I Learned in My Political Campaign
by Karen Kwiatkowski: Should
Peace Prevail? Of†Course!
Two weeks ago
I lost an election. I had challenged the ten-term incumbent representing
the 6th District of Virginia, "Boehnorite"
Bob Goodlatte in a Republican primary. We ran a serious campaign,
spent nearly $100,000 and deployed thousands of volunteer manhours.
In this open primary held June 12th, with 8% turnout, we garnered
over 34% of the vote, and gave the incumbent the most difficult
and most expensive electoral challenge of his political life. We
also ran the most significant and toughest challenge faced by any
Republican in Virginia this year.
and running a insurgent liberty-oriented campaign against an entrenched,
big spending and big borrowing establishment hack, I believed we
were doing something useful. Many agreed with me. Many helped and
I thank everyone who gave us time, talent, money and best wishes.
costs, and I want to reflect on these, because many of these costs
werenít what Iíd expected. Certainly, I spent my own money (and
yours), wore out my transmission and my tires, and consumed a lot
of time that otherwise would have been spent on work and family.
That happens to every candidate.
that, my contributions to LewRockwell.com dropped off in the year
I spent campaigning. Instead of writing what I loved to write, I
wrote less rewarding short essays relating to liberty and paleo-conservatism
aimed specifically at the 6th District audience. I missed
my LRC readers. I missed their attention to detail, their deep grasp
of history and economics, their insight and their ability to explore
difference of opinion deftly and without alienation of affection.
Writing for a generally uninformed public on the proper role of
the state, on real liberty, and the true nature of the free markets
and free exchange was not easy. The lack of a shared language of
liberty and a shared contempt for the state was sharply evident.
connected me and likeminded people to our peers and partners; the
Remnant recognized its membership, grew it, and groomed it. But
the effort to go beyond libertyís enlightened minority was difficult,
and I have yet to figure out the key to influencing the so-called
"masses." There may be no key at all Ė and convincing
the majority may, of course, be entirely unnecessary. But it was
disheartening to learn that most people are uninformed about, unaware
of, uninterested in and unconcerned by either liberty or statism.
It was disheartening to find that most people are driven by feelings
rather than facts, emotions over critical evaluation.
Those who actually
vote often seem driven by fear, voting to allay that fear. Our campaign
certainly leveraged that. We promoted fear of the unpayable federal
debt, of hyperinflation, of war, of economic collapse, of gun and
property rights being stripped away by overweening government. Bob
Goodlatteís campaign leveraged fear as well, advocating the terror
of an unknown candidate, and conducting telephone push polling and
email whispering campaign throughout GOP party channels that painted
me as an anti-Semite and a 9/11 truther.
can chip away at voter apathy, but is that a reason to vote at all?
We are seeing this on a national scale in the GOP campaign to defeat
Obama in November. We are told the country will be destroyed by
four more years of Obama, and that this is the "most important
election ever." That nearly every president since Lincoln has
consistently grown centralized government power and expanded executive
rule is somehow ignored, as the party systems fight for supremacy
and, you guessed it, more power over the people and their assets.
And they all need "voters" for top cover.
My past writings
ridiculing voting as a mystical state ceremony, symbolic rather
than truly functional, were curiously not brought up by my opponent,
perhaps because of all the things I may be correct about, I am most
correct on this. On the other hand, I found myself in the curious
position of valuing a voterís symbolic rite, and encouraging it
as a means for real change Ė and this seemed inconsistent with my
own beliefs. Happily, I could point out that nearly 95% of the voters
in the 6th District disapprove or couldnít care less
about Bob Goodlatte Ė 92% didnít show up at all to the open primary,
and of the 8% who did, only 5% voted for his continued reign. Could
we embrace that contempt and fundamental disregard of the DC political
class, and somehow transform it into real liberty, and into individual
and collective refusals to fund, support and obey that state? By
doing that, would we be able to witness a richer and more dynamic
society and more decentralized market-based solutions? And what
political party would Ė or could Ė embrace
the peopleís anti-vote?
