In the December 2016 National Committee Meeting, I spoke about how politics was a rigged game (Gary Welch NCM December 2016). The Duopoly of Republicans and Democrats have assured that no third party will ever be successful if they try to play the game set by the rules that the Duopoly has established.
What is their game? Their game is that a political party bases everything on a Candidate Centric/Ballot Access system. It requires that a political party gains membership, donations, and political power by focusing on having candidates that run for political offices. To be able to have the candidates, you must first “pay to play” by having ballot access.
This system does not only negatively affect the Constitution Party. It impacts all the 3rd parties. None of them have been successful in creating any meaningful change in government. Oh, there have been those rare exceptions where a 3rd Party candidate has been successful, but the sad truth is the 99.9% of them fail. I would also propose that the wins that 3rd parties have had were despite the system, not because of it. I am surprised that all the 3rd parties actually go along with this scam. Exactly what kind of data do you need to convince you that this is a rigged game that is impossible for you to win? Even if we were successful in being able to gain ballot access, they would only change the rules again.
At that December 2016 meeting, I stated that we needed to change the game. We needed to force the Duopoly to play OUR game, by OUR rules. In that presentation, I provided the information about the assets that are available to us and provided this party with a message (The 3 Pillars) that could help.
Now I am proposing that we change the way that we are delivering the message. With that, I have a very controversial and bold recommendation:
WE SHOULD ABANDON BALLOT ACCESS EFFORTS AND FOCUS ON BUILDING COUNTY ORGANIZATIONS
“What!? Are you crazy!?”
Please hear me out. Let me lay down my arguments about why our problems with growth are directly attributed to our Candidate Centric/Ballot Access method of marketing ourselves.
- It is not working. Not for us. Not for the Libertarians. Not for any Third Party. It is a sucker’s game where you invest all of your resources in trying to get ballot access, only to have it wasted because you don’t have a strong enough base to have successful candidates. We have been playing this game for a long time now. Don’t you think it is time to come to the conclusion that this is a rigged system and we need to try something different?
- It is not about money. Both the Libertarians and Green Party raise lots more money than us. The Green Party rose over $4 Million in 2016 and the Libertarians were over $1.5 Million. So, having more money will not increase our chances. Even with the millions they raise, they still fail to get enough votes to win the vast majority of elections. One of the reasons is because they are still paying for ballot access in most states because they don’t have a big enough volunteer base to do it themselves.
- Candidates don’t bring that many volunteers to the party. Note, I said “Volunteers”, not voters. Candidates bring in people who will register as Constitution Party voters, but that does not translate into the volunteers and the donors that we really need. Case in point: Matt Riccardi. He did very well in New Jersey and increased Constitution Party voter registration by the thousands. Yet, how does the party look in New Jersey today? Lots of new county organizations? Lots of new donors? New volunteers? Tons of cash flowing into the party? Nope, nope, nope, and nope. That is because a Candidate Centric system leads to people following the candidate, not the party. High charisma and great speakers will have people following the man, not the party. If Matt runs again, they will be following and voting for him but very few will join the party as volunteers and donors. While I like that Matt can get thousands of votes, we need thousands of volunteers and donors.
- Speaking of candidates, it forces us to run unworthy and unwilling candidates. How many times have we had to strongarm someone to run for office so that we can either maintain our ballot access or because we just spent a boatload of money to get ballot access and we want to get our money’s worth. I don’t want candidates that are running for the “good of the party”. I want candidates that honestly believe that they can win and are running because they have the means, the abilities, and the determination to win. The candidate that is running because we twisted their arm is not the candidate that is going to win. Losing elections just makes it worse.
- If the money spent for ballot access in 2016 and 2017 had been spent on marketing to increase membership/volunteers and to invest in our county/state organizations, we would be at least twice the size that we are now. I am not sure of the exact amount, but my guess is that (between state and national) we have spent around $20,000 - $30,000 on ballot access over the past 2 years. That is a lot of money that could have bought marketing resources that would have been devoted to recruitment and fundraising (yes, it costs money to get money).
- We don’t need voters now, we need volunteers and donors. Getting ballot access does not benefit us. We don’t have enough votes to win any state or federal office, so it gains us nothing. We are actually working on a system where our goal is to get enough votes to maintain ballot access. Does that sound like a winning plan to you?
