POSTED ON JUNE 12, 2013:
Are These People Nuts?
Actually, they might be.
Once upon a time not too long ago, the campaign budget to run for mayor was about $150,000. There were signs, TV spots, and mailers. Campaigning involved lots of street walking and smart talking. Local political parties played a big role, and political action committees played no role. There were more citizen contacts and less consultant contracts.
The issues for a mayoral race have always been the same: public safety, public works, public jobs, and public improvements. So how in the world did the quest for a $105,000 a year job turn into a multimillion dollar campaign enterprise?
Given the high demand of time to do the job and the relatively low amount of annual pay (which equates to being paid about $4 per hour), why would someone feel like they have to spend their own (or others') money in the hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars range? The job of mayor is, after all, one of the hardest in America these days and often goes unappreciated.
Besides the obscene amount of money now raised and spent on mayoral campaigns is the changing dynamic of who is giving and the giving patterns.
When those who have a history of giving to political figures are faced with choosing between two strong candidates, either of whom they could live with, we see more donation splitting. Neither candidate may get the $5,000 maximum allowed, but rather $2,500 each. You find all of the candidates getting money from both blue Democrats and red Republicans because candidates have figured out that all donations are green no matter where they come from. And we see more money from political action committees, even though these groups often have nothing to do with the business of local government. This makes one wonder what do these PACs think they will ever get in return for their donation.
The biggest sign of desperation is the personal loans which some candidates make to their own campaign. It's fine to expect a candidate to invest some of his own money in the race, but when a candidate wants the job more than what other people are willing to give and you find the candidate sinks hundred of thousands of dollars of his own money into the race, you have to wonder about the motivation.
Why would someone spend so much of his own money to acquire a job which he does not want to be paid to do once he gets it? How does it reflect upon the judgment of one who wants the job so badly that he's willing to spend seven or eight times more than the job even pays?
Campaign financing also brings disclosures of donors, which may shock the candidates. Perhaps for the first time, a candidate, when looking over the list of givers to his opponent, sees the names of people the candidate was sure were in his or her camp of supporters.
Candidates believe that it takes money -- and lots of it -- to do the talking. But this is all wrong. We should have campaigns where the candidates' talking is limited to only when they are asked a question or asked to present their qualifications for the job. They should be allowed to tell us their experience, skills, qualifications, and goals, but that's it. Otherwise, the campaign is about listening. It should be about the citizens telling the candidates what we believe and what we want and not what the candidate believes we want. Then, once we have expressed what we want our future to be and we have learned about each candidate, we are ready to make our selection on who will lead us into that future.
In the end, it's not really about the candidate at all. But you can't tell that with the overexposure and self-promotion. It has become so overdone that we should give serious consideration to making sure we are not about to elect someone with a serious personality disorder. We need to make sure that we are not about to elect someone so unbalanced that we should question if we truly want to put our lives, money, and property under their control.
The American Psychiatric Association's manual of mental disorders lists 10 types of personality disorders. There are three that would seem particularly appropriate to look for in mayoral candidates. Here is what we should look for:
The first is the histrionic personality disorder, which is exhibited by someone constantly seeking attention, is excessively emotional, shows extreme sensitivity for others' approval, and has excessive concerns with physical appearance.
The second is the narcissistic personality disorder. Here, we are looking for the person who fantasizes about power, success, and attractiveness. They exaggerate their achievements or talents and constantly expect praise and admiration.
Finally, we have the obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Here we find a preoccupation with orderliness and rules. There is an extreme desire to control all situations and control all people and they strive for and demand extreme perfection.
Any one of these disorders in a public official can be bad enough, but if there are two or more disorders, we are headed for some real dysfunctional government. And if you have a group of individuals who also have these disorders you can expect chaos. The current congress might be an example.
Unfortunately, the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech does not give us much hope that we can control the ridiculous amount of money being spend on mayoral campaigns. It would be nice if we could cap the spending at, say, an amount equal to what the job pays over its term. Perhaps if we could force candidates to spend less money on self-promotion, they might have to spend more time actually with us.
But then again, given these personality disorders, maybe we really don't want to spend time with them at all.
Just send us your mailer.
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