Run For Office

In 2015, John ran for the position 8 of the Seattle city council.

Because this topic is very substantial there are two additional related pages:

Table of Contents

Early preparations (RL152)

When John was busy preparing for his campaign in April of 2015, he was still mostly formulating and thinking about stuff. The running around and attending of pie-eating contests hadn’t kicked into high gear yet. Instead he was trying to tackle the big issues and put forward a real program, which was a really satisfying, challenging work. On the other hand it was also kind of fraught because it felt like he had a big paper due that strangly didn’t have a clear deadline. In some ways it had been due 3 weeks before, but in some other ways he could just hand it in whenever he wanted. Furthermore he was not sure how he would be graded. John was busy with crunching a lot of data because running for office was not just a piece of theater for him which it unforunately is for a lot of the other candidates, even the professionals. At that stage 6-9 months out, maybe only 500 people in all of Seattle knew about the oncoming city council election. Once the initial announcement went around, people immediately and desperately want to forget about it for several months and the only ones who were really invested in it were those who have it as their profession or avocation.

John having to legitimize his campaign (BW230)

John was running for the city-wide position 8 on the Seattle City council during the 2015 election. It made a lot of sense to Dan that John was running for office, but when he first heard about it, he thought is was some kind of rooz or some new tour that John was calling ”Vote Roderick” because it sounds cool. A little kitschy maybe, but the iconography is built in and it sounds like something John would be doing. It took Dan a little while to realize that this was a real thing that John was serious about. John was being interviewed about it on TV and had a campaign-website, which got Dan really excited. He wished there was more he could do to help John. Dan doesn’t give a crap about local politics in Austin, but thanks to John’s involvement he now cares about Seattle. A lot of it is certainly applicable to Austin, too, but it is never 105 degrees (40 °C) in Seattle. The press was introducing John as a Rocker and the people who run for city council usually don’t come from a Rocker background. Very few of them rock at all!

Dan’s confusion and his initial doubt were not unfounded because John had to work very hard within Seattle to convince the gatekeeper class that he was serious about it. They didn’t imagine that John would be doing this just as a legitimate James Franco style art prank, because that level of art prank isn’t even on their radar, but people thrown their hat in the ring of a local election all the time. They putter along for a couple of weeks, making some policy, waking up in the morning, making a fresh pot of coffee and telling themselves ”I’m running for office!”, but at the 3rd or 4th event they will meet some people who are taking it very seriously and they get completely outclassed. That is why so many people drop out of the races early. John got a lot of ”Well, the tourist is here and he is going to bumble along until he realizes that this isn’t a game and he is going to go back to his Rock world”, but as John started to speak in policy terms and started to point his Clinton-thumb at people, shaking it and saying ”You sir have not done enough to protect our most vulnerable citizens!”, it became evident that he was capable of running a credible campaign.

John had to continue to convince people that being an artist was a welcome perspective that belonged in the conversation at all, a struggle that continued all the way to the primary election. John continued to remind people that art is not a luxury that only rich people can afford or that art is something you tack on at the end of the day, but that art is a core value! No-one else in the race is even familiar with that language and it continued to be an uphill battle. John wouldn’t say that he has mastered the language of policy or the world of policy thinking, but he can certainly do it. It is not the hardest thing.

Dan watched a video on YouTube where John was seated at a classroom desk answering questions. He was speaking in a different way from how he sounds on stage or on his podcast, but it was still totally within John’s personality. He was clearly genuine, he did care, this was not an act, and this is something John is super-interested in. It almost seems like a very natural thing for John to be doing. John wished that it would be a much more natural thing that a lot of us would do, which is a big part of what propelled him to run. His whole life he had this conviction that democracy is best served by people joining it and the barrier of entry should not be high.

The two competing thoughts in America are: a) Voting should be really easy for people to do and the more people vote, the better it is, but b) you should have to prove that you are ready to vote, you should show your ID, show that you come from a good family and own some property. The same is true for running for office, but it is challenging enough because there is an entrenched class of your typical politician person and their staff who run campaigns and work on campaigns. Nothing in American democracy suggests that we only should have professional political people and that it should be difficult for normal people to run, but it has become that way. The people who do run a campaign want to collect and horde their expertise and make it difficult for new people to join.

Seattle City Council basics (BW230)

Seattle is a majority Democratic city. The city council race is a non-partisan race because there are no Republicans running. Everyone is a Democrat with the exception of one or two members of the American Socialist Party. In general people don’t declare their party affiliation because it would be pointless for 9 people to stand up and say that they are all Democrats, but the Democratic party is nevertheless very active within Seattle politics. All the legislative districts have groups of people who meet, nominate, endorse and do the groundwork of party politics. A lot of the people running for public office come up through that party apparatus. They join the young Democrats in college, they get a degree in political science and they work as a legislative aid when they are in their early 20s. At a certain point they have run a couple of campaigns and maybe somebody got elected and they went to the state house with them as the young person who walked behind them with a clipboard.

Somewhere along the line they decide to take a job with a non-profit and they become the assistant to the director of a non-profit, dealing with the environment, housing or income-inequality. They work in the non-profit sector for a while until they rise to the level of director or they sit on the board. There is a very clear path for people through the Democratic party and through leftist activism. John meets people in various stages of this career path all the time. Not all of them will run for office, but they might be the chief of staff or the campaign manager for someone or they might be hired by the mayor to run a city office. In Oklahoma City, a majority Republican town, the Republican party has a very similar way of funneling people into getting experience in the political machine.

There are more than 50 candidates for 9 separate seats on the Seattle City Council. It used to be that all 9 seats were elected citywide and you just picked whom you wanted to run against. All ballots had all the candidates on them and you would just go down and vote for whoever you wanted for each of the 9 seats. Then you would impanel this strange body of people. When you are voting for 9 people, even if some of them were staggered, you vote for that person because they are a pragmatist, and this person has cool hair and that person you hate but they might be really interesting. In other words, the city council was not a really effective body.

Somebody proposed to change the council and make 7 of those 9 seats be rooted in neighborhoods. People would no longer vote for all the candidates, but just for their neighborhood city council person. If you lived in the South East of town, it would be called district 2 and you would elect a council person for district 2. Position 8 and 9 would still be citywide, meaning that you vote for your neighborhood person and then one person each for 8 and 9. Many other cities have a system like that and Seattle used to do it as well back in the 1950s. John was running for position 8 because it is one of the citywide seats and not a neighborhood seat. All the other 50 candidates came from neighborhood activist communities, from the Young Democrats, or from a public policy background. Many of them have already been working for the mayor’s office or they were interacting with local government and got frustrated because they were on one side of it and couldn’t get their policy pushed through. Now they are going to run for office and change things from the inside.

Being on the City Council is a real job. You hire three staff people, you maintain an office in city hall and you get some kind of secret clearance. John did a lot of meetings during his campaign where he sat down with the executive board of some labor union to talk about his policy. He walked into these meetings saying that he is running for his first public office, that he only started campaigning 2,5 months ago, and that he does not know the peculiarity of their process and the dialect of English that they all seem to share. John was coming in there to ask for their endorsement, but he also acknowledged that he was alien to them. ”Tell me how you speak! Tell me your concerns and your world view! If you do not endorse me, I will not be surprised and I will not be mad, but if I get elected I want to be able to work with everyone.” Dan finds this to be an incredible sales pitch because it shows those who are frustrated with the way things usually are that John is going to listen to them.

Considering every idea on the strength of its logic (BW230)

We can have a lot of fun imagining a world in which people give an honest answer to the question ”What is your greatest vulnerability?” instead of turning it into some kind of sales-pitch for themselves. In reality, there is actually a lot of timidity in the process of how people get elected to public office, similar to how people work their way up a corporate food chain: Innovation and doubt is scary! John had no small number of people tell him that his campaign was very exciting to them and they really liked him and his ideas, but a big part of the way that the city runs is that people see 9 people on the city council and they count the votes they need to get their particular thing done. They do mental arithmetic and they know they can count on Don, because he always votes with them, they know they can count on Babbs, because she takes her cues from Don, they know that Bill owes them a favor because they helped him get his bill passed, so Bill is pretty sure. Elaine is never going to go with them, so they need to isolate her and maybe even keep her from attending the vote. They are just doing math.

John's idea was to really listen to people and to think very hard about the issues on hand. He was not going to make decisions based on ideology, he didn't owe anybody anything, nobody helped him to get here and nobody paid his way here, meaning he was not in anybody’s pocket. He was going to consider every idea on the strength of its logic and he was going to use his brain. A lot of people who do business with the city will roll their eyes at that and go ”OMG!” How could they know which way John was going to vote? They can’t! How do they apportion their resources to get their legislation passed? They don’t know whether to pour money into the guy who hates this guy and then maybe he goes their way. There is so much small-minded strategy and there is so little appeal to ”Is this a good plan? Is this an intelligent course of action?” It is just ”This is our plan! I’m on this side! My goal is to push this trough!”

