Path to Congress

Many Americans are under the mistaken impression that running for office is very hard. They focus on movie and TV images of hard and grueling campaign debates, negative campaign ads, and the daily slog of making calls, shaking tons of hands, and giving speech after speech. They think that running for office is an ordeal you literally have to limp through to the finish line, and as one real estate agent resource put it, “There’s only three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and shady politicians.” All the while, you’re sweating out your campaign finances as you manage to rustle up the money to pay for this whole ordeal. While there is some semblance of truth to this popular image of running for office, for an increasingly large swath of the modern American electoral landscape, this is just not true. In fact, considering current political trends, running for Congress has become easier and easier. How? As parties become solidified, institutionalized, and ossified in many regions of the country, the real action, when it comes to getting elected to Congress, turns to the dominant parties primary. You win the primary, and you win the race. Simple as that. This is the current trend in the US and things don’t look like things will change anytime soon.

The reality of party domination

Owing to a complex combination of political, economical, and cultural changes vast swaths of America’s electoral map are becoming political monoliths. Whole areas of states either vote Democrat or Republican predictably and solidly every election cycle. Sure, from time to time a presidential election might ‘flip’ the territory one way or the other but the same patterns revert back to ‘normal’ once the presidential elections are over. Party domination and hegemony are regional. On both coasts, you have the Democratic party holding sway over large population-dense regions. In the South, you have the Republicans controlling complete counties, if not complete states. Increasingly, both state houses (oftentimes, the state senate and legislature) are controlled by the same party. More troubling, there is a recent trend where even the governorship is solidly in the control of one party.

More affluent and culturally diverse regions tend to skew Democrat and liberal, while more homogenous and traditional regions tend to lean Republican and conservative. Regardless of your political bent, this should be alarming to you. Why? By reducing vast regions of America to political ‘monoliths,’ we risk losing the hearty, double barreled, double fisted political discourse and political diversity that made this country great. I read a great line on FAA that read: America, after all, is a discourse. It is never a ‘one size fits all’ proposition. Instead, it is made up of conflicting and competing ideas all seeking to gain traction in the marketplace of regional and state and federal ideas. This whole set up is put in jeopardy when there is a movement toward a political monoculture. Political diversity is needed for truly robust discourses that encourage problem solving and innovative solutions.

Running for Congress is easy now

Now that political solidification has taken place in a large part of the US, it is actually very easy to run for Congress now. Just make sure you are in the right party at the right place. That pretty much takes care of more than half of the equation. The next step is to focus on winning the primary. Keep in mind that primary elections are very different from general elections. With general elections, you have to appeal to independent voters and a large enough share of the opposing party’s voters so you can win. Not so with the primary. Since a large chunk of primary voters tend to be ideological purists and tend to be more hardcore ideologically, you really have to show your party bonafides if you want to make an impact in the primary. Oftentimes, you have to challenge a long-running party heavy weight and run to either the left or the right of the incumbent-depending on your part and your region.

Running an ideologically hardcore campaign

While you might think you have an ‘edge’ over your incumbent opponent by running an ideologically stronger or ‘pure’ campaign, you have your work cut out for you. Why? Most of the electorate tend to favor incumbents. People often vote for the devil they know than the angel they haven’t heard of. Call it electoral inertia or just plain laziness, that’s the way people vote. This is why you have to go all out and appeal to the imagination of the ideological grassroots in your congressional district. Otherwise, you are in danger of getting run over by the incumbent’s existing political machine. You have to appeal to the ideological base and make your opponent come off as some sort of ideological whore or pansy.

The best kind of races in an increasingly polarized polity

The best kind of congressional race to run is not against an entrenched politically pure incumbent. The best would be to mount a primary challenge to a Congress person who is a political butterfly. In other words, this person votes with liberals one day and conservatives the next day. This type of ideological jellyfish is exactly the kind of politicians the currently polarizing polity of Congressional politics is grinding up, chewing down, and spitting out. You can join in on the process and take easy potshots at highly ideologically squishy targets. Of course, you can’t take things to such extremes that your opponent can have an easy field day portraying you as so far out of the mainstream that voting for you is like voting for an unhinged extremist nut. You still have to maintain enough space so you can tack to the center come the general elections and corral independent votes. Of course, your need to do this varies from district to district since some congressional districts are so ideologically ‘pure’ that you don’t have to tack to the center since there isn’t much of a centrist, moderate, or independent vote. With that said, you have to conduct your campaign in such a way that you don’t create any sound bites for the National party of the opposing party to mount a nasty nationwide fundraising campaign based on your ‘extremist’ soundbites.

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06 2014

McMahon’s Political Career

By 2010, with the elections just around the corner, the Democrats announced its new candidate hours after Chris Dodd stepped down from his senate seat. Taking his place was the Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who enjoyed a job approval rating of more than 80%. While Blumenthal proved to be more than what the Republicans expected, neither Simmons nor McMahon were discouraged as they took the ongoing anti-Democrat trend of the 2010 elections as a sure sign of their victory.

Unlike before, though, the tides were shifting in favor of Linda this time around. Even if Blumenthal lead any and all Republican contenders by twenty to thirty points, McMahon was surging through the surveys in the Republican Party. In time, she was able to overtake Simmons in terms of popularity amongst the Republicans, gaining support mostly from female voters, conservatives and residents of the Fairfield County area.

