As of May, 2003, I have decided to no longer run for this office. I am maintaining the website for several reasons, not the least of which is that the effort expended in developing the ideas was clearly worthy, and the work produced should therefore be preserved. My further reasons for no longer seeking elective office can be found in this essay - Saving America from Ourselves.
from the 2004 Presidential Campaign of Joel A. Wendt: working paper #
Election Processes in the Future
- how citizen governance in practice eliminates the need
for conventional media and the corresponding demand for
excessive amounts of campaign contributions -
[As the campaign has developed in practice, not all that was hoped for here has been possible, nor has the advice of those taking an interest in the campaign been to continue along these lines in all cases. Nevertheless, certain of the basic ideas stated below still have a validity and should be considered by anyone wanting to think about these problems. Thus, while I am finding it necessary to seek a small amount of funds, and make other adjustments, the basic ideas still seem valid.]
One of the problems. that ordinary citizens may assume to exist, is that if they were to enter into public life they would need to make all manner of compromises to existing powers, and have to spend a lot of time raising money. It is one of the objectives of the citizen governance movement, not only to suggest how to avoid these problems, but in fact to prove that they really are not the obstacles they appear to be. However, to see that this is so may not be easy. To help with understanding this possibility, I am going to lay out the situation using my own campaign as an example. This will give us not only the general rules, but also a specific instance of their application.
Let's begin this consideration with a small personal aside. It might be possible that some will think that I have taken this step of running for the office of the presidency on some sudden impulse. This would not be true. It is something that has been under consideration for many many years. One result of this many years of activity is that the various elements of the campaign, not only in itself, but also in the context of ongoing social and political processes, have been carefully worked out. Years of thought stand behind the decision.
One of the problems for me has been to face certain realities - to understand why I wanted to do this and why I should do this. While this is a very public act, its roots are quite private. It is possible to harbor quite grandiose self views, and to seek not service but rather the realization of extraordinary ambitions. I didn't want to do such a thing to the public, nor to myself, so it became necessary to find a way that involved a combination of inner balance and outer genuine service.
As I continued to struggle with the personal side of seeking the office of the presidency, over the years of my contemplation of political realities, I eventually found a certain kind of balance in a particular idea. This idea then has become a major aspect of the construction of the campaign, and I urge those who also decide to seek public office, under the impulse of citizen governance, to follow this principle.
First of all it is important to conceive of the office as a job - something one approaches as a kind of difficult work, rather than as a unique or higher calling. In the case of public service, of any degree, it requires what is a kind of very ordinary moral workmanship, or craft. Anyone, who has learned to find satisfaction in their work life, realizes that one receives what one puts out. It is not just the money or the possible esteem of others that leads to job satisfaction, but rather how we conduct ourselves before our own conscience. Most everyone understands this, and the same inner relationship needs to exist between the applicant and any offer of public service.
In addition to these matters of inner equilibrium, I observed how our current political life is imbalanced in a number of directions (excess beholding to monied powers, inability to reform campaign contribution laws, the seeking after power rather than service, and so forth). These outer imbalances are, I believe, related to not understanding the necessity of this inner craft. This being the case, I have used as a guidepost something in the nature of the opposite of those imbalances. For example, politicians are basically sold to the America People like so much soap. Huge investments are made in terms of research, focus groups, and campaign specialists, followed by millions of dollars in television advertising. Politicians seldom speak spontaneously, and instead their every word is crafted to woo the voters. I have sought to avoid this, and that what can be done, and should be done, is something quite different.
The point is to not try to sell the voters anything at all. There is no need to raise great funds by which to buy time on television, nor hire any consultants to recreate and falsify an image. In essence, for this to be possible, the American People need to work at hard at this as the candidates do (which isn't all that hard by the way - it involves paying attention to current events, thinking about things from the point of view of common sense, and talking to other people about it).
What is done for any campaign needs to be done by the citizen governance movement, out of their own time and money. They have to want citizen candidates sufficiently to stir themselves up from in front of their televisions, and out into activity. For example, I will write these papers, and probably make some videos (see details later), but I will not sell myself to an electorate that remains passive. I will also begin to give some speeches, only the first few however, will I organize myself. Once they are done, I will only make public appearances if asked and invited.