John had a hilarious meeting with the board of directors of a group of people. The chairman said ”Listen! We are all environmentalists here, but Arctic drilling provides a lot of jobs for people in Seattle”. John countered that it doesn’t, actually. It provides some small number of jobs, but Arctic drilling also represents the realm of possibility to destroy, pollute and effectively murder the Arctic for 1000 years. It is very cold in the Arctic, even if the ice is melting. The sun doesn’t shine with the same intensity and the oil in the water doesn’t degrade and decay like it does in the Golf of Mexico where it turns into blobs and will sink and kill things on the bottom. In the Arctic it just freezes and spreads around this gyre at the top of the world. There is no land to interrupt it and something spilled in Alaska will just float around forever and ever. The 20 or 29 jobs that we are eliminating by not supporting Arctic drilling in the port of Seattle are jobs that John is willing to sacrifice. This group of people got very up in their chairs! Are you going to be the one to tell those 40 families that they are going to lose their jobs? Yes, John will go and explain that to them. This group just crossed their arms and shook their heads.

People start off by saying that they are all environmentalists, sure, but their work requires them to do everything they can to work against environmentalism in word and deed. They still say they are environmentalists and we are on the same page, so let’s hug it out and start burning 50 gallon drums of oil, turn them over in the wetlands and set them on fire, because that is what it is going to take to chose the economy and make sure that there is a chicken in every pot. That kind of mentality percolates! If it is not the environment they are willing to spoil, then it is some other principle. They will state that they are in favor of affordable housing or that they want really good transportation, but then their group has a vested interested in not that. Which way are you going to vote so I know how to spend my lobbying dollars?

There are dozens of situations just like that where John was coming into it from a completely different perspective and value system. Dan can really see why on one hand the voter does want that guy in there because he is going to use his brain, think about things and make a decision based on shared values of what is important, but that is not how the system works! Different is good, but only within the status quo of the system. The building blocks are to stand up and say ”I’m a pro-labor candidate!” and if you are very ideological, then you don’t have to think independently as a politician. Politicians are a unique class. You don’t hire them, but you impanel them and tell them to speak for you and be your representative. They are supposed to use their morals and what they know about the world and they are supposed to lead, which is a lot of responsibility. Most of the time when somebody stands up and says that they are pro-labor, you say ”Okay, good! That person has decided that they are not going to make independent decisions, but they are going to follow the course of labor." Labor is a giant building block of our culture and economy, it is trending a certain way and they are going to trend with it.

John does support the concept of organized labor in general because it is a healthy counteractive to organized capitalism. But labor also makes very crazy decisions because there is always the problem of not being able to see the forest for the trees or being willing to make a sacrifice on one hand in order to make a point on the other hand. If John would side with labor every single time in every single instance, it wouldn't be long until he would be signing a bill that allowed us to clear-cut the Redwood forests for 20 union lumberjacks to keep their jobs. Labor makes that kind of decisions all the time! For John to say that he supports organized labor in general, but he is not going to side with them when they are being crazy is terrifying for people, because all of a sudden you are an independent. You are performing the job of an actual moral human rather than as a component.

Even if you are insane enough to say that you generally support development and that capitalism works, that we should develop our way out of these economic problems and that we should trickle down some of the money to help the poor after we built everything we can build, it won’t be long until some developer tells you that there is a children’s graveyard in the way of where they want to build their high-rise. It would be too expensive to exhume every one of those poor skeletons and we should just move the stones and build the swimming pool on top of the graveyard. Then Drew Barrymore and her family will move in and there won’t be any problems at all. Again: The developers want you to be their person and they want you to be in their vest-pocket.

We all imagine that there was a way to truly support quality, moral and accountable polymaths who are engaged in the world. We would impanel those people in the democratic process and we will let them sit like a jury and haggle stuff out and find the best course. That is also what we imagine corporate board rooms should be, but in most cases, long before people run for office or become a C-level employee of a company, they have already made every conceivable compromise out of timidity and ambition to become a component rather than a free radical.

Getting around the gatekeepers and not accepting their framing (BW230)

John is trying to make his case to the voters that we can do better, but to get to the voters, you have to go through the scrum of the political gatekeepers. Most people who run for city council don’t have access to media like John does. They can’t just come on America’s favorite productivity program ”Back to Work” and explain their thinking at great length. Most people running for city council are beholden to conventional media and beholden to gatekeepers in more ways than John is. If John was Jesse ”The body” Ventura or Sunny Bono, if he had widespread name recognition and also considerable money and resources, he could circumvent a lot of the political gatekeepers by just making a public appeal and saying ”Hey, Americans! You know me! I’m the guy who jumps up the top rope and body-slams, and I’m going to body-slam these bills at the state house!”

The Democratic party pals, operatives and legislative district precinct committee chairmen were all appalled by Jesse Ventura because of the way he went through their process. John can’t imagine it was deliberative, but he probably just swept in and said ”I pity the fool!” or whatever his catchphrase was, and Sunny Bono came in and said ”Don and McGrady sitting on a…” John does not have that name-recognition, those resources or that completely outsider-access to media. Ross Perot could just spend $10 million of his own money and make himself a serious candidate. We were also seeing Donald Trump do it. Besides his money, he has name recognition and if CNN and the Washington Post won’t cover him, it would seem a little suspect. He was out there making waves and he got into the newspaper although he was not a serious candidate. People can ride that all the way until they get elected. John doesn’t have access to that kind of independent media ability to just reach voters on a 1:1 basis without going through the gatekeepers.

Gatekeepers often don’t have the self-awareness to recognize that they are framing a question in 1 of about 100 ways you could frame that question. Things get framed in a political dialect and the assumption is that you don’t see it as a framing, but that these are just the important questions. John showed up to these events, sat down at the dais, and they would ask a question like ”Name 3 things that you have done to help immigrants and women of color find affordable housing in the last 2 years!” (this was an actual real question) and the guy next to him said ”I have been working on behalf of women and communities of color in the affordable housing realm for 15 years as director of the affording housing alliance and here is what I did: I increased affordable housing by 25% over the last 2 fiscal years and I put 17% more counter-space in the kitchens of new developments” The next guy said ”I have been on the Seattle City Council for 10 years and we have done the following 25 things of behalf of immigrant populations”. Then it comes to John. If he accepts the framing of that question, then all he can say is that he is a musician and an artist and it would be untrue for him to view any of his activities as having helped immigrants and women of color finding affordable housing in Seattle. John’s only truthful answer is the ”Null-set” and he can only hope that they believe him that he will try to do those things if he gets elected.

But there is another way to understand that question and there is a context where you still acknowledge the process that went into composing and framing it in that way: Affordability and Housing are major issues in our city, affecting a lot of different groups in different ways. Immigrant communities are faced with these challenges, while women of color have these additional challenges. Addressing them requires a broad scope. We can’t solve these problems simply by targeting the issues in front of us by putting 17% more counter-space in the kitchens. That would be putting lipstick on a pig! Instead we have to systemically look at the way we are growing, and so on… John needs the ability to pivot, but also to refuse to accept the framing as a natural system, while still recognizing that the frame also matters.

Being available on Facebook Messenger (RL150)

After declaring his run for public office, John had gotten into a few longer conversations with people on the Internet which were very much in the spirit of ”Well, did you ever consider….” and he has learned that he really needed to consider how long of a conversation he is willing to have on Facebook Messenger. He eliminated Facebook almost completely from his life, but for his campaign he had to get back onto it. He had ported over his tweets to Facebook, so if people he went to High School with who didn’t have Twitter wanted to hear his thoughts, which none of them did, then at least his thoughts were there. Now he had to download the Facebook app onto his phone and follow through on their scheme to get him to download Messenger which is just the worst. It is not as bad as LinkedIn, but it is pretty bad! Now people want to message John in this awful environment. Someone messaged him the other day to enlist him in some sex scheme. People have different ideas how they want their public servants to be because they are different constituencies.

Nobody has all the answers (RL150)

The first week of John's candidacy has been going swimmingly. John passionately believes in public service and in the city of Seattle, but his challenge was to run for public office in America without becoming a monster, because everybody wants and expects you to be a monster. We are all exhausted by the fact that everyone who runs for office is a monster, but when someone new runs for office, we expect them to perform in the same way that only a monster could do. The only people who can stand up in front of a room and say ”I have the answers” are liars, maniacs or sociopaths. No-one has the answer and we do not want to elect people who have ”the answers”! We want to elect people who are capable of acting on our behalf and make difficult choices. To make choices is very different than to have the answers. To make choices requires a skill-set that includes the capability of processing a lot of complicated information and a lot of opposing views that all sound sane and reasonable. Then you make the best choice you can on behalf of the rest of us, because we can’t all possibly chose everything. It is one of the foundations of civilization.

Not every person who is about to walk into a room decides again and again whether or not they are going to wear pants. We have just mutually decided that we are all going to wear pants and we have made it one of the rules. Even if you don’t wear pants in your culture, not everybody gets a chance to assert that. We may not love it, but it keeps the peace. Ultimately it is totally arbitrary. It is completely manufactured that we all have decided to wear pants, but we have and you can argue it, but the case is made and we get on down that road. There are scientists to adjudicate the science, there are bureaucrats to fill out the forms and file them properly, but the public servants are people you elect in your stead and you trust them to make difficult decisions on your behalf. You ask of them that they have a good character, a lucid mind and that they are willing to make decisions in good faith and take some heat for them. Whenever someone offers to run for office, we immediately ask them to stand in front of us and claim that they have either perfect knowledge, infallibility or spotless character.

