Why Do So Many Political Candidates Run For Office?

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A funny video yes, but it does lead me to a question I have found myself discussing many times the last few years. Essentially, when a candidate seemingly ‘hast to know’ they will not win an election, why do people still carry on in their efforts? There are a few reasons which come to mind. First, political parties are a collective. Second, many political candidates are idealists. Third, some people have the money and nothing more important to do with it.

 

The Collective

What do I mean when I say candidates are part of a collective? When you see the (R) and the (D) next to an elected officials name, this means they belong to the Republican and Democratic Party. The Republican Party, also known as the G.O.P., is this collective. The G.O.P. is essentially the brain of the Republican Party. From here the political talking points are handed down to the elected officials and this is how the Republican Party organizes to set policy. I am sure you have heard the term “gridlocked” a lot recently. Logistically you may ask yourself, with 435 members in the House, in a democratic system where each vote counts as 1, how could a political stalemate possibly exist? This is because fundamentally there are not 435 different voices, there are only 2. That (R) or that (D) you see next to every candidates name; the collective of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Too often the collective is more important than the individual politician. This manifests its self when a politician votes or speaks against party lines, they loose standing within that party. When a politician loses some support from the parent party, they lose out getting their words shared more, loose influence in votes, or on enacting legislation. Consequentially, future re-election also becomes much less probable.

We all know about Donald Trumpleading the polls‘ in American politics. But what you must realize is that this literally means nothing. We are not even in the same year of a real election. Yes this is news in the hear and now but in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant. As of just a few weeks ago there was 17 announced participants participating in the Republicans nomination. Statistically this gives any one person a 6% chance of winning the Republican primary. Many of them will never even poll above 6% in any overall vote.

You need to ask yourself, what is it which ever politician ultimately wants? This is more exposure to have their voices/opinions heard. For example despite polling 2% in an overall election, John Kasich will continue to run for office (at least for now). Why would he do this? This is because despite polling at 2%, John Kasich is still getting more exposure then he would have had he never running in the first place.

This brings me back to the collective. You see, all of these political polls are conducted for a reason. This is to gauge what the citizens are thinking/feeling; what they are voting for. Polls are even broken down into specific talking points such as military, foreign police, immigration, et cetera. Each candidate says different things about an individual issue and people vote based on how they feel about what was said.  Organizations like the G.O.P. analyze these results in an effort to find out which opinions polled the highest on each particular subject. Later on, over the course of the next year leading towards the election, the G.O.P will consolidate this data. As the number of presidential candidates shrinks as time passes along, these ideas which polled the highest throughout, will be what the party is talking about. Even if a candidate fails in the overall polls, they may have one opinion on certain issue which polls highest. So in some ways even by failing in a primary election, just getting 2%, a politician may still be contributing to the collective effort in doing so.

If you look at recent American politics. Why I think someone like Donald Trump is so popular today is because he is not politically correct. He is straight forward and honest and not afraid to say what he really wants to say. Over the course of the last 7 years, the Republican party has been viewed publicly(sociologically) as existing on the morally wrong/losing side of socially important  issues such as gay rights, racism, women’s rights, War, et cetera. Many candidates have been forced to ‘walk on egg shells‘ when they speak because of this. I believe Donald Trump is teaching the rest of the field that is alright to be yourself and express yourself honestly and still poll favorably. This is something every candidate can take with them going forward into next year. As for Donald Trump actually winning the primary next year, I just do not see it.

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Idealism

Certainly I have been personally called this multiple times in my life. What does it mean to be an idealist? This is when political philosophy, though often times extremely thoughtful/valid, is a societal minority. Societal minorities typically do not go or achieve much in a democratic electoral society. For this, idealists tend to be thought of more as cerebral philosophers than they are real world difference makers. It is very difficult to disrupt the status quo as a minority opinion. The idealist however, remains firm in their beliefs and carry’s on regardless. Perhaps the primary example of an idealist is Ron Paul.  In Ron Paul’s retirement speech he noted that

“In many ways, according to conventional wisdom, my off-and-on career in Congress, from 1976 to 2012, accomplished very little.  No named legislation, no named federal buildings or highways—thank goodness.  In spite of my efforts, the government has grown exponentially, taxes remain excessive, and the prolific increase of incomprehensible regulations continues.  Wars are constant and pursued without Congressional declaration, deficits rise to the sky, poverty is rampant and dependency on the federal government is now worse than any time in our history.”

On top of this, nearly every piece of legislation Ron Paul ever submitted in his 36 year career was voted down by the House. So, why did he continue to run for office? If everything he had done was shot down for 30 years, why did the citizens keep voting him back into Congress? Despite existing as a minority opinion, Ron Paul presented a very educated and enlightening message. Many citizens agreed with him and thus voted for him. Like the idealist himself, these people know that they are essentially ‘throwing away their vote‘, but they are willing to do so because they also believe in something and do not care how popular it is. In 2012 Ron Paul was the 3rd highest vote recipient of any Republican in country to run for President, Mitt Romney of course went on to win the primary. Ron Paul knew he would not win and some portions of the media flat out refused to even cover him. He continued on his campaign anyways because he was an idealist. Ron Paul is perhaps the most influential, least productive elected official in history.

Simply have too much money

In this category I include people such as Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. Ross Perot, former Presidential candidate. In many ways the present day Ross Perot is Donald Trump. Mr. Trump has gone on record of saying he is willing to spend up to 1 billion dollars if he must, to win the presidency. Ross Perot essentially did the same exact thing in his presidential effort. Neither has to fund raise, neither has any campaign restraints. They like many other politicians on lower levels, are essentially richer then everyone else and will use their wealth to intentionally outspend the opposing candidates. In a popularity contest it is helpful to get in front of the media as much as you can, it takes money to do this.

I hear people ask all the time, “how is it possible to spend 250 million dollars on an election? The system is corrupt!” But if you take the time to break it all down, it does make sense. Think about a 30 second commercial. That commercial is just the finished product. It took a production team of maybe 10 people, actors, writers, film crew, advertisers, et cetera. All of these people cost a wage, everything they do costs money. Now take into consideration everything a candidate does and everything that goes into what they do. Things such as fund raisers, dinners, public speeches, traveling, paid air time, paid radio time. All of these take people, materials and resources to achieve. From chairs to tables to cupakes everything costs against campaign finance funds. If you participate in an election for over a year, finish as one of the top contenders, getting larger and more elaborate as the campaign progresses, it could indeed cost over 200 million to finance that effort. In fact it does.

Wealth and political power seem to ho hand in hand. A few other famous examples of very wealthy individuals in the nation political spotlight the last half century you might have heard of: The Kennedy’s, Bush family, and Clinton family. The list could go on.


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