I found that
our campaign caused me to compromise my own values in an attempt
to appeal to my conservative base. When asked about the drug war,
I naturally blasted it for cost, counter-productivity, corruption,
abject failure of the mission, the massive growth of the military
police state in this country, and I called for its end. But I didnít
lead with this as the first "war" or set of agencies to
eliminate, and I never talked openly about my goal of seeing agricultural
hemp legalized, in Virginia and across the country. Next time I
run, Iíll be more bold.
extensively on unnecessary and unconstitutional war, yet I didnít
run on an antiwar platform -- but rather an anti-nation-building
one. Yet nation-building is indeed war, and endless expanding war
is fundamental to state power. As my campaign progressed, this country
engaged in war on three continents without pause. It conducted cyber
war, economic war, and direct action in foreign countries Ė all
without any Congressional declarations of war, and all with repeated
votes by my opponent to fund these unconstitutional activities.
My opponent, even during our campaign, voted to expand the military,
to further incorporate drones into American policing in every state,
and he even refused to support the Smith-Amash Amendment to strip
the NDAA of its egregious citizen military detention clause. My
lack of boldness on the issue of illegal war and expansion of the
national security state was a gift to status quo nationalism, and
my opponentís sorry voting record continued unabated and largely
campaign, we constantly criticized the incumbent for his tendency
to support the best compromise he can get, rather than opposing
evil and unconstitutional legislation straight up. I have since
concluded that such compromise is not only rotten, but indeed futile.
Better to go with a full frontal assault, the yes or no, up or down.
Better to unleash the truth, fire the kill shots, and never compromise.
Yet, politicians by their very nature are appeasers and deal makers.
After completing this race, I increasingly see political campaigns
as battles in what must be understood as a war with the state, and
certainly a war between the people and Washington, DC.
was also a beautiful experiment in the nature of spontaneous cooperation
and free exchange. Many talented people came together, often just
in time, and offered their special talents and skills to create
great value that blessed more than just our campaign. We grew, as
Tom Woods eloquently points out, a remnant of sorts in our own
district, and we planted seeds for a geography of liberty in this
part of Virginia that will not be denied.
again in opposition to the soon-to-be-eleven-term incumbent. A few
years ago, I called out the neocon pack in the midst of their carcass-feeding
war lust, and faced their nips and whines, their bared fangs and
bad breath, with amusement and chuckling. Taking on a single lousy
politician Ė who waivered when I shook his hand after the election,
and literally quaked when I impulsively gave him a bear hug Ė is
childís play. Itís not to my credit, but it could be my area of
specialization. The politics of liberty and attitudes of pure contempt
for the jack-booted state will be expanded, more widely considered,
and more viable as a result of my continued public resistance.
plan to be more bold, more principled, and will shoot to kill (so
to speak) without compromise. Will this approach get a majority
vote among the minority who show up in primary elections? Will we
dominate in a convention, or will an aggressive campaign to save
the country from Washington professionals drive people to defend
the status quo even more vociferously? Will the voting behavior
of our targeted representative improve in the interim?
I suspect that
campaign professionals will despair that I havenít learned the "right"
political lessons. They would surely advise to go mild, broaden
the base, and never attack directly. But thatís no fun, and for
me, it wouldnít be honest. Iíd rather be an outlier square in the
path of where political action is going, rather than where it has
been. That may make me as self-serving and arrogant as the career
politician Iím targeting, but knowing exactly where I want to be
in a long war against DC may also be a strategic advantage. Having
completed a political campaign, and lost, Iíve gained a new awareness
of the nature and vulnerabilities of incumbent politicians in the
current era of American national socialism. More importantly, Iíve
glimpsed the unlimited possibilities and glorious impact of individual
decisions to challenge the illusion of central authority and to
live free, by no manís leave and as we wish.
columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send
her mail], a
retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty
and Power and The
Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles,
here or join her Facebook page. She
ran for Congress in Virginia's 6th district in 2012.
2012 Karen Kwiatkowski
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