If a person came to a party in our house and had a character with no spots on it, we would talk to them for a minute and then move away from them and go find someone interesting to talk to. You can’t have all of these things! Nobody who isn’t actually a psychopath ticks all of the boxes and we keep electing psychopaths because those are the only people who pass the litmus tests. Afterwards we are disappointed in their behavior. Just during the first week of his campaign John had a handful of choices to make that were presented to him like ”This is what the expectation is”, but in fulfilling it, he would be demonstrating lack of character, because to do that thing would be completely incompatible with being good at this office. Therefore John did not do that thing and he did not debase himself in order to get elected in such a way that he would be compromising the very thing that he would bring to the office. In every instance, the reaction he got has been surprise followed by delighted acquiescence. Okay, great, sure! Then let’s not do that, then! Let’s not manufacture a conflict with somebody, let’s not put every single idea John had in a false equivalency with everybody else’s ideas. John does not intend to run for this office by contrasting himself with someone else.

Running a campaign on the base of ideas (RL150)

There is the expectation that if something happens in Washington, you need to make a press release comparing yourself with other candidates in a way that makes them look slow and dumb. John can lay out his ideas about the event in a press release, but he is counting on the voters in Washington and Seattle that they want to elect him to this office on the strength of the ideas he puts forth, and not on how he posits those ideas against someone else’s ideas. John is very confident that he has good ideas and that he is good at this conversation, but he has no interest of going to war with another person who is also doing the difficult job of volunteering for public service, asking people to listen to and appreciate their ideas. If 5 people are running for office and 5 of them put forth a slate of ideas, it should be a simple matter of choosing the candidate who’s ideas, personality and character reflect yours the best, without the candidates needing to make this pedantic comparison between themselves. It always takes the form of an insult war or worse like a stiff-necked ”My opponent believes that children should be thrown down wells! I do not believe this!” First of all, your opponent doesn’t believe this, and second of all, of course you don’t believe that. The reason why we feel that we are spoken to like children is that the dialog takes on this lowest common denominator kind of tone.

John was getting into this campaigning thing and he enjoyed every aspect of it, but multiple times a day did he have to plant his feet and say ”I’m not going to run that kind of campaign!”, based on advice from others, based on pressure he felt, based on emotions for what is happening right now, and all of the above. Then you sit down with some reporters and their questions are phrased in a way to prompt you to make that kind of statement. ”Your opponent says this that and the other, how do you respond?”, but John is happy for his opponents, it is very hard to come up with things to say, do you have a question about what I’m about, or?

It is very much like being a band in the music business: Everybody who has been in the music business for a little while tells you to get a press release, stand in front of a brick wall next to train tracks, smoke cigarettes and get some photos taken. You put those photos out and somebody says you are idiots, because that is the biggest cliche in the world and you need to get something cool and something different. Why don’t you get a press photo taken where you are jumping up in the air? That sounds good and you do that and you get a little further down the road and somebody says ”You got a jumping in the air press photo?” and everybody is trying to tell you something else. You have too many weird time signatures in your music and you need to straighten it out. Your music is too straight, you need to have some interesting time signatures. Everybody is an expert! A lot of bands go through that process, get ground up and turn into a kind of hamburger that is trying to feed the masses. Every once in a while a band comes along that is not doing that, but they are doing their thing and they become a huge hit in spite of everyone saying that there is no chance for it.

Taking advice from other people - JFK example (RL150)

John has a lot of experience getting a lot of advice from people, but often he is still saying ”Okay, well I’m just going to do this other thing”. In those situations he is always reminded of John F Kennedy and his cabinet during the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are recordings of them talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis as it was happening. Kennedy was sitting in a room with all his generals, like Curtis Lamay and his whole brass, his brother Bobby, Mic George Bundy, and all the guys. They were talking about the blockade and as they went around the room, the consensus was that they were counting down the hours until those missiles in Cuba would be active, at which point the Russians would launch those missiles. Everybody in the room was advocating for a first strike and for Kennedy launching the missiles not just at Cuba, but at Russia, and they were talking about 70 million dead, a manageable amount of dead, because the alternative, to let those missiles go live in Cuba, would effectively seal the fate of all Americans. Even his brother Bobby was advocating for a first strike. Kennedy was listening to this and kept asking questions. He was a young president, new to the job, the youngest president in history at the time, and all the big minds were telling him to preemptively nuke our enemies, but Kennedy made the decision: No! We were going to open a back-channel phone line to the Russians, we were going to call Khrushchev on the phone, we were going to stall, we were going to take another option and we were going to take another hour to look at this.

Kennedy has been denigrated as a lightweight and people say he would not be seen as a good president if he hadn’t been killed. You hear all this terrible stuff about him, but in that Cuban Missile Crisis moment he averted total disaster just by taking all the information in and then saying ”No!” If he had said ”Let’s launch!”, history had come to him later and said that he killed 70 million people, how dare you? He could have said that everybody agreed, that it was a consensus between all these great minds, he was the one who had to choose and he was choosing what all his advisors were telling him to do. If you look at the other option, which is that Kennedy didn’t do it and the Russians did attack us, and we were caught with our pants down, history would have said ”What were you thinking?” In either case he is responsible for millions of deaths, and in one of them his own people would have been destroyed. In that instance he would have been solely accountable and history would have said that everybody told him to do what should have been done, he refused and we were destroyed as a result. The risk for him is so much greater to go against that council, because he would have been protected by group think. It was such a simple decision, but he had the stones not to do it, to say ”No!” and to watch those generals and his own brother file out of that room shaking their heads and muttering ”You fool!”, but here we are: Nobody died!

Avoiding getting into a false fight (RL150)

Reporters want there to be a fight. The people want there to be a fight. It is what the people understand: This guy is running against that one guy. When are they going to fight? John was just not interested in it. He wanted to put out ideas, he wanted to write papers about what we can do, he wanted to get that job, do a good job at it and not have it be characterized by needless contention. There is enough contention already in every decision, even without papering it with false fighting. John’s first week had been really interesting and it required him to be really on his toes, because reporters would say like ”Your opponent reportedly says that you have a fat butt, how do you respond?” I’m not sure that he did say that and I don’t want to be one of these politicians who are skirting the tough questions, but I’m going to skirt the dumb questions, so let’s talk about transit and housing.

Merlin always enjoyed listening to Barney Frank and other people like him who have been in that racket for a long time, have passed through many cycles of this stuff and have seen it many times. There is a difference between a young and in some cases presidential candidate, but you see even younger candidates for president. Today somebody younger than Merlin, which is a new one, announced that they feel the need to be really fired up in the way that they answer. Merlin has guesses why that person is like this: He has been around for a long time, he has a lot to put up with, he has had a lot in his past he didn’t want to be public, but then he got through the crucible of that, but no matter what you ask Barney Frank, he is unfloppable. Not that he doesn’t care, but he has seen all of your Kung Fu before, this is not his first magic rodeo, he has seen your wizard tricks many times before and he doesn’t even need to fight back. He is going to be effective and on point and he is going to answer any relevant questions in a way that is constructive. Just watching somebody do that is like watching a magic trick!

This is incredibly difficult, especially if you are new, and there are many examples of politicians who are very brittle. You ask them a question and they get tense and emotional that you even asked the question. It becomes part of their shtick. Al Franken is another example of a guy who handled those situations brilliantly: He got polished quickly and he seemed very resilient, because he has heard it all! The wonderful thing about coming to politics from the arts is that there is no insult that Al Franken hasn’t heard. He sat in the Saturday Night Live writer’s room! He has heard it all, he has a story to tell and you are not going to dislodge him easily. He is not going to join some specious fight or feel like his core values are being attacked, but he is anxious to tell the story as he understands it.

All of this was going to be born out through the course of John's campaign. It was going to be a struggle because there would come a time when someone would attack him. It might have been one of the other candidates, the newspaper, some political action committee or just a private citizen. Somebody was going to go after him and he had to continue to stay on the high room, because it is the only place where John is comfortable.

Handling spammy tweets as a candidate (RL150)

Someone tweeted John this morning with ”Please help this homeless family”. He did the initial due diligence which is to look if that person was following him, and they weren’t, so normally when somebody tweets something at him and they are not following him, he is pretty suspicious right away. Because John was running for office, he thought he should better go to this link. Maybe the person had sent this to John as a candidate, so John went to this site where the person described the fundraising they were trying to do. It felt very Nigerian scam, but as a candidate he couldn't dismiss this out of hand. It could be someone who has just moved to Seattle. John was keeping the plausibility of this in play a lot longer than he normally would, he read the entire pitch and it didn't feel right.

After having spent 5 minutes on this site, he looked at the person’s Twitter timeline and it was a total spam account. They had sent the same link to 800 people and the only personal tweets had been scraped from Eckhart Tolle’s Twitter account, completely unrelated, random and in a different voice. The Twitter photos were two blurry photos of a 10-year old girl. John spent 5 minutes where he would have spent 5 seconds before, because he felt a different responsibility as a candidate and he was no longer just a private citizen who could say ”You are a spammer, go to hell!” He was going to do a lot more research about things because not only could he not afford not to, but he didn't want to be inaccessible. As a musician, being inaccessible was part of his survival mechanism, but as a candidate he couldn't be inaccessible in that way and he was going to spend a lot more time reading spam accounts, trying to sort out the ones that are legit.

