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Political Primer: Average Joe's Notes From the Campaign Trail

My campaign for Congress was a lesson in life, a lesson in politics and a lesson in money. It was above all else a reaffirmation of the greatness of this country and of our people.

Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of John Webb's series about his run for Congress. Part 1 is "An Average Joe Runs For Congress."

This is not the story I wanted to tell.  It is hard to write about my campaign.  I lost and lost big in the primary.  John Campbell got 50% of the vote, Sukhee Kang got 31% of the vote and I got 16%.  My 16% was more than 17,000 votes.  Here are a few comments about the campaign.

Meeting the Public: I was out five to six times a week meeting with different groups.  The Republican Women of Orange County and the Tea Party groups were very nice.  If you want to get into understanding politics in Orange County I would find one of their meetings and attend.  You will be warmly welcomed by each group.  These are people who care about the political process and are willing to work for their beliefs.  The members of these groups do not sit and complain,
or ignore the process; they step up and work to make a difference.  These are the doers who are a joy to meet.

Professional Politicians: This is a club of people who have worked together for years and they are not receptive to going against their own.  They are however, friendly and approachable.  You owe it to yourself to find these people.  It will change your thoughts on many aspects of politics.  Attend the Central Committee meetings of your party; they are the grassroots of politics.  I had thought these
people were above average, they are not.  Politicians are just average people.

The Press and Radio: I never figured this out. If you have money you can buy your way onto most shows and into the press. Without money there is a way, but I can’t explain it.

Money: Money first and money last.  You are familiar with the story of the tree falling in the forest.  The question, if nobody is around to hear it, does a tree make a sound when it falls? I was often reminded of this. After hundreds of meetings where people would tell me how much they appreciated the run, expressed concern about how little their Congressman was available, and applauded my ideas, I had reached only a few thousand people.  The incumbents were able to send one mailing (cost over $100,000) and reach every mailing address in the District.  They could make general comments, paint themselves in a positive image, avoid specifics and ask for votes. Without money and the ability to question their mailers, I was a tree falling in the forest. Nobody could hear me.

People who helped: I’m not going to mention names for fear of forgetting someone.  I was amazed how people were willing to help. I had several very small females on sign duty for hours at a time, holding a six-foot long sign with my name on it.  I don’t know how they did it.  But they did and then returned again and again to help.  I had a guy and his family spending their weekends, planting signs on streets in South Orange County because he believed in the message. An attorney from Tustin offered to help with the campaign, and then come to Washington with me.  Why? I had expressed concern I might vote for something not authorized in the Constitution.  He offered to make sure it didn’t happen.  He was willing to give up his business for two years to make sure I had help.  The most amazing thing was one evening I was approached by an elderly man, who was obviously having a hard time making ends meet.  He stuck something in my jacket pocket, while I was talking to someone else.  I turned to him and said “thank you.”  He apologized for interrupting me and turned to walk away.  I stopped him and thanked him again. He said, “I don’t have much money, but I believe in what you are saying.”  He then walked away.  After the meeting I reached into my pocket and pulled out a single, worn dollar bill.  I felt like a fool, sitting in a dark car after that meeting, crying because someone cared that much.  Politics will make you humble.  To truly represent the people, you must meet the people.  I will forever have a warm feeling for the people I met at these meetings.  Not everyone was receptive, but they were all serious about this country.

Fundraising: I was a failure at fundraising. It is critical for a campaign, unless you have millions of your own money. Once elected, groups will raise money for you, and you have the name recognition. I believe money was the reason for my loss. I found that fundraising is the same whether it is for charity or politics.   People want change, but don’t understand it cannot happen until people band together in spirit, in thought and in donating to their cause.  During the campaign I wrote a check for a charity and made the wistful comment, “I wish I was a charity." The charity volunteer said it didn’t make much difference: There are so many calls on people to give, people tune it all out after a while. Fundraising was my biggest failure.

