Hats in the Ring

Coverage of primary and caucus results by reporters, pundits, and on-line bloggers tends to focus on the candidates who get the largest totals or are newsworthy in some other way.

In the New Hampshire primaries in February there were 28 candidates on the Democratic ballot and 30 on the Republican ballot.  They weren’t write-in candidates.  They were people whose campaigns collected enough signatures on petitions to be listed on a presidential ballot.  There were fewer names on the ballots in Connecticut.  Some of the candidates who got only a handful of votes or ran out of money dropped out of the race or suspended their campaigns, but others are hanging in.

Who are these people?  Why are they doing it?

Some of them are trying to raise issues that wouldn’t get much attention. Some are trying to appeal to voters whose concerns might not be addressed.  Some are trying to raise the level of the debate.  There’s a place for these candidates and their quixotic campaigns in our political system.  Others may be running out of vanity or to mock the system.

Why are so many people willing to run for president and so few willing to run for local offices?  Why are so few willing to take chances in races where the odds are against them?  It’s hard.  It’s expensive.  It takes a lot of time and energy.  Nobody wants to lose.  And it’s easier to sit on the couch and yell at the television.

It’s time for you to think about running for office.  Yes, you.  Stop yelling at the television.  It isn’t helping.  You’re giving yourself indigestion.  You’re annoying your family.  You’re scaring the dog.  It’s time to get involved.

You can run now as an outsider.  Apparently, that has an appeal to some voters.  You can maintain your outsider credentials by refusing to learn anything about the issues during your campaign, and you can enhance them by promising not to learn anything after you’re elected.  Or you can plan ahead.  You can work for candidates and issues you believe in.  You can make phone calls, stuff envelopes, and knock on doors.  You can go to meetings and learn about issues.  You can volunteer for committees.  You can vote in caucuses and primaries and elections.  You can write letters to the editor.  You can read the other letters and find out what your neighbors are concerned about.  All of this will make you a better candidate.  You may not win, but you may shake things up.  You may make it possible for an idea to take hold.  We can help.  Visit us at ridgefielddems.org to find out what’s going on and how you can get involved.

In the end, you may not run.  You may support someone else, but you’ll do it in an informed way, and you’ll do it for the right reasons.  That’s better than yelling at the television.

The Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee provides this column. Tom Madden is the DTC’s chairman.