Running for Congress

So a couple weeks ago I went back to Corning, New York for an IALAC get-together. This is a group of ten women who went to high school together and get together every couple of years to drink and be contrarian and sarcastic with each other. IALAC stands for I Am Loving and Capable. It is an ironic salute to a partially successful high school self esteem program. We all love each other.

When I was there, I found out that the congressional seat in my old district in New York was open and Governor Patterson was considering ordering a special election, and that the Democrats were considering candidates. I saw two things: a way to get back to the States and a way to get involved with the economic and environmental issues of the time, a way to stop complaining about the government and doing something about it. So I looked into running.

I am fortunate to have friends who considered this development closely and sent insightful e-mails about it. The closer a person was to politics, the more fervently they warned me away from running for Congress. Friends from Washington were pretty universally unhappy with it. But frankly a lot of people were amazingly supportive. I am writing in the past tense because as the dust clears I am not going to run in the immediate future.

One big roadblock was fundraising. A run for congress costs at least one million dollars, I learned in my short, sharp trip up the learning curve. I already knew that a member of congress has to spend about 50% of her time fundraising. I don't like asking people for money. Emily's List says that to run, you have to ask the people who love you, the people who support the causes you support, and the people who hate your opponent. Doesn't it suck that it is so expensive to run? So I sent out an e-mail explaining this to some people, and my brother replied that while fundraising wasn't my thing, being interesting at a party was totally my thing and that was what it was all about.

Ah, David. Touche.

I haven't ruled it out completely. I am pondering.

I am not only climbing up the learning curve of a different culture - politics and politicians (I like to think I had some small start living in Washington on this one), I am also climbing up the learning curve of how much of the conventional wisdom about participating in Congress is good and true and worth following.

Any conventional wisdom I ever had about who was electable proved itself unreliable when Obama was elected. Any conventional wisdom about adhering to either of the big political parties is similarly suspect. The inefficiencies of government, its failings are so epic, its participants so imbued with a culture of ineffectiveness. It's so bad that I was thinking my slogan would be, "Vote for me, I am riddled with guilt anyway!". It's so bad that it's a good time to get in. At the bottom of the market.

But I am going to think about it, and talk to people, and if anyone thinks anything about this that you think I should know, send me an e-mail or comment.


  1. You coulda been a contender, Rachel. If you should consider it again, there is, of course, the matter of how to prevent the carpetbagger charge?

    David, well done: being interesting at a party is so Rachel.


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