Don’t Knock, He’s Dead: a Longshot Candidate Gets Schooled in the Unseemly Underbelly of American Campaign Politics

Adam Gordon Sachs

This is a nonfiction, first person account about what it's like to run as a longshot, unknown candidate in a political campaign at a high (state) level. The book addresses many of the challenges a novice candidate would face through my own campaign experience over the course of a year -- fundraising, chasing endorsements, battling entrenched powers, putting reputation on the line, being judged and criticized publicly. Ideally, the book will give people with an interest in politics who have ever considered running for office -- but then backed off -- a glimpse of what it would be like, the highs and lows, the excitement and the drudgery.

Perhaps this passage from the book describes the main theme:

Dreaming Big

Yes, it could happen, I convinced myself, if the stars aligned just right and a complex equation of votes from two disparate counties shook out just right to allow me to make an end run around enough other political novices and carpetbaggers who faced their own questions about viability or preparedness for political office. Of course I had a chance. You know, like the gospel all elementary school children hear and are led to believe before reality sets in and you realize your limitations and that the world doesn’t particularly care about you: “You can be anything you want to be. You too can be president, if you just believe in yourself and work hard enough.” That’s The American Dream. That’s American democracy at work, right?

For anyone who’s ever wondered what it’s like to be a candidate in a major, high-stakes political race; who’s ever considered subjecting himself to scrutiny and the whims of uncensored public opinion; who’s ever debated whether it would be worth the time and effort to run for public office; who’s ever stepped to the precipice of throwing a hat in the ring and then backed off with either regret or relief; or who still has a dream to make a difference in people’s lives by entering politics—you know, someday, when everything is perfectly aligned and your finances are in supreme order, and your employer gives you essential flexibility and full backing, and your family has attained impeccable stability, and the moon eclipses the sun, cicadas emerge after 17 years underground and the Chicago Cubs win the World Series and the time is right to run, someday—here’s my account of what it’s like in the trenches of an election as an amateur, entourage-less, DIY, working-stiff candidate.

My race encompassed the particular character and personality attributes and flaws of 10 self-selecting participants in a large swath of Maryland suburbia along the I-95 corridor. It was local, and at the same time global: Elements of the political game I experienced—the subterfuge, unfettered ambition, unabashed self-promotion, all-consuming pursuit, power accumulation, overzealousness, braggadocio, greed, blindness, opportunism, coattail-riding, favor-courting, brick-throwing and more—could be practiced by any candidate running in any political jurisdiction in the U.S.  


Books by Adam Gordon Sachs