Remembering to represent the silent majority (RL150)

During the course of his campaign, John was going to interact with many strangers who’s personality might not be compatible with the way he likes to operate. He had become a literal public office that anybody could walk into. You can’t say that you don’t like the person’s attitude and you want to go talk to somebody else. John could have done that, but he needed to take the unpleasant, annoying or stinky people who were seeking help as seriously as he would anybody else. As a result of that, politicians either think that the entire public is crazy, because the only people who come to city council meetings are people with aggrievance, or they start to think that their real constituents are the lawyers and lobbyist that mill around afterwards and wink and nudge at one another. It becomes the new backstage.

John understands that most of the people in the crowd do not stick around to get their T-shirt signed and they don’t have backstage passes, but they come to the show because they love the music and they will take away a memory that you can not manipulate. You are going to put on a show, they are going to watch it and it is not up to you what feeling they are going to walk out with. You are not going to get a second chance to walk them through it, but they are going to have a feeling. The same is true of the electorate as well. People are generally quiet, yet also thoughtful. In public office you have to represent those people, too, even though the people that you meet every day are either yelling at your or winking at you. Keeping the awareness in the front of your mind that most people are not either one of those, but most people are just busy with their own lives, counting on you to do a good job.

Candidates who run for office because they are mad (RL152)

As John was in conversations with people who are used to talking to a lot of candidates, they asked him for his one issue that got him mad and that made him run for office. John finds this a flawed premise, but when he tells them that, they get this look on their face, John can see their gears turning and they will ask him if he is the intellectual among the candidates. No, John is just somebody who believes in democracy! If your city council is populated by people who got mad at the dogcatcher, you end up with a city council that is populated by mad people without a very broad sense of how things work. They were only able to yell about the one thing they were mad about and got several thousand people to agree with them, but all of a sudden those are the people we send to public office. Later on someone sidles up to them and tells them how dogcatchers actually get elected and that it is not anything like they were saying. Then that person has the choice to either recant and learn about things or smile cynically and continue to yell about dogcatchers because it still resonates with people and that’s what got them elected. This happens more often than not and it is why you have politicians who admit off the record that they know how things actually work, but they will still go out on stage and talk in the terms they know animates an audience.

Real-world solutions are complicated (RL152)

At a certain point, everybody wants to hear solutions and nobody wants to hear that solutions are complicated. Every time you pass a new law that you hope solves a problem, it creates four new potential problems. Prohibition solved a problem, but created 50 new ones. There are lesser examples, but they are only lesser because they are less ridiculous. They still created problem upon problem. Proposed solutions to housing leave John in aw because it turns out the housing crisis is a multi-tendrilled animal. Then there is a separate part of the political class who does understand the complexity of things, but they are the rye incrementalists who take the professional politician’s approach by doubling down on small-scale incremental little process-based revisions to current policy. You get either demagogues or you get people who are fully vested in the process and don’t believe in imagination. Somewhere between those two places you have this strange world where no progress really happens although you have a lot of people in public office who are talking about supporting Israel because that is what Jesus wants. There are 1000 examples even on the liberal side.

Practical solutions to infrastructure problems (RL152)

John is unwilling to speak exclusively in bullet points, but he is also unwilling to get chastised over and over for having a too adventurous idea kit. He has started to seriously talk about gondolas to people. There have been some studies about them and they are a really great idea, but you could never get the voters to go along with a big dream project like that. Imagine the people sitting in the room when someone unveiled a drawing of the Space Needle that they intended to build. People would look at it and go ”What is it? What is it good for?” and it was just good for going up in, but it was really expensive. Yet, they built the Space Needle! If you think about the Interstate Highway System: The original name was the Interstate Roads and Defense Escape Route Highway System (actually: ”Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”) and a big part of the justification was to move troops around faster in case America was invaded by the Russians. If there would be a little bit of a warning by the civil defense horns, people could even get into their 1957 Chevys and drive out of the cities to escape the nuclear attack that was coming. This is how we sold what was going to be a $400 billion nationwide project. It would also be great to get out into the country on Saturday afternoons. They said nothing about this becoming the backbone to build the economy with trucking or opening up practical travel by middle class people. To build these things we tore down tens of thousands of houses and destroyed entire neighborhoods. People say that there is no way we can muster the collective will to move away from a fossil-based economy, for instance, but it is happening anyway! The question is how to get ahead of it and do it correctly instead of doing it accidentally or by happenstance.

Gondolas sound like a ridiculous idea that the weird rock candidate came up with, except that Seattle is a city built on seven hills which is basically an alpine resort in summer. People are talking about bike lanes, but in that whole conversation there is never any acknowledgement of the fact that wherever you want to go, it involves going up a huge fucking hill! The only peole who can ride bikes in Seattle are super-athletes. Portland, Oregon on the other hand is largely a flat city. People who ride their bikes are dressed nicely, they have a little basket with some bread and maybe a dog in it and they are peddaling slowly on their nice flat wide street to get from one flat place to the next. If you want to get from Downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill, which is 1/4 mile as the crow flies, you basically have to be dressed like you are riding the Tour de France, but you are not going on your bike with your suit on, ride up to Capitol Hill for lunch and ride back down. You would be drenched in sweat, not to mention the high chance of rain. If there was a network of gondolas however, you could take your bike in the gondola, take the gondola up the top of the hill, ride your bike up there and ride your bike downhill, which everybody loves. At night when it is time to go home, you put your bike on a gondola back up to the top of the hill. It is not crazy, but it sounds too fun to be real. It sounds whimsical until you picture the city 50 years from now when there will be trams and a funicular will be running up the steep hill. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it would be infrastructure that would actually reflect the geography of the town.

When John talks to professionals about his idea about gondolas in Seattle, they struggle to find reasons why it can never happen. John must sound like a flat earth person or a historical revisionist in a sense that some people don’t even know how to start a discussion with him. Should we all wear Dracula fangs and wear face tattoos? Anything else? It is so outside of what people think of as a conventional approach to such a boring problem. 100 years ago in 1915, there were still horse-drawn carts all over the streets of New York City, Seattle and San Francisco. John is sure there were all kinds of people in power who went after the conventional wisdom that there will always be horses in the city because there have always been horses in the city. The motor car is coming, but how do you take the horse away from the small independent farmer? Chicago later revolutionized around the idea of not having to throw literally tons of horseshit into the river everyday. It changed the whole sanitation system! John would like to talk to the last person in Seattle who built a barn Downtown to feed and care for horses during the day. There must have been a last person who was investing into horsecare products and services. Only 10 years later in 1925 there were not a lot of horses on the streets anymore. The system had completely changed!

Our contemporary equivalent to that is people driving their own cars. People are bad at driving! Driving is one of these strange things that seems simple enough and everybody believes they are really good at it. Yet it is very difficult to do well and almost no one does it well! Everybody driving their own vehicle results in tens of thousands of deaths, incredible waste and inefficiencies and total gridlock, but it will be going away in our lifetimes. When driving your own cars around is going away, it is going to change the conversation about every aspect of the city. It does not mean that cars are going away, but human-piloted cars are going away. Without human pilots, cars can be constructed without all this weight of saftely devices, because they will never touch one another again. They can be small and light and quick and battery-powered and quiet and they can move smoothly around the city. All of a sudden you realize that gridlock isn’t because there are too many people, but you could quadruple the capacity of the roads and everybody could move 10 times faster at the same time. The roads aren’t the problem, but the problem are the pilots. That is coming really soon!

Politicians don’t know about the Internet (RL152)

It feels like noone else running for the Seattle city council has even heard of the Internet, let alone self-driving cars. It is not a focus! There is still a lot of suspicion about technology at the local level of government and it is still regarded as a surveillance tool that cities are using to collect data. Privacy is a huge issue at the city level. Should the cops wear bodycams? But when a cop comes into my house and talks to me in the middle of the night that, is that video going to be uploaded on the Internet tomorrow? There is a lot of confusion about that angle. Even today, very few people are looking at the Internet as something that is about to explode in terms of usefulness as we use it to connect everything to everything. When that happens, the usefulness of everything will go up, because we will be talking about integrated systems rather than siloed, inefficient, work-duplicating garbage-piles. John pictures Matt Haughey on his bike, looking at his Apple Watch, trying to get his coffee-maker to work. He has downloaded 4 coffee-maker apps to his iPhone and it is not syncing up with his electric raser. He is at the bleeding edge of a thing that is going to happen on a municipal scale! We are also right on the cusp of solar energy finally penciling out. When Merlin was in college, you could get a solar powered water heater, but it was prohibitively expensive. It is completely bananas what you can do now for less than $20.000. We have come across the threshold where solar energy is as cheap as other forms. Stop thinking about the Internet as Facebook, but start thinking about the Internet as electricity and everything starts to change. The future never turns out the way anybody expected because we can only see it through the lens looking backwards.

