We all aspire to change our communities for the better; to right the wrongs we perceive in the places we call home. On the local level, perhaps we want to push for better schools. On the national, a better tax system. Regardless of the specifics, every candidate enters into the political ring with the determination to enact a specific change for the better. In our current gossip-laden political culture, it’s often all too easy to forget the determination and bravery pushing an agenda to a skeptical public requires; the task can seem more than a little daunting to those with minimal political experience. That said, running for office is nevertheless a productive step for those who have ideas and passion enough to see them implemented. Below, I’ve listed four concerns that every aspiring candidate will need to overcome in order to succeed in their political endeavors.
Inexperience in Politics
A successful career in politics doesn’t need to begin with a degree in government from an Ivy League school or an internship with a high-flying Senator. While connections and packed resumes certainly help establish authority, candidacies are built on ideas. Moreover, the stereotype of the common “lawyer-politician” is becoming increasingly hollow; according to research from Harvard Law School, the number of lawyers in politics has dropped from 60% in 1960 to under 40% in 2016. While those without backgrounds in law or government are fewer than those who do in the Senate and House, it is possible for those from other fields to achieve high political office. Now more than ever, message and personality takes precedence over resume on the campaign trail.
That said, those interested in running for public office should consider volunteering and networking with campaign veterans to get a better understanding of what running a successful campaign entails before launching themselves into a race.
Cultivating a Message
Candidates need a strong message that appeals to voters. Relatively brief, this platform should highlight a candidate’s strengths and preferability without seeming boastful or critical of an opponent. Most importantly, it must be consistent; a recent Stanford University study found that voters tend to punish candidates who “flip-flop” on issues, and that they often refuse to acknowledge a candidate’s new position even after politicians disavow their previous ideas. Candidates need to seem stalwart and trustworthy if they want to succeed!
Launching a Fundraising Campaign
No candidate enjoys spending hours upon hours fundraising, but the efforts are necessary. Campaigns need money to run; according to Campaign Finance Institute’s analysis of Federal Election Commission, an average senatorial race cost over $10 million in 2016. The expense, of course, will vary depending on the office, but the need for fundraising skills will always remain.
Steering Clear of Negative Politics
Sometimes television has it wrong. The day-to-day workings of a political office are far less Machiavellian than some films might suggest; however, some aspiring politics still fear being drawn into the so-called “dark” side of politics. However, that distaste for corruption and machination is exactly what voters want in an honest candidate. No candidate needs to sink into dirty politics in order to get ahead!
Launching a campaign demands effort, determination, and passion from political newcomers and veterans alike. Those who have ideas to better their communities and the drive to see them implemented should make their voices heard by throwing their proverbial hat into the ring. Obstacles abound on the campaign trail – but successful politicians have the tenacity to overcome any barriers in their path to leadership.