Tuesday, May 09, 2006


It’s election season in Oregon. The state has mailed ballots to voters, which must be returned by May 16th. Oregon has vote by mail, but that’s a whole other subject.

A few weeks ago, I had occasion to come in contact with a man running for governor here. He’s part of a crowded pack of Democrats challenging our governor with a difficult to pronounce name. At his stop in Medford, he was doing what all underdogs do, calling for more debates with his rival.

As I watched the scene, I thought about my own plot to run for office. It was inspired, of course, by a TV show. I heard in 2003 that Fox was developing a reality show called “American Candidate” where presidential wannabes would square off and the audience would vote off one candidate each week. At the end, Fox would crown an “American Candidate” and invite him/her to run for president in the 2004. Due to US campaign rules, Fox wouldn’t be able to actually run their own candidate, so they could only invite the winner to run.

I thought this was a wonderful idea and schemed about how to get on the show. In my fantasy scenario, I skipped right past the selection process and assumed I won the show and jumped straight to the campaign.

If my memory serves me correct, the winner of “American Candidate” got a hunk of money, something like $200,000, as a prize, presumably to seed the winner’s campaign fund. The show’s creator was also supposed to do a weekly documentary on the winner’s campaign.

I planned to use that money to rent a Winnebago and throw a couple of fundraisers. With the money raised through the fundraisers (huge leap of faith, I know) I would hire my buddies as “campaign consultants” and we’d go on an American road trip, staging political themed stunts, giving speeches specifically designed to say nothing, and generally trying to make hash of the political process. The documentary would capture it all, eliminating the need to buy ads.

We’d continue until we ran out of money, or we made a big enough splash to be bribed into quitting. I’d accept nothing less than an ambassadorship to New Zealand in return for my endorsement.

Not a bad plan, I thought. Worst case scenario, a two month road trip with my friends. Best case: four years in New Zealand.

But as I’m watching this gubernatorial candidate speak in Medford, I’m struck by how tedious and ultimately humiliating campaigning can be. Here’s this guy standing in a conference room at a hotel, with pamphlets and stickers arrayed on a table next to him, just hoping someone will pay attention to him.

He seems like a decent guy, and I have every reason to believe that he’s in the race for the right reasons. But one of his brochures features a photo of this otherwise friendly looking man scowling and wearing boxing loves. I wonder if that was his idea, or if a consultant thought it was a good idea to “toughen up” a populist Democrat.

It occurs to me that the only people who would really enjoy campaigning are the exactly the kind people who shouldn’t run for office.

But back to my plans to run for president on “American Candidate." How did that go? Well, it didn’t go quite as planned. First off, I forgot about my plans, what with graduating from school and looking for work and all. But in the end, that really didn’t matter.

Fox got spooked and decided to pawn “American Candidate” off to FX. Then FX dropped the show before it went into production. Showtime picked it up, and the world yawned. 48,000 Showtime subscribers tuned in to the premiere episode. More people watched National Geographic Channel’s “Dogs With Jobs.”

In the end, several evangelical groups got together and mobilized “voters” to support a conservative Christian from North Carolina named Park Gillespie. He won, but never ran for president. Nor did he achieve any type of national notoriety for his win.

Eventually Gillespie threw his support behind President Bush, which I’m sure was important because the President was having some trouble winning over those fussy evangelical voters in 2004. Wasn’t he?

Earlier this year, Gillespie launched a bid for a congressional seat in South Carolina, which landed with a thud a few months later.

So perhaps it was better that I abandoned my presidential dreams. There was no chance of me winning “American Candidate” if it was, indeed, rigged by evangelicals (they think we Mormons eat our babies). And even if I had won, there was no wacky road trip or New Zealand ambassadorship awaiting me. Instead, I would have faced nothing but a life of ignominy home schooling my (pretend, for now) children in the bowels of the Confederacy.

All of the sudden, hanging out with governor wannabe in a Medford hotel doesn’t sound so bad.


At 1:55 pm, Blogger Winter said...

What you guys don't eat your babies?

At 11:14 pm, Blogger Matthew said...

Nope, we gave it up with polygamy.

At 7:54 am, Blogger pat said...

So was I considered for the bus ride? Aside from my natural charm, I so have one turntable and a stack full of wax (with that 200k we could probably find another turntable and a mixer?)

Just thinkin'...


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