The Paradox of the Independent – part 1

We have to begin dismantling the two-party system, and one way is to get the money out. It’s not the only thing we need to do, but money buys the broadest support for the current system. Candidates are personally enriched, those who work for the party are enriched, and suppliers of services are enriched. Suppliers are many, and include marketing firms, convention centers, travel agencies and airlines. And it’s an entire ecosystem: it’s not the candidate travel that enriches travel suppliers, it’s their entourage, convention attendees, and most of all, their competitors who must keep up. Lobbyists, PACs and all the donations must be managed so that’s more money spread around. And all these leeches on the political system buy houses, cars and luxury items that bring commission to others. Everyone mentioned here has a stake in the status quo. And they will do their part to keep it like it is. It’s survival. And there is another problem, the paradox of the independent: voters like it this way. Here’s why.

People associate wealth with success. People want candidates not in the pay of special interests, but if they aren’t getting big donations, voters and the media assume there must be a reason. We want candidates free of influence, but voters look at who approves of them, and that approval is in the form of donations. For candidates to act in our best interests, the voters have to stop evaluating candidates this way. Voters also have to start looking at candidate statements and history, and also at the incumbent’s voting record. We can’t keep letting the media or our loud friends do the analysis for us. Their values are not our values. And it is our responsibility to make the best voting decisions.

I called the Federal Election Commission today, the Information Division, and they confirmed that as long as spending is less than $5,000, there is no need to file at all. The downside is that an opponent can point out that I didn’t file and suggest this is a problem, and it’s less obvious I’m not taking donations. The FEC says I can file with zero, but it will require a bank account, quarterly reports and other things, which saps time away from campaigning when there is no campaign manager.

On the one hand, it might be good advertising to prove I’m not taking donations and that I’m spending less than $5,000. But so many voters will interpret this as not being a serious candidate, that if real estate developers aren’t donating, if a major party isn’t backing me, then I can’t be worth much. Yes, that’s the way people think, but not consciously.

I believe that people will understand my intention of representing the people without donations, a commitment to clean hands. They will be held back because working for 40 years or so, raising a family and pursuing education hasn’t made me rich, and they want a success. But that kind of success comes at a price I won’t pay.

You’ll have to decide if I deserve your vote based on what you read here, on my history, and the fact that I stand for what you know is right at a time when it isn’t popular. I have to trust you to see beyond the refusal to take money, to see beyond my lack of wealth, and to elect me because I’ll represent you well, because I’m more like you than anyone else in this election.

By Ed Rushman

Technical manager in Orange County, parent, husband.