We always evolve our cities in this game of whac-a-mole: When somebody does a thing that turns out to be shitty and we want to stop the next guy from doing the same shitty thing, we pass a law about this guy who built the thing and by the time the law gets passed 8 years later no one is ever going to build that thing again anyways, but the next guy is going to build something else that is shitty in a different way and not covered by this law. It is not that hard to go 20 years into the future, imagine what we want the city to look like and then reverse-engineer it. We do have that ability! We don’t have to build everything out of LEGO, rummaging in the box looking for one more green tile, but we can look ahead and redesign the grid. Seattle has really cheap electricity thanks to the dams in the mountains that 20 years ago were thought of as salmon-killing dams. They have given us cheap power. Another technology that is coming online is the molten-salt battery technology which would enable us on a municipal scale to build giant batteries that can soak up and store all the solar power and then redistribute it at night when the sun has gone down and everybody wants to turn their jacuzzi taps on. Storage is the problem, because you are generating a lot of power in the middle of the day when the sun is up, but you might not even be home at that time. If you can’t store it, you have to burn it off as garbage power. With these giant batteries of superheated sodium, cities can build a small grid to soak up the sun all day long and redistribute it at night.

As a candidate for city council you are not allowed to be excited about this stuff because it is so pie in the sky! The crazy rock candidate is talking about molten-salt batteries! What about a space station that has waterfalls? The Faroe Islands have already started to develop municipal scale battery complexes. There will be an American city that will be the pilot for this and that should be Seattle, but we can’t talk about it until enough people believe that the future is a real thing that is happening and that we are really on the cusp of a huge step forward accross the board . We don’t have to build more stables Downtown, but we have to think about the interconnectivity of everything!

People running for local office often come out of traditions and that is why it shouldn’t be surprising that the Internet-awareness is so low. What are the criteria of becoming the president of the United States?

  • You have to be a citizen,
  • you have to be 35,
  • no treason,
  • you have to be born in America and
  • have to have lived in America for 14 years.

Other than that there is no education requirement, no experience requirement and that is true for a reason! The founders understood that the more you make politics a profession, it invariably leads to an oligarchy where the only people who can practice politics are politicians and yet that is our instinct every time! People ask John why he runs for city council instead of some neighborhood council and his reply is that this is the job he wants! The conventional wisdom among this small group of 500 people who know at this early point in time that there is even a city council election coming up is that the way you get this job is to start at the college democrats, you work some campaigns and you spend some time as an activist. There is this kind of farm team mentality because people who go through those instances are the peoeple who often pursue elective office. Typically they are not reading Wired and they don’t have a podcast. John does believe the nation should be ruled by podcasters! Imagine the McElroy brothers in the US Senate!

A new approach to rent control (RL152)

There are lots of role models for Seattle. San Francisco had a wave of prosperity crashing onto the city and they have a traditional culture of ”Hey man, you are blocking my sun, man!” San Francisco is culturally very Laissez-faire about some stuff, but you almost need a permit to take a shit in there (which apparently many people get). Good luck trying to get your movie made in San Francisco! There is a reason Vancouver is thriving while nobody makes movies in San Francisco anymore. Seattle was experiencing a lot of the same problems that San Francisco had some years ago: Money is pouring in but the social services are not keeping pace, the rent is going crazy, the middle class is getting pushed out where everybody is making either $200.000 or $20.000. There is a Seattle-alternative way of experiencing this growth that is different from anywhere else. We have to believe in it and we will be able to impose our values on what is happening, but it does require Chutzpah and some will to take a step back and analyze the situation. We all know that the free market is just a thought technology that we all have been duped into believing. It works if you believe in it, but it doesn’t work if you don’t. It is just another idea and it is not legally bidning. None of those thought technologies that we have enshrined in law are any more legally binding than the laws we have written to enshrine them. We are capable of writing new laws and we are capable of envisioning a new form of city.

For example, there is a movement right now to try a new version of rent control which is much closer to actually controlling the rent by changing the abilities of landlords to rent according to what they think the market is. It is classifying ”rent” as a different category of service that is tied to the consumer price index, meaning rents cannot rise any faster than the consumer price index. How is that for a new idea? Old fashioned rent control just creates a new class of people with cheap apartments, not because they are virtuous or because they are needy, but because they were there first. This new vision of rent control doesn’t see rent as a thing like gold and diamonds where the market determines that an ounze of gold is suddenly worth $700 where a year ago it was $400. We all go along with that because we believe that market forces like scarcity are real forces like the wind. Instead there is nothing stopping us from saying that rents rise as people’s raises rise, but still in a way that is commessurate. The problem is that there are innumerable loop holes. Does it apply to commercial rents, too? The number one way people will find around it is by turning their apartment into condominiums and you are back to a game of whac-a-mole. Life is often like The Sims where you think you are fixing a small problem over here, but it could just be making seven new problems somewhere else that you can’t even figure out. It is butterfly farts everywhere you go! A butterfly will fart in China and all of a sudden you are paying $4500 for a studio apartment in Seattle. Because of how the way the wind blows accross the pacific, it will even hit Seattle first!

The one thing that John is scared about is the ugliness in this process. He doesn’t believe that ugliness is necessary and he doesn’t think it has any place in it, but yet it is there. He is not looking forward to the ugliness getting activated. It could come from anywhere and the closer you come to election day, the more John becomes a viable candidate and the more he is taken seriously, he is going to be a bigger target. John recently sat down at two big tables. One of them was with the Sierra Club. They interviewed him because they were trying to decide whom they are going to endorse in his race. Then John sat at a table with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. To get to that meeting John put the address into Apple Maps which took him to the top of a windmill out on the beach somewhere. This delay caused him to be 30 minutes late for the meeting while they waited for him. He was wearing a tweed suit and he appeared to be the guy who doesn’t know where Downtown is and who legitimately thought that the Chamber of Commerce had their offices in a windmill. John understood that there was no way they were going to endorse him, but all he wanted them to understand was that if he does get elected, they should feel that they can work with him. He believes in small businesses and the free enterprise. As he left the meeting and was talking to the receptionist, he could hear the whole room laughing and he wasn’t sure if that was because someone said ”We should totally endorse that guy!” or because they are full of fear or because somebody said something funny completely unrelated just to break the tension he had created in the room. They can’t take them as an unserious candidate because John raised more money in a week than any candidate had ever raised in Seattles history. The Chamber of Commerce is not going to pick John as their endorsee, but when he wins the election, he is going to show back up there and is going to say: ”So… funiculars!”

Three bullet points (RL153)

People who meet John on his political campaign often judge him initially as the guitar player who wants to be on the city council, the weird rock candidate who did a show at The Rendezvous last year and who doesn't have any experience! As soon as John sits down with them and talks for a few minutes, they all realize that he is a great candidate for this job and he can absolutely do it. Then they lean in to tell him that the words he is using are too big and he needs to dumb things down. John spends a lot of time ideating with these thought storms, but instead he just needs to have three take-aways, three bullet points, the quick-and-dirty. John has been fighting it for weeks! He spent a whole week on cold-calling powerful lawyers in town, saying

"Hi, I'm John Roderick, I'm running for city council. You are a big-shot lawyer or developer and I need to talk to you on the phone. I need you to have heard my voice, I need you to know my name and I need to hear from you what problems the big-shot lawyers and developers are facing in town so that I don't go into this gladiator contest unarmed"

After they talk to him for a little while, their voices get softer and they lean in to tell him that he needs his three bullet points, because that is all everybody is going to remember. It is like the chorus of the song. Nobody remembers the verse, everybody just sings the chorus. That part of it was blowing John's mind. It is still against his nature, even as someone who has written a book's worth of Tweets. John loves to communicate in 140 characters, but when someone asks him about his solution to the housing problem, a 140 character response is anathema to him. Instead he wants to talk about how the housing problem is too complicated to solve within a tweet. People are usually receptive to hearing that, but they want to hear the tweet also. John is learning by leaps and bounds! There are moments where he is learning an entirely new profession and also the language of it at the same time. It is like studying engineering and also studying French because the engineering school is in French. He is enjoying every step of that process.

Incremental politics (RL153)

There are lots of places in Seattle with traditionally very incremental politics. There are a lot of lip-service liberals who claim they are of course a liberal because they voted for this or that, but none of those people are imaginative. They never stuck their neck out, no one ever took a risk, but everybody it is just plodding along. It is the Dave Matthews story: The first time people heard a Dave Matthews song they think: "Huh, that is an interesting vocal style!", and he managed to build a massive cultural movement by not ever changing it even a little bit. He never picked up an electric guitar, he never made a Scar record, he never changed his name, grew a soul patch and made a Grunge album. Taylor Swift used to be a country star! She is not anymore and no one even remembers now that she was, but Dave Matthews just keeps on keepin' on and if you would take a song from his first album and one from the most recent album and put them back to back, they would sound like they belong together. It is comforting! The energy required of the listener just sort of ebbs. You just coast. Every once in a while something comes along that forces you to get excited. Maybe it really makes everything different all of a sudden and you either make that transition or you don't. That is exactly what happens to people in the political process: This is how it works, this is the tempo at which it moves, these are the people to whom we entrust this job, and therefore change can not possibly happen any faster than this. Obviously these projects take years and years of contentious budget disagreement to even begin.