An individual attracted to my campaign I hope will eventually find on this website these working papers, as well as videos [none exist a present] and other materials. The website will show how to obtain the videos at cost, with no profit to go to me or the campaign. The papers can easily be downloaded and copied as each individual wishes, and many people have the capacity at home to duplicate videos. The citizen governance movement, through the renewal groups, can share with each other this work - papers and videos, or other materail. Other candidates can do the same - can offer the basic material . There is no need for huge campaign staffs. A properly responsible citizen governance movement will see that by personally bearing the work, the resistance of Congress to campaign finance reform is overcome.
This is an important point and deserves amplification. There are a number of problems with our electoral processes that really only exist because of the passivity of ordinary citizens. This passivity is a weakness within our form of government. Into this weakness then flows the overrearching of the politically ambitious and the currupting forces of concentrated wealth. In this respect, the citizen governance movement is a necessity. If this weakness - this wound - in the vital processes of our Republic remains, it may well be fatal.
Let me sketch out the basic potential of an approach that assumes that the citizen governance movement begins to heal this wound. If the passivity is abandoned and replaced with activity, then a kind of natural free media process can be born - something that has quite a potential for growth.
Any individual, or renewal group, can then share material with others. Suppose five people do this one week, while over the course of the next week they each introduce the material to five others (or 25 new people). This progression continues: 25 becomes 125 becomes 625 becomes 3,125 becomes 15,625 becomes 78,125 becomes 390,625 becomes 1,953,125 becomes 9,765,625 becomes 48,828,125 and so forth. Not only can there be growth, but if such processes move outward from several centers at the same time, the ideals rendered by individuals, or individual renewal groups, can spread throughout the Republic.
Try this picture. Think of the USA geographically, with all manner of points of light radiating spheres of understanding outward, moving in waves, crossing and recrossing each other, meeting and influencing, blending and stimulating. All of this done by individuals, without needing the commerical media (and its biases) to play an inhibiting role.
Now granted in any single community, or locale, a saturation point can be reached, so that the growth progress above fails. In addition, there will be many not interested. The point of understanding this is to realize that it is possible to conduct a campaign entirely without major media or large funding, as long as the People have the will and the desire. In addition, it is clear that once a certain level is reached in terms of numbers of people following out this impulse, either in the formation of citizen governance renewal groups, and/or by themselves running for office, the major media will have to pay attention. The whole thing becomes news, at which point paying for coverage becomes entirely irrelevant.
It is this will and desire of the People that is central in order for the needed workmanlike moral craftsmanship to enter into public life. And, for me personally, I don't want the job at the cost of lying to the People, or tricking their emotions through clever advertising. I don't want the job at the cost of making alliances with principalities and powers. I couldn't do the job under those circumstances. But if the job wants me (that is if a true citizen governance movement arises and is interested in me), then I can respond. With this campaign I make it possible for the job to want me, or, if not me (which is fine), then others can be brought forward using the same essentially costless process.
The two need to have the desire and the will together - those who would offer themselves to true pulic service and the citizens, otherwise there is no true citizen governance. We are far past the time when only voting is an adequate or responsible path to citizenship.
There is a certain specific time line involved, which needs to be paid attention to if we are to effectively begin to act: The next presidential election is to take place in November of 2004. In January of 2004 will be the first primary election in the State of New Hampshire. This means that in the summer of 2003, six months before the New Hampshire primary, the various candidates (and the media) will begin to intensify their activity there. That period is only a year from the time these working papers are being written.
The People of New Hampshire have a right to consider carefully their judgment as to whom they will vote for in the 2004 primary election. It is then the responsibility of myself (or any other offering candidate), and those who choose to support us, to make material available during the summer of 2003. This includes promoting some general public awareness of even the existence of the campaign, but more crucially of the citizen governance movement itself.
