Guest Post: And So It Begins in Rotterdam

by Michael O'Connor of The Rotterdam Windmill, who is currently running as an Independent for a seat on his local town board.

I’ve been knocking on doors collecting signatures for my Designating Petition for nearly 3 weeks now. Getting on the ballot without a major party endorsement is tough – especially given the built-in disadvantages of New York State Election Law for independent candidates. I’ve been told more than once a run like mine can’t succeed. Without a party endorsement, without a bucket load of money, without an army of minions, I couldn’t possibly hope to deliver any coherent message to voters, let alone get my name placed on the ballot. I was wasting my time, they told me. “They” in this case is the Republican Party Committee.

So as a registered Republican, why not just seek their endorsement, right? I did. They passed. I’m a bit too independent minded for their liking. It wasn’t a surprise to me and actually it was a welcome relief. I was now officially on my own. Then a strange thing happened. The Republican Committee saw fit to oust one of their own incumbents, a proven top vote-getter, denying him their endorsement. He too, had turned out to be a little too independent minded. So my independent campaign, still on pause because of election law restrictions, has temporarily been supplanted by a Republican primary effort alongside the ousted incumbent.

I’ve been seduced, I suppose, by the trappings of the duopoly, telling myself it’s about ballot access. I’ll be glad when the independent window for signature gathering begins July 7th. Damon’s post on The Ideology of the Duopoly and the Infantilization of the American Voter though makes one simple fact crystal clear. The real power of the electorate lies within the hands of the independents, whether or not they’ve actually figured out an effective way to galvanize it yet. As it stands, the independents know what they don’t want. Knowing what they want won’t matter until they get a candidate who is willing to fight the uphill battle to challenge the entrenched party philosophies.

Enter me, but it could just as easily be you. I’m idealistic enough to believe it’s about right and wrong. I’m determined enough to believe it can be done. It’s about stamina as much as anything. In my own experience at the door, I’ve discovered it’s about honesty and sincerity. I’m well-versed enough in the local issues of concern in my town but I had a funny encounter with an ex-committeeman whose door I knocked on. He wanted to know if I’d formed a committee to sit in my living room to tell me what the issues were. He didn’t laugh when I said I’d made the mistake of getting that answer by knocking on hundreds of doors and talking directly to the voters. For the status quo, which so many people seem so discontent with, to change in a meaningful way, we’ll need to see an emergence of candidates willing to believe the impossible is possible. I don’t think you can expect voter apathy to subside unless voters are given a conduit to channel that belief. From my experience so far, I find voters are yearning for fresh faces and perspective and are willing to stand with a candidate poised to exploit the cracks inherent in the duopoly.

[Be sure to check out The Rotterdam Windmill for updates on Michael's campaign. -d.eris]


Samuel Wilson said...

Writing from near Michael's territory, I can only advise him to go into the community and create ways for people to get together and identify their concerns and priorities for themselves with a long-range goal of using such gatherings as a way for people to propose their own candidates instead of doing the usual brand name shopping.

Michael said...

Good advice, Sam. I've organized a few initiatives prior to this election try but always seem to encounter non-believers. Keeping people motivated is as big a challenge as the objective sometimes. That has always frustrated me because I'd rather devote my energy to the task at hand instead of holding their hands. Fortunately, this time I find myself surrounded by some different individuals that may have more expertise in what you suggest. I'll try to explore that.