People have a tendency to say "Of course I believe X, of course we should house the homeless, of course we should regulate the banks, of course black lives matter!", but it is very hard to do those things. They make people sound very sane, reasoned and realistic, because they are about a shift in attention and sacrifice, but what are we really willing to spend on those agenda items? What do we instead not spend money and time on? Then there are the saner heads who point to the budgeting process and say that this would be too disruptive. Even if there were aliens living under the Arctic ocean, controlling our one world government, you can't tell everybody about it, but you have to go slowly or it would freak people out! So much of the politics at the local or national level is done in that voice. "To really reform the banks is going to be too hard, it just is! Of course I want to! Call me back when you have a dumber idea for a television show!" Sometimes you have to say: "No, fuck you!"

The excitement for John in running for office right now is that it feels like it is the time on so many levels to say: "No! The market has informed me that my house 10 years ago was worth $200.000 and then 7 years ago was worth $400.000 and 5 years ago was worth $200.000 again and now it is worth $400.000 again, and you are telling me that this is the sensible way and that the market is the adjudicator?" It is like playing roulette with everybody agreeing that it is crazy, but "What can you do about it? It is the market!" It is not a single person, it is all of us!

Gatekeepers and experience (RL153)

During his foray into politics, John is encountering the entrenched class saying "What makes you think that you can do this better than those of us who have been doing this - and nothing else - for a long time?" The only hope for change seems to be that some people from outside these spheres with a good idea will be able to master the vernacular, put together the right team of smart people to help and actually do create something new from the outside. It happens infrequently enough, but when it does happen it is so exciting to us that we misapply the lesson and think we could do it as well. What role does expertise and experience play in different jobs? In paediatric brain surgery, expertise is the whole game. The only thing between the best and the worst paediatric brain surgeon is dexterity, a physical gift, and inspiration. Even the worst surgeon is still an incredible expert.

In the field of filmmaking, comedy writing and television producing, it is much more likely that the people who have the expertise, while admittedly having a useful knowledge base, are the gatekeepers who keep good ideas out. A lot of the people who green-light TV-shows are producers who are timid and don't want to make a mistake, so they keep making the same show over and over. People get a long way in politics by being timid: Don't step too far to the left or to the right, keep your nose clean, make the right friends. They ultimately care about what they do, something got them engaged initially, but then they get into the process of something that feels like the military or a big corporation: "You do what is done, you don't rock the boat and you get where you are going." It is very different from paediatric brain surgery, but people who occupy those jobs would like you to think that it was equivalent.

Expertise isn't the entire game in these rackets, but many people who do have the right motivation often encounter a preexisting system that they are not able to navigate successfully. Every year you see seeming crackpots run for office who actually are really inspired to make a difference, but then they are not able to navigate the game. We see it in corporate life all the time: John was talking to a good friend about her job the other day who works at a 25 person company where the CEO "is not really a visionary" Why do they even have a CEO? We are living in a world where companies of 25 people have a board of directors, a CEO, a CFO, a CTO, however many vice presidents and however many managers. Do businesses like that still have any employees? The CEO is 45 years old and his primary talent seems to be having the chutzpah of calling himself the CEO. You can get really far, potentially really quickly, and stil be completely self-deluded. Being virtually psychotic might even improve your chances.

Publicly changing your mind (RL153)

At every step in the way to make a change there are vested interests of people who tell you that you can't do that! The city is inside a county which is inside a state which is inside of a country and all of those higher jurisdictions have laws that apply to and affect the city. You can't just start to want to change the state law. John for example said that the police should live in the neighborhood they are policing, like in the old times. The guy in Chicago, swinging his billy club, walking down the streets in his own neighborhood. Then John started reading up on it and learned a few things:

  1. The state of Washington prohibits municipalities requiring officers to live in their own neighborhood. There was a time when the police union found it unfair and all these cases went to the Supreme Court. You can't just tell people how to live.
  2. Turns out: There have been studies in lots of municipalities, some of them do have requirements for police to live in the city, some of them don't, and the cities that require it do not have any better police outcomes, in some cases even considerably worse police outcomes. It turned out that the biggest factor for improving the police is high quality training for your police. D'oh! Of course!

This means that John's opinion on that matter was re-evaluated when he came against state law. We have already been through this and if you want to go to the state and propose a law, you can go down that rabbit hole, but what do you really want? The symbolic victory of it? Do you want to be able to say that you believe that this is going to work? Or maybe this is a tentpole of your campaign and you can't change your mind because it makes you look like a waffler? We have the expectation that politicians can't publicly change their minds. You can't say that you have read some things, talked to people who are smarter than you, and have changed your opinion about it! The new thing, which is to require our police to be trained on a higher level, is actually within our ability, it is measurable and it does not require us to change state laws, but what it requires is to convince all the people who have been your allies and who are still chanting to force the police to live in their own neighborhoods.

This means you have to go back to your original constituents, tell them you have learned some stuff, you like them to read some things, and they will call you are a sell-out and a traitor. Even if what you want is a better police department, the same thing they want, you have now crossed the spiritual line of challenging the thing that we all used to agree on and that sounded like the solution. It is a process of maturation that requires you to have some integrity inside. Some people really just want to punish the police or punish the developers or punish the banks and when you come back and say that this thing that we thought was going to help us is not as good a case as this other thing, people want the first thing still, because it punishes them more and that's what they want: To shame and punish the "bad guys". People who typically run for public office are the ones who exclaim that they are mad at the cement contractors because they are pouring shitty cement and we are going to punish them.

Feeling lonely on the campaign (RL157)

John feels very alone in his campaign right now, but once he joined this world he can’t just take a break and go back to his normal life for a couple of days. He is deep in the slough! Although a lot of people are helping him in the campaign, it can’t be a full-time job for them. They can just step back and wait until John needs them again. Sometimes every one of the 20 people who have pledged to help him thinks that the other 19 will probably pick up the slack while they do their normal job or tend to their family for 3-4 days. In fact all 20 of them are doing something else right now and John has to attend all these little events that stack up 6 a day. No-one is minding the store of the realm of the imagination or the place where John wanted to run a campaign that was very different. He is busy enough trying to leave the appointment that ends at 2pm and make it to the appointment that starts at 2:45pm.

He is the only person who has to do everything and be at everything, which makes sense, but he is not used to reaching out to people at a personal emotional level, even in situations when nothing is at stake or even in the best of circumstances. It is very hard to ask the three people who love him the most for a hug and it is exceptionally difficult to recognize that he is emotionally taxed, confused and struggling to keep the things that matter to him in focus as his daily routine turns into a cycle of things that don’t especially matter to him, but need to get done.

Having a hard time acknowledging that he did something well (RL157)

John finds it very difficult to look in the mirror and address himself like: "Hello! I am looking at you know and we are trying to decide what to do with life. I am checking in with you!" He is trying to get out of a place where he is talking to himself inside his head and instead recognize that he is talking to a living being who is halfway through the normal lifespan and who is trying to do good at a multitude of levels: for other people, for himself and for the people who love him. He is trying to be a good neighbor, a good driver, and all these things. It is very easy to sit for hours and hours, talking to himself inside his little Plato’s cave, but to really stand in front of a mirror and say that all these multitudes of worlds are happening just inside himself, while he is alone in this room trying to actually have some sympathy for this person he recognizes in the reflection, is excruciating.

John needs to be able to look into that mirror and say: "You and I, me, and this reflection of me, I am on your team! There is one person in the room, but I am on your team!" The reflection in the mirror just wants to go away and does not want to be talked to that way. Its eyes alight on the first shiny thing it finds in the room that it can start to play with. There is a pairs of scissors! I haven’t sharpened these scissors in a while!

Merlin says that if you don’t look at yourself in the mirror when things are going well, it makes it feel a little chancy to do that when you are not feeling well. It is attractive to think about mindfulness when things are going poorly, but it is not as attractive to think about it when things are going well. It is way harder for John! Numerous times in his life when he has done something well he tried to go into the bathroom and enjoy even a moment of nominal victory. He walked off the stage after a triumphant performance, or he walked out of the interview or the test, and he went immediately into the bathroom and told himself: ”You did a good job!”, but the reflection in the mirror squirms uncomfortably and wants to get out of there even more. It is the same impulse to say: ”You did good, I see you, I am acknowledging that you did well”, but John doesn’t want to receive it or hear it.

There are a lot of opportunities on the campaign trail every day to walk out of a thing and say: ”Wow, that was a lot better than I expected, that went really well!”, but the nature of campaigning is always about the last thing you did. If it was longer than 30 minutes ago, it is already in the past. John is already pretty bad at stacking up accomplishments and telling himself that he is doing well and he is a good person. The other day he walked out of an interview with the King County Democrats, which is a board of directors of about 20 people from every legislative district in King County. When a voter is reading their voter guide, it will say: ”Endorsed by the 32nd district Democrats, the 43rd district Democrats, and the King County Democrats” and John doesn’t know how a voter parses that.

He went to this meeting and it was great! Everybody responded well to him and he felt at home. Like a water-ski boat that was up one step, he was above the waves, skirting across the surface of the lake. People were nodding emphatically and it was a great conversation, but he has no idea whether or not they endorsed him. Directly afterwards he went to another meeting where he felt completely out of his body, trying to give a speech to a room full of people he couldn’t gauge. They weren’t really looking at him but they were just playing with their salads. When he got home that evening, he was not saying: ”You did great at the King County Democrats!”, but he thought that there was nothing worse than giving a speech that you don’t quite nail in front of a room full of people who are playing with their salads. Why would he even go to an event like that? You never know before you are walking into the door. John doesn’t know enough about those organizations to know which ones are going to be good or bad.