Citizens: I met so many amazing people during the campaign.  Some I hope to keep in contact with in the future. There was an ex-Communist PhD who found God and became a Conservative.  His story is amazing, including attending school with Barack Obama. There were many people who would approach me after a meeting to offer advice. Some of it was so insightful, and it was offered without strings. One of the best things about this country is the people. Of course I knew this, but the experience of being a candidate renewed my admiration for the American People.  Rich, poor, working class, retired and families all shared the same basic thoughts. People want to provide for their families, take part in their communities and worship their God. All they ask is for their candidates to share the same goals.

My campaign for Congress was a lesson in life, a lesson in politics and a lesson in money. 

It was above all else a reaffirmation of the greatness of this country and of our people.

I strongly recommend each of you to run for an office at some point in your life.  If you start when you are younger, you can make up for a lack of money, by working yourself up the political ladder. From the school boards, to the water districts to city government, each is an experience in government. 

More diversity, a larger the number of candidates and more thought processes will give us better government.   

I am against term limits, but suggest we vote people out after they have been in office for a while, and make room for a different thought process. 

We grow stronger when constantly reviewing our priorities.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andromeda November 30, 2012 at 07:34 PM
If Michigan can't bail out Detroit then Obama will. We don't want to revisit 1967, do we? The loudest squeaky wheel always get the grease in America, even if the wheel is worn out and needs replacement. Detroit has been on life-support of decades. But it's the patient that will never die. Taxpayers will just continuing throwing fiat money at a failed city to maintain the peace.
Andromeda November 30, 2012 at 07:38 PM
The unions (both public and private) are committing a form of suicide and are too stupid and greedy to realize it. I say let them strike. Let them kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Then let them lie in their own feces. That's the only way any of this ends. There is no political will to fight them. The politicians are all in their back pockets. In the end, let them all eat cake.
Andromeda November 30, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I respect that you're engaged in the process and have opened yourself up to criticism with your Patch columns, Mr. Webb. I truly do. But many people (quite knowledgable, educated and intelligent people) have come to the conclusion after examining all the evidence that we are on a sinking ship taking on thousands of gallons of seawater that shows no signs of recovery. The only question now is when does it fully submerge? If you study world history we are on the exact same path as former empires that succumbed to the forces that prosperous societies are vulnerable to. Everything is born and everything eventually dies. Nations do not escape the process. It's the cycle of life. It is a beautiful process actually - but one that terrifies most of us humans. I understand where you're coming from, Mr. Webb. And I respect your point of view. But like I said before - you are the idealist and I am the realist. Can America maintain the status quo for a numbers of years? Sure. But can it survive this nonsense that we see happening around us. The answer to that question is an unequivocal 'no'. I don't know if we will see political, social and economic upheaval in our lifetimes. But I fear greatly for our younger generations.
John Webb November 30, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Andromeda, my column next week wraps up the experience of running for Congress. In two weeks I will introduce a thought process that will be somewhat wide ranging dealing with the exceptionalism of these United States. At that time, we can continue this conversation. My idealism is capped by 67 years of watching the world go around and being a student of the history of modern man. Todays events are just part of a glorious history yet to be written. This conversation will get better as we go along. I appreciate your kind words.
Andromeda November 30, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Why, thank you, Mr. Webb. And I will look forward to your article. But please don't be disappointed if you fail to convince me that our society is salvagable. I think we have gone beyond the point of no return. And I based that opinion on a great deal of intense study of other empires, their demise, and our direction of travel. I would like to be an idealist like you but I'm not wired that way any more (based on the facts as I see them) and I do not want to violate my own personal standards by believing something that I don't think is true. I was an idealist at one point in my life but no longer. I read somewhere that idealists live longer than realists. And that claim makes perfect sense. I don't know if it's true. But I hope you live a long and prosperous life. Maybe you will live to 100 and witness the great collapse. Who knows? You can tell me all about it on the other side :^)

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