Recent history shows that candidates with heavy financial backing can be beaten by those without it. 

With a bold candidate, effective campaigners, and effective press relations, a low-budget campaign can topple an expensive one. Recent history shows that candidates with heavy financial backing can be beaten by those without it.

It’s easy to be pessimistic in the face of Super-Pacs pouring money into politics. However recent history shows that candidates with heavy financial backing can be beaten by those without it.

Hillary Clinton spent almost 40 million more than Donald Trump in 2016 and still lost. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was outspent in her New York primary 18-1. I have spent the past three months preparing for the August Democratic primary in Tennessee. I am working to get George Thomas elected to the 19th Senate district. George Thomas is an underdog, running against more established candidates. The lessons I am learning on the campaign are the same lessons we can all learn from campaigns such as that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York or Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico. In many ways, the Trump campaign also followed some of the same rules.

First, you need a Bold Candidate. A timid candidate who tries to build an inoffensive message cripples the campaign. Instead of bold design and colors in the campaign material, they prefer Red, White, and Blue. They want to look like a politician and therefore they blend in. Their messages are bland. On the other hand, a bold candidate can take a clear platform and stand by it, even if the message hasn’t polled well. Recent electoral history has shown us that people prefer a candidate they don’t agree with but who sticks to a position (Trump) to one who flips to positions they agree with (Rubio). While Ocasio-Cortez and Trump support opposite positions (Ocasio-Cortez argues for single payer healthcare, abolishing ICE, and a jobs guarantee) both candidates made clear, bold arguments. As a Mexican citizen, I disagree with “build a wall”, but I don’t deny that it is a bold, effective message.

Second, you need Effective Campaigners. Ten focused volunteers can be more effective than a hundred consultants. George Thomas often meets with three or four community groups, social organizations, or community events every day. This is only possible because of his experienced, well organized, campaign organizer. One of the key elements of the George Thomas campaign, applying a “sales funnel”, came from a marketing guru volunteer. You build awareness in order to get people to pick up your material in order to get their votes and donations. For each step that the potential voter is on, the next step should be clear and easily accessible. What constitutes effective depends on your case. Can you partner with other organizations with deep experience in the area? Do your volunteers work better with more autonomy? Trump and Ted Cruz both used Cambridge Analytica as part of their campaigns. Cambridge Analytica drew on the experience that comes from working on campaigns around the world.

Finally, you need Effective Press Relations. People may be getting their news on Facebook, but many, if not most of the stories they get come from traditional media. You need to build strong relationships with reporters in the areas you are running in. Sadly, reporters face tremendous pressure with budget cuts and compensation based on “likes” or “comments”. Don’t waste their time. Give them what they want – a strong, compelling story and message, because that is what you want too. Hillary Clinton ran more ads than Donald Trump, but Donald Trump was able to court constant media attention and his allies were able to keep anti-Hillary stories in the news.

Please Bring New Ideas

Our country faces many real problems – rising healthcare costs, racism, millennial underemployment, the list goes on. Current debates are going nowhere and we need new ideas and policies to combat them. Where do you get new ideas from? It is important to get to know the constituents you represent. It is also important to draw on the collective will of human experience and knowledge that one can find in books. America’s most effective presidents were the best read. Teddy Roosevelt, who both regulated and oversaw an expanding economy, read a book a day.

Thomas Jefferson read in English, Latin, French and Greek. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a personal library of over 20,000 volumes. You can win an election without having any real ideas to solve the problems we face. If you do, you become part of the problem, not the solution. You join the crowds of politicians who vomit cliches in front of cameras.

If you have new ideas to try out, I wish you luck in politics. Start small (states and cities) and push for policies that have had a tangible positive impact elsewhere.  With a competent political class, the United States could be a force for good in the world, where businesses thrive and personal liberties are sacred. Where nobody sleeps outside and everyone can afford a good doctor. Good luck.    

Read also: The American Ballot Access Is Really Rigged Against Third Party Candidates

Antone Christianson-Galina

Antone holds an MSc from the London School of Economics. He has a BSc in International Relations and has worked in India, China, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.