A single event is not going to make all the difference (RL157)

It is the same as playing shows: You have to treat every one of those more seriously than the last because you never know! Even though you might have 5 shows in a row where it is the bartender and a friend, this show could be the show where a booker or someone who writes for the local paper is somewhere in the audience. You have got to be playing to the last row regardless of how you feel, because you never know how important it could be and you never know which one show is going to have Jonathan Poneman there. One day John played a show and Jonathan Poneman was there and he came up to him after the show and offered him a record contract. It felt like being discovered at the malt shop, and yet he never did sign that record contract.

John knows a lot of people who did sign a record contract that was offered to them by Jonathan Poneman and it didn’t change the fact that most of those people are now working somewhere else. Over time you learn that the idea that something life-changing is going to happen in Rock'n'Roll at any one particular show is a fallacy. It is really all the shows together, All the great shows! It is a counterpart to the argument against ”The Great Man"-theory of history that says it was not about Napoleon, but about the forces that worked to create Napoleon. Human forces are working all the time and Napoleon is irrelevant compared to the passage of time. John doesn’t agree with that critique of history.

In 1998 John was on his way to South Africa (see RW170) to study at the University of Cape Town and to write a book about the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, together with his mentor Jim Clowes. It was going to be a profoundly life-changing academic trip and during the 3 or 4 months leading up to leaving for Cape Town, John got all his ducks in a row. Then his band, The Western State Hurricanes got invited to SxSW which was such a lofty dream and such a big deal. It could have potentially been career changing! John told Jim that he had been in bands for 6 years. it was finally taking off and this was one of these once-in-a-lifetime chances. Jim replied: ”Well, Cape Town will always be there! Make the decision you want to make!” and John went to his band mates, described the situation and one of them said that he should go to Cape Town because SxSW will always be there and they would be there when he came back. The other two guys said: ”This is our one chance and if you go to Cape Town we are leaving the band”.

John agonized over it and decided that the academic path will still be there for him, but he had to pursue this opportunity with his band, because he will not get asked to go up to the majors an infinite number of times. John went to SxSW, which was interesting and the first of 9 consecutive SxSW he attended, but immediately upon returning from SxSW the two guys who said that this was their big shot both quit the band (see RL249, RL342). John never did go to South Africa and he did not write a book about the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. He went to 8 more SxSW and every one of them felt like it could be the moment, but none of them were. Maybe if he would have been in Band of Horses there would have been a show that you could point to where it started to take off, but the fact is that if it hadn’t been that show for them, it would have been the next show, because Ben is a great songwriter and they were going to make that sound and they were good enough so they made it all the way. It wasn’t that they got discovered at SxSW.

When running for office it feels like at every one of these events the former governor could be there and it could be the moment it all turns, but the fact is that you have to go to all of them and if you catch on with people and if they are going to like you, no one meeting is the moment. It is the composite of having performed all these tasks and having spoken all these times that either reveals you to be the one that people are looking for, or reveals you to not be that one.

Merlin thinks about all the times he is waiting to arrive, but anybody who has arrived starts to realize that you never really arrive, and even Bono has a boss (see MSHOW). There is always somebody above your station that you are trying to impress or at least try to please. It is almost like the opposite of arriving. You grow up thinking that you only get a handful of chances to really make something happen: "When I get this break, it is just going to be a rocket to the top!" These chances may come along, but alongside these chances are 10.000 opportunities for everything to unravel. Every time you walk out there, you are facing the beginning of an unraveling. The arrival doesn’t stick and just leads to more expectation.

People thinking John doesn't need more help because his campaign is going well (RL157)

During the 2 months John has been campaigning for office, there have been so many events! If the election were held today, and if it only involved the 45 people in that room, John would win this office. While those 45 people are important people in the process, the election isn’t today and it doesn’t involve just those 45 people. No-one can anoint you! You can be appointed to public office, which is a crazy thing, but for the most part, if you want to be a legitimate, elected person there is no shortcut. One day there is the election and you do everything you can up to that one day. The last election between Romney and Obama turned out to be a total sweep, but it didn’t look like it during the week leading up to it. A lot of pundits were calling it the other way until Obama’s name was written in their blood on the wall.

It is never a thing that you can sow up, if it is at all competitive. Nothing is guaranteed for John in this race. People tell him that he is going to make it at least through the primary because he has raised a lot of money. It is also an excuse for people to say that John doesn’t need their active help because things are going great for him, but from his standpoint that is not how it feels, which contributes to his feeling of loneliness, because a lot of his people think that things are going great when they read about it in the newspaper, while John just feels like completely abandoned. The only other people he could talk to who would understand it are his competitors. There is a lot of fellow feeling between people running for office, but it couldn’t be more exaggerated how little John resembles them.

The other day John went to the Wikipedia page for the Washington State Legislature and started reading the biographies of all the current people in the legislatures. The stock biography is having graduated with a degree in political science, started to work immediately at a non-profit, became the director of that non-profit, then became the executive director at a different non-profit, then worked for a while on the campaign of a candidate who either won office in which case they became that candidate’s legislative aid or that candidate lost and they went back to the world of non-profits. At no point does it ever feel cynical. Every one of these jobs are fantastic and people are doing them motivated by a desire to help. Those non-profits are across a wide spectrum: Helping the homeless, houses for humanity, medical care, and all across the spectrum of concerned citizens.

After a certain while at one of those places they will first run for office themselves, at which point it becomes clear that this was a career path. John doesn’t know them enough personally to know how many of them said at age 18 that they one day were going to be a representative and the path to that is this. If you graduate with a degree of political science, you have some awareness of what you are doing. If you immediately join the non-profit world, you are conscious of those steps, but John can’t know how much each one of these people are pursuing this path over the course of time. When meeting them on the campaign trail, this group of people is not characterized by their rye-balled sense of humor nor by their worldliness, really. They are capable of talking about all of the agreed challenges facing our city today, but they are not capable of talking about it outside of what the agreed-upon coral of notions is.

Running the campaign on the strength of ideas (RL157)

The other day, a sitting city-council-man and likable person said to John: "The thing about you is that nobody knows what you are going to do. This opponent of yours, even if I disagree with him, when he gets the job, I know what he is going to do. But nobody knows what you are going to do, so how can we chose you?" - ”Errrrr, I mean…” John’s sense is that 95% of what comes across a city council person’s desk are completely unforeseen and only 5% are things you know are going to happen. There is a police scandal or suddenly Shell oil brings a drilling rig into the harbor or there is an economic crisis or a snow storm.

A lot of the job is reacting to things that nobody anticipated and John would imagine that nobody knows what anybody is going to do. While that might be true, the only way people know how to chose a candidate is if you have demonstrated consistency in what you are going to do. From that they extrapolate what you would do in unforeseen circumstances. John understood what the person was saying, but it seemed really bad. What it doesn’t do is account for a person’s flexibility, morality or curiosity. All voting records are a measurable set of data that you can put up against your voting record and see what the differences are and put like a points rating on: "Is this guy more liberal than me or less liberal than me?"

When Ross Perot first entered the race in 1988, he was a guy who many of us naturally would have not had anything to do with, because he was an outspoken Texas oil guy with pearl-handled revolvers and a real rogue. It is funny how much he appealed to people at first by being so obviously sensible. This was a guy we could trust, because this guy built a business and he was such a straight shooter at the beginning, before he was all non-nutty-ball salad. Everybody thought that this guy was the straightest of shooters and everybody knew where you stand with Ross Perot.

John was a radical at the time and Ross Perot appealed to him. It felt like the other candidates in the race were just the same old same old, while here was this guy who for better or for worse was going to be a real human being. Then it turned out that Ross Perot was not able to maintain that and he lost us all. John felt that he could have won that presidency if he had just stayed the course, but he lost all of the people who supported him including John. The more he talked by the end, the more you could say that although that guy was a straight shooter, he was a straight shooter about a lot of whackadoodle. Speaking freely in his way was very attractive at first, but then it appeared as if he didn’t have any filter and maybe needed some kind of medication.

John is the outside candidate and the question is if he will be able to make a convincing portrayal of an insider candidate while not losing something crucial about himself in the process. It wouldn't be something irrevocable, because John's integrity is not malleable in that way. When he entered this race, he was not going to run negative, but just on the strength of ideas. He was under a lot of pressure from people in his campaign who knew better and wanted him to attack his opponent. John had a lot of anxiety about it, but he said: ”No!” What they knew about was attacking and they wanted to do it, but as John wanted to run on ideas, they just said: ”Great, then you are the guy with the ideas. Let’s have them!” John was going to 6 events a day and there was the expectation that he was going home at the end of the day to write 2000 words on the world of ideas he was promoting.

