How to enter politics in the U.S.

Elections in the United States have always been unique in many aspects from elections in the rest of the world’s democracies. Among the reasons for their uniqueness are the country’s political structure and last but not leastits political culture. In this article, I will discuss how to enter politics in the United States and what is different and similar in this process compared to elsewhere where there are elections.

There are generally four layers of government in the Land of the Free – federal, state, county (Connecticut and Rhode Island don’t have county governments though) and local – and single-member districts (as opposed to multi-member districts in most of the other countries that have elections) for the legislatures of each of these levels.

Depending on what office you (being the candidate for public office) are running for, you have to have stances on the issues that the position sought is capable of implementing – issues that fall under that position’s jurisdiction. For example, if you are running for your local town’s council, all issues that you should have stances on in your campaign should concern your district first and foremost – where your constituents live – and then the rest of your town. Issues outside this spectrum are irrelevant to your campaign and mentioning them would at best suggest that you are a populist.

Enough chit-chat, let’s get to work on your campaign!

Let’s say it just came to your mind that you want to get involved in politics by getting elected for public office which shall remain nameless for now. There are several criteria that should be taken into consideration before doing so:

  1. What you have accomplished in life: This determines your credibility to your constituents. It serves like a resume to a potential employer, and not surprisingly your constituents are in fact your potential employers.  Most politicians in the United States and the rest of the world are either lawyers or businessmen which shouldn’t amaze us for the two create and build credibility for their connection with competence in the law and money circulation: what I have always claimed politics is all about. Very few of the politicians have been either something other than that or entered politics at a very young age like Connecticut Representative Matthew Lesser or John Tyler who is the Mayor of the City of Muskogee, Oklahoma, elected at the age of 19.
  2. Which one your party is: The American political system is a two-party system unless you satisfy the third criterion. The media rarely covers third-party or independent candidates unless they…
  3. Have a lot of money (assuming that you can afford to pay the filing fee for political office which varies based on the different laws): Remember 2006 and U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut who lost the Democratic primary to Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont? He decided to run as an independent, and was just a little bit outspent by Mr. Lamont but he also had what’s known as…
  4. Name recognition: It is in fact among the most important ingredients in an election regardless of whether it is taking place in the United States or somewhere else where elections are not rigged. Incumbents, especially longtime ones like Senator Lieberman, are more recognizable by the constituency but that same ingredient could be to your disadvantage both in the U.S. and elsewhere. The other U.S. Senator from Connecticut – Chris Dodd – had very low approval ratings, according to Quinnipiac Poll surveys, largely due to alleged corruption scandals. As a result of this, he decided not to run for reelection in January, and the popular state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced his candidacy for the seat almost immediately. Name recognition doesn’t come on its own. For you who are running for office without political records, it is the result of your accomplishments (1) and your campaign’s ability to raise awareness about yourself (4) in the form of ads on brochures, billboards, radio and television, and also in the form of talking to your constituents, giving interviews to as many press entities covering your area as possible, and participating in debates with your opponent(s). For all of that, the third creterion is required. As Jeffrey Stonecash’s Political Polling speculated by giving examples of poll results on anonymous races (the author never mentioned politicians’ names), your campaign should focus on people who don’t know you (who answered DK/NA on questions about you) in order to have decent chances against an incumbent or a more recognized opponent. Candidates like Alvin Greene are merely exceptions to the rule.
  5. What your stances on the issues are and why you are running for the position (including why you are better than your opponent(s)): You should always have legitimate answers to these questions before you announce your candidacy for the party nomination (if it’s a primary) or for the general election unless you want to look as ignorant and opportunistic as Sarah Palin who performed very poorly on interviews – especially the one with Katie Couric – and had also said in an interview with Larry Kudlow months before having been picked as John McCain’s running mate, that she wasn’t sure what the Vice-President does. Sarah Palin was also fusy on the facts about the Vice-President’s voting in the Senate during her debate with Joe Biden where she said that Vice-Presidents are important in U.S. politics because they can vote on bills in the Senate, and Joe Biden corrected her by saying that the Vice-President votes only when there is a tie.
  6. Your appearance: It matters how confident you look on the outside and what you are wearing. These are the only two factors that determine whether you are self-respectful, and people who look like they have a low self-esteem are estimated low by the people. Dress to impress as people say. Your appearance is surprisingly important in life – regardless of whether it’s about a political campaign, business or even a hangout. In political campaigns it has been looked up to such an extent that Sarah Palin spent $150,000 on her apparel.

If you satisfy all six criteria, you are ready to run for a political position hopefully with the intention to make the world a better place and not just for your own well being.

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