I am not saying that we completely and forever give up trying to get ballot access. Neither am I saying that we totally abandon running candidates. What I am saying is that we need to TEMPORARILY shift our focus to recruiting and messaging another way.
My suggestion is that we shift both our financial resources and our current volunteers to focus on developing and growing our county organizations. We work to strengthen our party by recruiting volunteers and donors to support their county Constitution Party.
We should be investing our financial resources into advertising and marketing to those individuals that want to make a change and are willing to work hard for it. There are many, many disenchanted people within the GOP who have devoted millions of hours and millions of dollars to that organization. We need to get them to start devoting those hours and dollars to the Constitution Party.
You get what you pay for. We simply don’t have that many volunteers (and the ones that we have cannot spare the hours needed) to do the amount of marketing work (social media, website management, developing marketing materials, writing articles, etc.) that needs to be done to be effective. If we took that same $20,000 and devoted it to advertising and marketing (plus hire our dedicated members that know what to do but cannot afford to spend the time to do it for free), then we could put together an incredibly effective marketing campaign (in this, I am speaking from experience).
On the candidate side, we need to start getting wins, not campaigns. Our best efforts would be to focus on local elections. Most city and school districts do not require party affiliation nor require statewide party ballot access. The only costs needed would be for the filing fees and funding the campaign (which costs a lot less than the state/federal campaigns). Winning these races would do more good than losing in a statewide race. Besides getting our members the experience that they need to run for higher offices, it will also provide us with the opportunity to make changes. If we can get our candidates to have a majority in city, county, and school district offices, we can start implementing our changes and demonstrate to the people the advantages of good government. We can also show that we can win and inspire confidence in both our members and prospects.
What about a candidate that wants to run for an office that requires a party affiliation? Simple. Run them as an Independent. The signatures needed to run as an independent candidate is much less than the signatures needed for statewide ballot access. So what if they are on the ballot as an Independent? Who cares? They will identify themselves as Constitution Party members when they are campaigning, and they will be endorsed/supported by the Constitution Party. That gives us all the name recognition that we need. The party position written on the ballot is irrelevant. Voters vote by two methods. They either vote for the name of the person that they like, or they vote based on party lines. Neither one will make any difference whether our candidate as a “C” or an “I” next to their name.
Why do we think that we have to be different from other non-party political organizations? The Tea Party, John Birch Society, NRA, and other political organizations have thousands (if not millions) of members, donors, and volunteers. They neither run candidates nor work to get ballot access. Why can’t we do the same things that they do to grow our party? Who says that we must act like the Democrats and the Republicans and that we need to do the same things that they do?
Once we have built a strong state organization, then we can start on getting ballot access. One of my arguments that has been dismissed by some national leaders is the proposition that we can get enough signatures for ballot access simply from our members. They tell me it is impossible. Maybe in the past, but not now. Honestly, it is not that hard. Here is the cold, hard truth about ballot access: Whether the number is by a percentage or an actual number, it is usually based on getting 2-3% of the votes that were cast in the last presidential election (although some states have as high as 8 – 9%). For most states, two to three percent is all you need. Are you telling me that we cannot 2-3 voters out of 100 to come join us? If we cannot even do that, then ballot access is the least of our worries. We need to have a different party.
While the numbers seem high to us, they are really very small compared to the entire voting population.
Let’s use an example to explain: Illinois is one of the worst states for ballot access. They require signatures that equal 8% of the votes. Right now, that number is 290,216. That sounds high, right? But you need to compare that with the 3.5 Million voters that voted. That means, for every 100 voters, you need to convince 8 of them to join your party/sign your petition. That is an achievable number if you have the right focus and the right marketing plan. Even if you can only get 10% of that number (or 0.8% of the total voters) to be volunteers, that still gives you almost 3000 volunteers to go out and be signature gatherers. Your cost? A couple hundred dollars vice a couple thousand dollars.
We need to think differently. We need to change the game. We need to stop playing by their rules. And we absolutely need to quit doing the same things that the Duopoly parties do. They do them because it fits their systems with the millions of dollars and millions of members. We need to be mean, lean, and smarter than them.