COLUMN: From Here and Back Again

Jim Coufal

Vetting potential candidates: Suggestions

There is much talk of finding the right candidate to run for office. In the 22nd Congressional District there is movement to find a candidate able to make Claudia Tenney a one term representative. Since this written from that view, how the suggestions below fit other political races is for the reader to decide.

Potential candidates need to be questioned on two related points:

  1. What issues will he or she focus on in campaigning? We suggest that in the 22nd District the economy, farming, social security, health care, and education should be priority. While its is grating to say so, issues like abortion, planned parenthood, and guns should not be ignored, but neither should they be emphasized.
  2. Related to #1, what audiences will the candidate focus on? Many experts have concluded it is a waste to try to turn Tenney/Trump supporters. They will need to go after those who did not vote, the independents, and 3rd party members who are progressive leaning. Bernie Sanders went after the young and they flocked to him. Any progressive candidate for the 22nd district needs to take a strong lesson from that, and from what happened when Sanders was not the candidate. There is a stronger case than ever to be made that the young need to be concerned, involved, and voting because so much of their future is at stake. The candidate must be strong on getting out the vote.

Finally, the candidate needs to learn lessons from the Tea Party, alt-right playbook; BE AGGRESSIVE, and be ready to take the heat for being so. Michelle Obama said (paraphrasing) that when they go low, we go high. It is a valid and laudable principle, but where has it gotten us? Sen. Al Franken has been called a “tough partisan” and that, “Facing a Republican Party that hits hard and often beneath the belt, Franken has shown that he is willing to punch back. This is a necessity in contemporary politics that too many Democrats have shied away from.”

How to the republicans hit hard and below the belt? Author E.J. Dione, Jr., describes the many “tricks” republicans have used from Goldwater until today (hitting low is not new); Two examples follow.

The swift boat issue contributed greatly to John Kerry’s loss for president when a book was issued attacking Kerry’s Vietnam war record, his veracity, and his ability to lead, followed by campaign ads describing the same. Kerry played high and allowed the issue to play out. By the time many analysts concluded, as said by the Los Angeles Times, “…these charges against John Kerry are false,” it was too late.

In the same campaign, Georgia Governor Zell Miller said, “Senator Kerry has made it clear he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations.” Only two weeks before, in his acceptance speech, Kerry had proclaimed, “I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.” But if a voter heard only Miller’s lie and it fit with his or her biases, the truth was irrelevant. Alternative facts are not new.

Standing above the fray sounds right, but the fray is being fought—-and too often won—-in the trenches. The candidate must be willing to go in to the trenches and speak truth to power, doing so aggressively.

Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at

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