As a general matter of strategy, for either my campaign or the citizen governance movement's self perception of its powers, it would be important to make some impression in the New Hampshire Primary in 2004. One way to do this would be to see if I (or any other candidate the citizen govenance movement is willing to support) gets listed on both the Democratic and the Republican ballots. Then to follow this up with having one person win on both ballots! While this may seem a strange goal, the point is to make as big a splash as possible in this particular Primary Election so that the idea gets communicated with the greatest force and people will see in practice what could be achieved if they were to become more active. Think of it as a very necessary kind of demonstration.
Now the question can arise about how one gets on the ballot. In the case of this campaign, and all further citizen governance campaigns, it is my hope that the people will have sufficiently risen from their passivity to be able to write - in the candidates of their choice, regardless of the nature of the printed ballot.
It is clear that various election rules in different States may stand in the way of the citizen governance movement being able to cas t votes for those they want . Certain decisions of the Supreme Court of the Unit ed States also inhibit a citize n 's a bility to cast a write-in ballot when they want. These ob stac le s need to be considered part of the problem, but at the same time something that needs also to be ignored.
These laws and court decisions that do not support write-in v ting in all cases exist due to the ruling powers determin ation to maintain their control , by making the election of alternative candidates difficult . The citizen governance movement needs to pro ceed in spite of such efforts to limit our rights to have those wh om we wish in public office. The existing parties, the Democrat s and the Republicans, clearly fiddle with election l aws, voting distri cts, election rules and any other way possible in order to maintai n their power at the expense of anything which would oppose it.
We could ask ourselves how can we overcome such rules, which make it basically impossible to offer alternative candid ates without dancing th rough all manner of quite unjustified hoops. A ci tizen should be free to express his or her will at the ballot b ox, and no rule or court d ecision that stops that will is justified.
If a S tate does not allow write-in voting, without lim its, then the re newal g roup s should consider themselves free to offer alternative election sites, where people could vote their hearts and minds in spite of official confining rules and proce dures. The importa nt matter is to act regardless of what the government does to restrict our effectiveness.
Imagine this scenario (granted it is fantasy, it will a t least demonstrate the principle) : Suppose that 30% of the Democrat s, and 25% of the Rep blicans and 45% or the independents want to vote for me (or any other candidates who have made themselves available) in the New Hampshire Presidential primary . Suppose further that casting a write-in vote i s impossible because of the rules. Even so, the renewal groups decide to offer alternative voting sites, and the above perce nt of the voters cas t ballots in both the official and non-official venues, cho osing on their own whether to vote for one presidential candi date in one place and another in another p lace. The un official vote is counted and made public (if significant numbers do this i t will make the news, and certainly the citizen governance movement will make this result known within its own developing forms of media).
Now some will consider this an empty act, believing that what one needs to do is something real . But this view is dependent upon placing the end at the fore fron t, in th is case the end being the actual e lection of a certain personality, and thereby the obtaining of the resultant political power. Yet, within the citizen governance movement the ideal exists that what is involved i s not the end b ut the means . By providing alternative polling sites, the citizen gove rnance movement creates a feedback system by which it can test its resolve to be an activ e participant , and will in the end, even though a specific candidate is not elected, gain practice at effecting the conversation, as it is the formation of the nature and con t ent of the conversat ion which is the true means .
The goal is not my election, or any other citizens election . The goal is the deepening of the conver sation. From this act everyth ng else will begin to ch ange , as was discu ssed in working paper #1. Let me add some additional facts in s upport of this picture.
At present, political power is used to determine the nature of the dialog, through the infusion of vast amounts of money. Professional pol lsters do research on what concerns the public. Focus groups are use d as ways of testing the public reaction to various phrases and ideas as could be expressed in spe ech es and televisions ads. Special attention is made to how we feel about th ese issues. O ut of this research the campaign is con st ructed, so that the candidates can be s old to us .
If the public, th rough the development of renewal groups and related kinds of interactions, enhances the fundamental nature of the conversation, then the research being conducted e ncounters something new. What before was rather easily manipulated, now resists. The illusory ma sks that candidates routinely wear can no longer be hid behind. A demand f or something higher arises in the public mind, and the politician will be forced to begin to change, not only what is said, but also what is done.
