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What I Learned in My Political Campaign

• Kwiatkowski

Two weeks ago I lost an election. I had challenged the ten-term incumbent representing the 6th District of Virginia, "Boehnorite" Bob Goodlatte in a Republican primary. We ran a serious campaign, spent nearly $100,000 and deployed thousands of volunteer manhours. In this open primary held June 12th, with 8% turnout, we garnered over 34% of the vote, and gave the incumbent the most difficult and most expensive electoral challenge of his political life. We also ran the most significant and toughest challenge faced by any Republican in Virginia this year.

By launching and running a insurgent liberty-oriented campaign against an entrenched, big spending and big borrowing establishment hack, I believed we were doing something useful. Many agreed with me. Many helped and I thank everyone who gave us time, talent, money and best wishes.

There were costs, and I want to reflect on these, because many of these costs weren’t what I’d expected. Certainly, I spent my own money (and yours), wore out my transmission and my tires, and consumed a lot of time that otherwise would have been spent on work and family. That happens to every candidate.

But beyond that, my contributions to dropped off in the year I spent campaigning. Instead of writing what I loved to write, I wrote less rewarding short essays relating to liberty and paleo-conservatism aimed specifically at the 6th District audience. I missed my LRC readers. I missed their attention to detail, their deep grasp of history and economics, their insight and their ability to explore difference of opinion deftly and without alienation of affection. Writing for a generally uninformed public on the proper role of the state, on real liberty, and the true nature of the free markets and free exchange was not easy. The lack of a shared language of liberty and a shared contempt for the state was sharply evident.

The campaign connected me and likeminded people to our peers and partners; the Remnant recognized its membership, grew it, and groomed it. But the effort to go beyond liberty’s enlightened minority was difficult, and I have yet to figure out the key to influencing the so-called "masses." There may be no key at all – and convincing the majority may, of course, be entirely unnecessary. But it was disheartening to learn that most people are uninformed about, unaware of, uninterested in and unconcerned by either liberty or statism. It was disheartening to find that most people are driven by feelings rather than facts, emotions over critical evaluation.


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