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Development of Issues and the Website
Trade, as I said, was to be the main issue in my campaign. However, I prepared for the campaign by collecting newspaper clippings and other writings with information about the economy in general. As the price of gasoline rose to $4.00 per gallon and above, it seemed that another element driving the trade deficit was oil imported from foreign countries. There was a surge of interest in renewable energy, especially derived from wind. My campaign agenda needed to expand.
My position was, of course, to support such development. In the long term, the earth was running out of petroleum. The emergence of China and India as consumer societies that depended on automobiles meant that the current transportation model could not be sustained. Government needed to do all it could to hasten the installation of wind turbines and create an enlarged grid of transmission lines or improved batteries and battery-recharging stations to support electric cars. I read Lester Brown’s book, “Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet under stress and a civilization in trouble.” His book made sense to me. I would jump on the environmental bandwagon.
I formulated a plan that in the forthcoming campaign I would avoid “social” or “cultural” issues and focus exclusively on the economy, especially its long-term aspect. I therefore produced a campaign flyer that said, in part: “Two questions: Can the U.S. reverse its $700 billion annual trade deficit? Can our grandkids be happy in a world without oil? Let’s discuss this in an election campaign. Bill McGaughey, the Independence Party candidate in the 5th district, is basing his entire campaign on answering those two questions. Nothing else. Just those two questions.”
An idea for health care
This was a strong commitment - one which I did not entirely keep. As time went by, I kept adding issues - for instance, health care. Technically, this was related to trade. American firms cannot compete in global markets if they are saddled with high employee health-care costs. Enrolled in Medicare, I was struck by the fact that this government program covers the expensive cost of care in hospitals but does little to prevent illnesses. It should be the other way around. So I imagined a program in which the federal government would provide a free annual physical for all U.S. residents to detect emerging health problems. From my reading of newspaper articles, I also hit on the idea of the government doing a free genetic profile for all residents. Done once in a lifetime, this analysis would allow medical treatment to be tailored to the individual.
Finally, there was the problem of obsolete record-keeping. The federal government should maintain a website containing everyone’s medical records (on a volunteer basis, of course), not only to facilitate portability of information but also to create a massive data base for evaluating medical decisions, especially the prescription of drugs. As it is, doctors have little idea of how drugs will act in combination with one another or how they relate to the genetic nature of individual patients. Besides reducing costs, this would use technology to improve medical care. As a program of “socialized medicine”, it would supplement, not replace, the present system. But costs would go down through increased competition.
A new web site takes shape
My campaign website, http://www.newindependenceparty.org, had started out as a bulletin board for the abortive Senate campaign planned in 2006. The headline then was “I will not be a candidate this year” - Bill McGaughey (May 1, 2006). There was a brief biography, an article warning of a possible U.S. attack on Iran, a statement about “progressive” politics, and a speculation concerning what the Independence Party of Minnesota might become. This largely dormant website was getting about 30 visits a day.
When I decided to run for Senate, I revamped the website. A new front page took shape. The lead article, linked to it, was titled “Blue Print for a Senate Race in 2008.” Basically, this article was saying: Don’t sweat the small stuff. A crisis is at hand. While the other candidates are busy ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”, I think you should look at the ice berg looming ahead. And what might that “iceberg” be? It would be our unsustainable economy: our trade deficit and loss of U.S. jobs, swollen costs in the health-care field, the rising cost of education, the Iraq war, and our reliance on petroleum products. I presented proposals to deal with all those problems. I also dealt with the argument that third-party candidates can’t win.
By the time of the Senatorial endorsing convention in June, the front page consisted of a list of twenty linked pages. Twelve of them dealt with trade. The others were either taken from the 2006 version of the website or were newly written articles. There was, for instance, an article about my relationship with the Romneys and also with Sammy the squirrel. The website linked to a complete text of my book, “The Independence Party and the Future of Third-Party Politics”, published in 2003. At the bottom of the page was a small picture of me in Louisiana on the eve of the primary election.
The website, independenceparty.org, underwent yet another metamorphosis after I had failed in my bid for the Independence Party nomination for U.S. Senate and instead had become a candidate for Congress in the Fifth District. The trade articles were relegated to a separate page. The new lead article was a lengthy one titled “Manifesto of our Future Possibilities.” This “manifesto” - the title was chosen to give a radical flavoring to my campaign - began by mentioning the twin problems of the trade deficit and the impending shortage of oil. I had proposals to fix both problems. Then the article went on to include an abbreviated proposal for a system of government-operated health care and two other proposals: a shorter workweek and the substitution of communication for transportation. It was a package of ideas about how our civilization might thrive despite running out of natural resources.
I had recently started to grow a beard. I had not had grown one for twenty years but decided to keep it for the duration of my campaign. This would make me look like a modern-day Karl Marx who would be writing manifestos and such things. An Independence Party member snapped a few photographs of me in an office complex in St. Louis Park where we were taping videotaped statements in the evening of June 15th. One of the photos was placed at the top of the front page. This was my new image as a political candidate: a landlord who was also an economic radical. Excuse the oxymoron, please.
As the campaign progressed, my set of issues expanded to include a lengthy proposal for a government-run health-care system and a compromise proposal for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. There were links to some of my other websites, pictures of my dog and of the campaign lawn sign, a “heckler’s corner” containing nasty comments about me and Jesse Ventura by a local activist, a link to a hauntingly beautiful You Tube video recorded in Minneapolis by a young woman of Bengali descent, and, later, thoughts on Keith Ellison and the bank bailout. I posted a statement by a former member of the Minneapolis city council, Dean Zimmermann, commending me for my environmental stance.
Again, the research effort started with newspaper clippings. I kept these clippings in manila folders, arranged them by date, and made a written list. I had ten typed pages of fact-laden quotations which might be useful in debates. Actually, they were only used in one debate - that preceding the Independence Party’s Senate endorsing convention - since my memory of it weakened as the weeks went by.
left: completing restoration of the collapsed I-35W bridge over the Mississippi river --- center: Bill McGaughey photographed on June 15, 2008 --- "Restore the American Dream" sign on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis
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