What is crucial to reali ze is that the 2004 presidential primary in New Hampshire is a rather uniqu e opportunity to focus these powers of the emergin g citizen governance mov ement through the lens of the existing me dia processes. What before obtained its often falsified me dia image th rough protest and resist ance, can now mature and offer a work more fundamental and essential - a deep change in the nature of the conversat ion.
For this reason I am spending the summer of 2002 writing these working papers, and will in the fall create three videos and begin to make a few speeches. As soon as this material is finished, it will then be offered to the general public upon whom then the responsibility will fall to spread it further in accord with the potential implied by the growth progression noted above. If they (the citizen governance movement) do not, then the whole impulse dies there and I will be free to consider other future courses for my life. Again, I will not force myself on an unwilling passive electorate.
[For reasons outside my control (a crucial member of those whom I need help from in going forward with this work has become unavailable due to an illness in the family), I have been unable to act during the Fall of 2002 in the way that I had hoped. As of this writing, Dec. 21, 2002, while I have some plans for the new year, I remain uncertain how they will work out. Even so, the idea, of the use of videos as a means of eliminating the need for bowing to commercial media, remains true and workable, and for those considering their own participation in the future developments of the citizen governance movement this type of self created media is, I believe, essential.]
Now, the nature of the videos:
Hopefully arrangements will be made so that I can speak to at least three groups of people for a couple hours (the normal time of an average video tape). The audiences will be unrehearsed, and will be open to anyone. People will be invited by receiving copies of the working papers, and as well through small advertisements announcing the meetings in the three areas chosen for the tapings.
The purpose of these tapes is so that individuals can see me in action with other people, and have a sense of my thinking when subject to the questions of the public. In addition (and probably more importantly), the people will get the chan ce to ob serve thems elves in action, being invi ted by these meetings to their initial acts of citizen governance. Once the campaign (with its mutual interaction of candidate and citizen) is formally launched in the late fall of 2002, I will be available to groups wanting me to appear and talk (but I will not have a staff creating these opportunities). All these meetings hopefully will be taped. While I anticipate paying for the original tapings, the later ones will depend upon the people sponsoring the gathering. All further stages of the campaign, once it is launched, will depend upon the will and desire of the people, upon whom the central work of citizen governance must depend.
I have assumed that there will be some success, and therefore there are general plans for stages of the campaign after the initial launching - these follow:
Mainly these involve the use of the internet. As I describe them it should be kept in mind that what we are evoking here, through the power and potential of citizen governance, is the creation of an alternative media - of an alternative to mass media which by its nature is beholden to concentrated wealth. These developing media already exists on the internet, and all that is really necessary is for it to become more responsible and self aware.
Already websites are created by individuals, out of their own monies and moral impulses, for all manner of various political and social reasons. We can actually expect that if the idea of citizen governance begins to penetrate the general consciousness, that people will come forward and create on the internet tools to support this work. What I am describing next is what I believe will be the need if this impulse matures during the next presidential election period.
Imagine being able to go to a website that contains a national map. You click on a certain local e (such as a State or a City) and that gives you information on citizen governance activity in that loc ation : names of candidates, locations of renewal meetings, websites of candidates and other related groups. The possibilities are almost endless.
In addition, such websites can be interactive. The person visiting the website needs to be able to add information, such as articles, messages, links to other websites.
The essential matter to watch for, and to seek to encourage, is the change in the nature of the conversation. What all these renewal groups and candidacies and internet activity will support is a true national conversation of fundamentals, flowing from the citizenry outward into the public dialog.
Think of holding one end of stick, while another person holds the other end. They can push the stick and we will feel the push. That is basically the situation in the present in the sense of the dialog. The professional politicians, and their experts, manipulate the conversation (push the stick at us), in cooperation with the spin efforts of concentrated wealth through its control of major media.
Now it is time for us to push back. The reality is that the dialog belongs to us - it is ours to create, form and elaborate. The only limit that stands in our way is our own habits of passivity. Every act that overcomes that (and there are already many) takes control of the fundamental aspects of our Republic, through the conversations from which the ideals and visions for the future are to arise.