By the time of the Republican Convention, where the Republicans would finally pick the final list of candidates for certain key government positions around the country, Linda McMahon was on the offensive. Her campaign called out Blumenthal for his alleged faulty statements about his services in the Vietnam war, claiming that he fabricated everything in his stories. This attack didn’t do much to dent the Democrat representative, though, as it backfired on the Republicans. Blumenthal was able to clear himself of all the allegations thanks to an uploaded video of his speech where the Republicans claimed he lied about his military days. Later on, Ed Patru admitted to reporters that the whole thing was engineered in the McMahon campaign’s attempts to impress the Republican delegates and representatives in time for the Republican Convention.

The Republican Convention would hold good things for the McMahon campaign, as the embattled campaign and senate hopeful got things to go their way this time around. Simmons, who was previously beating McMahon at almost every point, was now on a slump as he gradually lost delegates to McMahon along with any and all funds for his campaign. Visibly frustrated, Simmons publicly claimed that he had more delegates than McMahon but this did him no good in the Convention where he lost the first round of voting. He then forced a primary against McMahon but lost once more, leading to Linda McMahon winning the Republican Party’s support and representation. While she may have won a long battle within the party itself, this wouldn’t translate well when it came to the national elections, where she lost to Blumenthal in the fight to be Connecticut’s next senator.

–Post written by Christie Weisberg, entertainment writer and bartender with Goldstar Bartending. She covers topics such as entertainment, nightlife, TV, fashion, and drinking. Her email address is christie.r.weisberg@optonline.net.

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09 2013

Smear Campaigns: Fact or Fiction?

In October 2009, the video sharing website Youtube.com was used against Linda’s campaign by one of Dodd’s spokespeople, Colleen Flananagan. In a group of videos, the spokeswoman called out Linda McMahon for being a supporter of the “stimulated rape, public sex and necrophilia” the WWE was accused of promoting in its nightly episodes and pay per view events. Even if the videos were subsequently removed by Youtube.com after receiving some phone calls from WWE, the damage was done and the stain stayed with Linda for the coming months.

Her problems wouldn’t end there, though, as even within the political party she was a member of, internal strife would only give her more pains than gains. Within the Republican Party (GOP), Linda McMahon was considered to be a political outsider, meaning she wouldn’t even get the full support of the party in times of need. She faced criticism from Connecticut based republicans who called her out for her controversial voting record and the fact that she donated a sum of money to the Democrats prior to her running for office. These lead to a lot of speculations and rumors that she would run independently instead, all of which would be unfounded in the following months.

By November 2009, one of Linda’s former colleagues by name of Billy Graham would turn around and publicly attack her campaign. Billy Graham, a former WWE wrestler who was terminated back in 1989, attacked Linda’s personality and campaign, claiming that she was nothing but a hypocrite and a liar for willingly putting men and women like him at risk and denying them of many benefits such as healthcare. He called her out for what he claimed to be some sort of whitewashing; back in his day, wrestlers would willingly cut and bleed themselves to make the show more entertaining but now that she’s running for the US Senate, Linda and the WWE have suddenly become advocates of non-violence. To him, this was highly questionable and personal, since he got infected with Hepatitis C during a fight and he got no help from the WWE in this personal battle of his. The McMahon campaign then attacked him as well, calling him a liar too in response to his claims but all of this was settled in few weeks’ time when both sides sent apology letters to each other, leading to Bill Graham withdrawing all of his previous statements.

Her greatest opponent, though, would be her own Republican ally by name of Rob Simmons, who was also her rival for the Republican Primary. In their fight for to be the representative of the party, both sides resorted to negative campaigning, where McMahon called Simmons a “fraud” while Simmons called out McMahon for supposed incompetency as former CEO of the WWE wherein under her watch, steroid abuse and a lot of politically incorrect moments were left unchecked. McMahon also claimed that Simmons was only using the conservative ideals of the Tea Party as cover since he didn’t really believe in them while Simmons would continue to attack McMahons’ time in the WWE, especially when it came to the way Eugene, a mentally handicapped wrestler, was humiliated on live television. The black propaganda campaign got so bad that by early 2010, the Republican Party itself began to distance itself from Simmons’ attacks.

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09 2013

Who is Linda McMahon?

Linda McMahon will always be remembered amongst wrestling fans as the wife of the famous Vince McMahon, the man responsible for the creation of the highly influential multinational media juggernaut known as the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Thanks to her help, the company rose to heights never before imagined, transforming the originally smalltime sports show on television into a genre defining business company. She took command of the company for a time as the WWE’s CEO and expanded the company’s influence even more through merchandise and promotions until the year 2009, where she decided that ruling the wrestling industry wasn’t enough. For her, there was more to her already successful life than just dominating the wrestling ring. For Linda, the next frontier to be conquered was the United States Senate.

Back in August 2009, Linda McMahon announced her candidacy as the Republican Party’s representative in the Connecticut senate race through her spokesperson. Her campaign trail would begin here, when she decided that she could do a senator’s duties better than the (then) incumbent Democrat Connecticut senator, Christopher Dodd, whose rating were on a slump at the time. Even when her husband Vince assumed her CEO duties in the WWE, wrestling fans and critics alike thought all of this was just a publicity stunt engineered to get more ratings until her team started airing ads and public service announcements on both television and radio proclaiming her candidacy.

Using her experience in the business sector as former head of the WWE and the help of John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign aid Ed Patru, Linda McMahon started her campaign with a media blitz, where she announced both her intentions and her criticisms of the way things were being ran at the time. Ranging from calling out the Senate for its connection to the controversial Wall Street and bailouts in the aftermath of the Recession to the senate’s passing of the $800 billion stimulus package, Linda left no stone unturned when it came to attacking her opponents. Everything Linda and her team did was organized and planned out well, as they followed their own strategies and patterns but no amount of preparation would have prepared them for what was to come in the following months.

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09 2013