever the president's approval rating slips below, say, 30 percent.

Jeff's up against a manifestation of the very engines that put that president in office: nepotism, cronyism and disconnection with the people whom you claim to represent. Connie Mack IV, a fourth-generation politician, future husband of California congresswoman Mary Bono and only occasional resident of the 14th District. Also in the race are a pair of democrats and, as of this Friday, Burt Saunders, a state senator who broke ranks from the Republicans to oppose Mack as an independent. Jeff has been quite a bit concerned with this fellow, who threatens to siphon the disgruntled Republican votes and money upon which he had been counting, but, then, when have you known Republicans who broke ranks to have survived more than two months without being turned into political toast? At the very least this distracts the Republican noise machine from aiming squarely at Jeff, and that can only be a good thing. While Mack and Saunders engage in a pissing contest, Jeff will be able to concentrate on voters and issues, which is what he intended to do anyway.

So is democracy in at least some small way accessible to all? We're about to see. Jeff has never run for office before and has neither influential fortune nor friends, so he is a fantastic litmus test of whether someone from outside the societal and monied elite can get elected in this country. Now, Jeff isn't exactly what you might call an "average" citizen ... he's a Muslim and a small-time filmmaker, which doesn't exactly sound like the description of your next door neighbor. Then again, he's a veteran, and his Islam is to the Islam promulgated by Middle Eastern leaders as the Christianity of your mom who goes to Midnight Mass is to Pat Robertson. So no, I am not writing this in between daily 40 lashes from my roommate which I must endure for living as an infidel. Although I have been told to clean my room a little.

Right now I'm working on marshaling the support of an array of community groups, making lots of phone calls and getting lots of "No, sorry, we don't like to talk to politicians," and a good dose of "Who are you? What?! Democracy? What's that? Isn't that the name of the dog in Paris Hilton's handbag?" But I have secured the services of Pond Water Experiment, which has pledged a benefit concert. So now all I need is a venue and an audience, which is precisely where Jake and Elwood were about an hour into The Blues Brothers. Which reminds me ... all I want for Christmas is a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes and a pair of sunglasses to wear when it's dark.

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