What makes a good candidate?
I have been working with several Constitution Party members who have expressed an interest in running for public office. This is something that I always like to encourage. The entire purpose of our party is to promote and elect Constitution Party candidates to public office.
The problem is, when I ask them questions about their campaign, they start making claims and expressing ideas that demonstrate that they do not realize the monumental efforts required to run a successful campaign. When I ask questions regarding funding, campaign staffing, advertising, and basic strategy, I normally hear a long silence, followed by a lot of stuttering and then humble admittance that they don’t know what to do.
That is to be expected. We are small party and not many of us have experience in running for office. The vast majority of our party members have not had the opportunity to be an active member of a campaign staff and work with a candidate. Our small numbers and our status of being on the fringe of politics means that we don’t get many opportunities to participate in promoting Constitution Party candidates.
So, I have decided to write a series of articles for those that feel the call to serve their community by running for political office. This series is designed to give you a brief overview of what is involved with a political campaign and to dispel some of the misinformation and myths involving a campaign for political office. As such, I thought my first article should be a self-evaluation of your personality traits and characteristics to see if you would be comfortable as a political candidate.
In doing this self-evaluation, I want to first blow up the myth that politicians must be from an elite class of individuals. That is exactly what we want to fight against. In the U.S., we identify the “perfect politician” based on the candidates who are currently running for office. The Constitution Party wants to destroy that image and introduce new characteristics for our political candidates. Your status in life, your wealth (or lack of it), your education, and your family background have nothing to do with your ability to be a successful politician in the new format that the Constitution Party will use for promoting our candidates. We want to destroy the status-quo of politicians because they are corrupt, egotistical, controlling, sociopathic, megalomaniacs who have an elitist attitude. Our programs are designed to encourage average Americans to step up and serve their communities by getting elected. At the heart and core of the changes we want to make, our politicians are the most critical component to promote our cause. As such, we need them to be just as different from GOP/Democrat candidates as much as our policies and principles are different.
Having said that, however, there are certain personality traits you must have if you are going to be successful with your campaign. If you don’t possess these traits, then you should consider working in other areas of politics vice being a candidate. Here is a list of the personality traits that you should have if you are considering running for political office:
- You must like people. Politicians are social creatures. Their success is very dependent on their ability to engage and associate with their community. As such, you must be comfortable in being sociable with strangers, large groups, and in public settings.
- You must be able to speak in public. Notice I did not say that you have to like it. The vast majority of us have public speaking anxiety and fear. The average person fears public speaking more than death. You can, however, overcome these fears. Organizations like Toastmasters can help you overcome these fears and can teach you how to be an effective public speaker (I speak from personal experience that it works). The breaking point is whether or not the fear of public speaking is so strong you cannot overcome it. It is not something to be ashamed of if you feel that way (you are actually in the majority) but it means that you cannot be successful as a political candidate.
- You must be committed – to the point of being stubborn. Running a campaign (even at the local level) is difficult and grueling. On the stress level meter, it is right up there with divorce and death. It takes a lot of time, sacrifice, and effort to be successful. You must be a person who, once you make up your mind on something, has a history of seeing it through to the end. I can guarantee you that, at some point during your campaign, you are going to say “This is just not worth it”. A strong commitment will be the only thing that will get you past those moments.
- You must be willing to ask for help. Some of us are very polite and self-sufficient. We don’t like asking for help because we have been brought up to not inconvenience others for our own needs. A political campaign is built on asking others for help. You need to ask for donations, you need to ask for volunteers, and you need to ask for endorsements. As such, you need to be comfortable in asking others to give to you. You can feel confident it is worth it because of your intentions are honorable and your cause is noble. As such, there should be no shame in asking for help because you are doing it for their own good. However, you must have the personality to be able to look someone in the eye and boldly ask them to help you out. For some, that is a major problem.
- You must be likable. At the beginning, I mentioned that you must be a person who likes people. This is the same thing but on the other side – people must like you. Politics is a combination of good ideas mixed with a good personality. If we don’t like the messenger, odds are that we will reject the message without listening. A person who is perceived as being odd or very unconventional will be rejected regardless of their message. The ability to build rapport and acceptance among your constituents is critical in a campaign. Notice that I did not say that you have to be popular. While many campaigns turn into a popularity contest, it does not have to be that way. A better message can easily overcome an opponent who has better presentation skills, however, you must have a “likable” characteristic if you are going to have any chance of success. Being eccentric also is not necessarily a bad characteristic. The bottom line is acceptance. Do you find yourself being accepted and able to interact easily with others in social situations or do you constantly find yourself sitting alone? Are your neighbors and acquaintances comfortable around you or do they find you “odd”? The latter choices would be an indicator of personality traits that would not make you a good candidate
- You must be “thick-skinned”. Being a politician means always being in the spotlight. For local campaigns, this spotlight is very small, but it is still something that makes you stand out from the crowd and calls attention to yourself. Typically, you are going to have opponents who will try to tear you down. If you are running as a Constitution Party candidate, you can expect the media and other liberal organizations will be adamantly opposed to you. As such, they will do what they can to tarnish your reputation and use tactics to degrade you. Since they cannot win on principles, they must win by character assassination. You must also add to this the fact that no one is perfect. We all have things in our lives we are not proud of. We all will do and say things during a campaign that we will wish we could take back. Being a flawed individual is not a problem (in later articles, I will show you how to make it an asset), but it means that you are going to hear and see things about you that are not complementary. Even in a “clean” campaign, your opponent is going to attack your ideas, your principles, and your intelligence. How you react to them and how you allow them to affect you will be critical to your success. You must be able to “shrug off” the rocks and mud that is thrown at you and not allow it to get to you. At the core of every successful politician is a sense of self-confidence. That ability to be confident enough in yourself that others’ opinions about you do not phase you. If you are sensitive about what others think of you and it is important that everybody “likes” you, then you will find your campaign to be very difficult.
While these are not all of the characteristics good politicians have, they make up the most critical characteristics that will make or break successful candidates. There are things that can be taught to make a candidate successful and there are things that just must come from within. These traits are some that you should already have if you are considering running for public office. The others we can teach you.
In my next article, I will talk about how to decide which office to run for and how to prepare yourself for running for public office. Most people don’t realize that you should start your “campaign” about a year before you file for the office. We will be reviewing how to decide which political office to run for and how to prepare yourself to win. Preparation is the key to a successful campaign and the longer you prepare, the better.
In the meantime, let’s have a discussion and ask questions about the personality traits of political candidates.