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The Gawd-Awful Truth About Running For Office in Hoosier Country

photo: wuperruper via Flickr

Let’s say you’re a middle-aged, well-educated progressive woman who speaks her mind plainly.

Let’s say you’re hungry to serve others and make real, transformative change happen in doing so.

Let’s say you’re a Hoosier, too.

Sister, right now you’re fucked, and here’s why.

1) The progressive community in Indiana has lost much of its spark.

Take a look around the progressive blogosphere in Indiana; it’s difficult to find more than a few blogs which provide solid and detailed content of interest to progressive Hoosiers, let alone those which post daily. This is a mirror of progressive politics in Indiana; the grassroots are thin and growing sparsely, and there’s not enough fertilizer to encourage thicker, rapid, healthy growth.

Take a look, too, at Meetups and events on Facebook. It won’t take long, because there are few if any even in an election year.

If you want to win, you will first have to build your own empowered and energized posse, because the progressive cavalry which existed in 2008 has become disenchanted and disaffected when not co-opted. You are also going to have to talk with and recruit bloggers who can make things happen with mere words.

2) Training for candidates and campaign supporters is wanting.

There’s simply not a lot of it in your neck of the woods, and what there’s been during the last several years put on by the state’s Democratic Party apparatus has been co-opted by a single incumbent, Evan Bayh.

Yeah, imagine wanting to train as a candidate to run for the senate against Evan Bayh, at a program with his name on it.

You will have to find an alternative method for training, like Democracy for America’s Night School programs. Contact EMILY’s List and find out if they are offering training in your state. Look into programs offered by The White House Project.

3) About that party machine…

Yes, there is one, no matter how much pooh-poohing you hear from the mainstream media and from the Democratic Party itself. There’s a hierarchy of power which is entrenched and exists in almost every single state in the union. It doesn’t like to give up power (or money) easily, and it won’t like any newbies who threaten its worldview and its ability to call the shots. You need to recognize it and figure out how to work through or around it effectively.

You also need to avoid ever, ever mentioning the machine because it will call you a paranoid, crazy-assed bitch for doing so, even if you can see them, the old boys network gathered in the smoke-filled rooms patting each other on the back as they point at you and laugh. You may refer to running into their obstructionism as “experiencing cultural stickiness” or “the expected resistance of the status quo to change.”

Unfortunate, you also cannot count on training to teach you this; you may have to learn this by networking with others and from cagey blogs. When pressed about this topic, smile broadly and change the subject to a key platform issue dear to your heart.

And fundraising…did I mention fundraising? You are going to have to make “the ask” for money every day, too, put a time set in stone on your calendar to do so. Get comfortable with explaining why you are a worthwhile investment with a well-crafted 30-second elevator speech. Start with organizations which are women-centric and women-friendly and work them for financial assistance. Reach out to other minority groups regularly, too. This is a necessity because you sure as hell can’t count on a nanometer of silver from the good old boys in the party machine we won’t ever mention out loud.

4) You have to run more than once.

Name recognition is absolutely essential to running successfully for office, in addition to being highly organized and projecting a powerful, determined brand and presence. These things all go hand-in-hand, too. You must plan right now to run for office at least twice in order to have adequate name recognition, let alone develop a brand which can be identified readily beyond your name alone.

And it will also require a period of time to become deeply versed in election rules and campaign finance laws and the numbers you’re going to need to win, as well as developing a trustworthy and deep posse who will be with you all the way, who’ll get your back for those two runs. You also have to commit to knocking on doors and making the ask at least three times.

If you’re not ready for a long-term commitment, well, running for office isn’t for you. Otherwise start shopping for those ugly but comfortable and durable door-knocking shoes. You’re going to need several pairs.

There’s a lot more, but if you can grasp and embrace the challenges in these four points, you are somewhat less fucked than you were when you started reading this.

And for those of you who aren’t Hoosiers, here’s the gawd-awful truth — ALL of this stuff applies to you, too. Been there, done that, photographed the wreckage, comforted the grieving, picked up the pieces and moved on.

One more thing: Some idiot female with the Republican Party did a disservice to potential candidates by making a mealy-mouthed comment about women needing “hand-holding” to run for office.

No, they don’t. What they need is a fighting chance, a lot more information about running successfully, and for the power-hungry good old boys in politics and the media to stay the fuck out of their way and keep their nasty comments, petty assumptions and their little toy shivs sheathed.

Women also need a Kevlar flak-vest, a hard hat and a pair of pointy-toed shit-kicking shoes with an attitude to match, figuratively speaking.

Let’s hear you say it with me: Hoosier mama.

Now get out there and win.

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Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, FDL community member since 2005, geek since birth.

Fan of science and technology, wannabe artist, decent cook, successful troublemaker and purveyor of challenging memetics whose genetics may be only nominally better.

Assistant Editor at Firedoglake and Editor at The Seminal.