When John wasn’t even able to muster the pure energy needed to spitball, there was a lack of voice coming from his direction. People started to say that he hadn’t released any position papers or taken any stand on anything. John’s team wasn’t punishing him because they didn’t know what to do. What they knew was to write up a thing that his opponent was a baby-killer. They wanted to swift-boat every day! It was what they understood because that is what everyone is doing. When it starts to rain after 20 days of no rain, the instinct of everybody is to get a press-release out that we support the rain and more importantly: "My opponent is on the record 3 different times saying that he wished it would stop raining! In 1997, my opponent said that he was sick of the rain. Now in the middle of this drought, who do you want? A guy who is sick of the rain, or a guy who loves the rain?"

A couple of different times John was sitting on a chair with a laptop in his lap trying frantically just to stay on top of emails, when somebody came over and said: ”Here is an opportunity to set out a press release!” The other opponents were debating housing in the newspaper and John was left out of the conversation and everybody was in a panic, because the race was shaping up between those two other guys. John was not in the conversation, because he was over here working on something else, but they told him that he can’t afford to not be in the conversation. A couple of different times press releases have gone out from John’s campaign in a tone that he didn’t like. In the context of the political world it was mild stuff, addressed to some imaginary reader who wants to know where these two guys stand. Apparently this guy doesn’t like the rain and it left him feeling like there was a film on his tongue, but in the absence of John generating candy cane lollipop position papers week after week, that was what came out. Now John is trying to draw a line in the sand and say: "No!" He is going to run on the strength of ideas or nothing! John needs a shot of vitamin B12 or something, or he needs a hug!

It is really difficult to just look at any one candidate on their own, because it is so much easier for someone writing an article about it to say that here is the person with the super-clear position that everybody agrees with. You have to put people next to each other in order for it to be a campaign. It gives you a lot more clarity, but the more you do that, you get incrementally closer to being a pro-wrestler. John hesitates to say that this is the challenge, because there are so many challenges. If only he could master just the one!

He looks back at the end of every week and says: ”Boy, if I had known at the beginning of the week what I know now, I would have done a lot better job this week”, which is very unusual. If John ever applied that idea in the course of his normal life, it was more like: ”If I had known what I know now 2 years ago, I would have done a much better job over the last 2 years”, but it is very rare to have that thought every day! The next day is like: ”What I learned yesterday didn’t really apply today and I learned a whole bunch of new stuff I didn’t know”. This will probably be true for this whole race and on election day John will feel ready to run for office. People tell him that there is no bad way to run for office. Either you win, then you won, or you lose, then you know how to run. None of it really points to teaching you how to govern and it sounds like horrible preparation of how to govern.

The seeming corruption inside the system (RL157)

From the outside these political characters seem to be dripping with corruption, because their behavior is often so transparently in the service of a pretty narrow group of expectations. It seems so clear to most of us that you are either corrupt before you run for office, or running for office makes you corrupt. From the inside John can now see that if you come from this background, you know a limited number of people who think they have their finger on the pulse of what is wrong. If you spend 20 years working at a food bank and become the executive director of it, you have a sense of being clued in to what is going on in cities, because you are dealing with people who are feeling the brunt of it. In reality you don’t know that many people and you don’t have a very broad picture of the world. Then you get into office and you see the same faces over and over. Because raising money is such a big part of it, you end up going to fundraisers with the same people and you end up on the phone with the same people. If you don’t have a broad picture of the city or the country, it is very easy to feel that this group of 500-600 people represents The People. You know more than 90% of the population on a handful of topics which is going to serve you well sometimes and really drive you crazy some other times.

Of those 500 people you know, everybody considers themselves an expert in something. While you are standing in the banquet hall of the Sheraton, one guy comes up from the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, another guy comes up from the Builders Lobbying Group, another guy from the Bilderberg Group, and there is the chair woman of the Sierra Club. Every one of those people represent thousands of constituents. That is when it gets confusing, because you feel like you know everything because you are there with the 500 people who know everything. That is when it happens what appears to the rest of us as being corruption. It isn’t corruption, but you are just doing what your friends want you to do. You have these friends, they ask you to do things, and you can! You never hear from the other side! You are not even aware it exists. You are just helping your friends, it doesn’t feel corrupt to you! That is what is so maddening about the process we use to chose people. The last thing anyone wants to hear from a candidate is that every single side of every single argument has some validity to it. It isn’t ever a question of finding out the truth, but it is always a question of figuring out a plan, a process, and a method and working toward goals.

A city council person told John that in his work he had constantly come up against these big money people who were always doing things that really negatively affected his non-profit. As he looked into whom these big money bad guys gave money to, he realized that they donated money to city council candidates and he realized he needed to run for office, because he needed to get in there and root out that corruption. The most any city council candidate can receive is $700, so it is not that they are buying people with money, but they are in relationships with each other. They are big money developers while the other guy is on the city council. They see each other at the ballroom at the Sheraton. It is never as simple that this developer’s $700 cheque turned this person who had integrity into a slavish Gollum, but it feels like a conspiracy. Then you look at General Wesley Clark who is shilling for a fucking Grilled Cheese Truck franchise. Adults do get to a certain point in their life when are worried about money, and John is feeling it, too.

John met Chris Hansen the other day. He is a guy John’s age who got his money through financial work, which surely is very hard work. He lives and works in San Francisco, he was a fan of the Sonics when he was a kid and now he wants to build a new basketball arena for the Sonics, buy a basketball team and bring them back to Seattle. There are tens of thousands of people in Seattle who really want this to happen. He is a super-nice guy and he is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. When he walks into the room, all of the normal operators sidle up to him and shake his hand. Nobody ever tells him any bad news. You can tell by the way he talks or the way he carries himself that nobody ever tells him anything bad. It is like Paul Allen: When you get to be that rich, it is not just that you surround yourself with people who give you good news, but nobody wants to give you bad news!

When people are around rich people, they have this feeling that there is always the possibility that they will drop $100.000 on their way to the bathroom. When they suddenly start shooting money out of a T-shirt canon, you don’t want to be the one he hates. John was standing there with a common feeling: It is too late for him to make $100 billion as a hedge fund manager, and that blanket of integrity that used to keep him so warm at night is getting worn a little thin. Yet, it is all he has against the night. He can’t get on the board of a Grilled Cheese franchise at this late hour, because 150 years from now, somebody will be listening to his podcast on micro-fish in the basement of a library, and they are going to know how the story turned out. They are going to know whether or not he sold out. John hasn’t used the phrase ”Sold out” in a fucking decade!

John is learning a lot all the time by seeing how all these different and interesting people operate. It is deeply on John’s mind and this is why he is standing in front of a mirror and tells himself that these are things he normally doesn't have to do. There is absolutely no opportunity for corruption in John’s world, there is no Abscam thing where some FBI-agent from Mexico pretends to be an Arab and gives him a suitcase full of money. Instead the corruption opportunity is this tiny little incremental corruption that is radioactive if you allow it in, like ”I said I wasn’t going to run negative, but everybody is telling me I have to and here is an opportunity to kick a guy and: Yeah, okay!”, like meeting a group of African American business owners and tailoring your speech to just be about issues you know they care about and not be about issues that are really motivating your campaign. When John went to meet with the union people, one of them asked him if he was a member of a union and he actually has an application for the musician’s union sitting on his desk.

Six times a day you meet six different groups of people and everyone wants you to tell them what they want to hear. If you do, you are letting radioactive corruption in little by little. When John meets with the Chamber of Commerce, he has the opportunity to tell them that he will do whatever they say, which is a very powerful impulse! You want to please people and they want you to please them. They are powerful and you want their help. John went in there and said ”Listen, you are never going to endorse me and that is fine, but if I am on the city council, we have to find a way to work together. Anyway: Peace out!” They are one of the most liberal chambers of commerce in America, but they are still a chamber of commerce. If you are on the Seattle city council and you believe that the chamber of commerce is your entire constituency, then you are missing a big part of what your job is. What is crazy to John is that not a single one of these groups with the exception of the Sierra Club is really interested in someone from outside the system coming in with some fresh ideas. That is not what anybody cares about. In 85% of those situations, including very liberal, progressive groups, they do not want to hear that. They want to hear that you are reliably going to do what they want.

If you have to hire an assistant manager at a Walmart, would you like somebody who is fresh blood? No, you would want somebody who has been an assistant manager at a successful Walmart before and who already knows how the business operates. The perception of being on the Seattle City Council is that it is equivalent to being the assistant manager of a Walmart and it has more or less the same skill sets. John still believes that this is a terrible way to elect somebody to public office. The job is not at all like being an assistant manager at a Walmart! So much energy is devoted at the start of a campaign to winnowing out all the people who don’t understand that all these groups do believe that that is what the job is. It is a process that creates the political world we see and loath. You do not want an assistant manager in this job! You want somebody where you don’t know what they are going to do. If you want somebody dependable and consistent in public office, you are going to get the results that you so often see, which is that the laws are made by people with no imagination who have allegiance to the people who put them there.

John needing more support (RL157)

Running against that requires that you reach out to the voters. What makes John feel so lonely is that the process of running for office is actually a process of courting all these groups of people who claim to be intermediaries between you and the voters. If you had $1 million to run your campaign, you could side-step the whole process, take out 50 TV-commercials day and say ”Hello, voters!” You could hire the Goodyear Blimp to fly over the city. Not having those resources you need to count on the King County Democrats and you do need to count on the chamber of commerce to help you reach people. They have a vested interest in saying, as John has heard people say under their breath, that it works to have a dumb candidate with a smart staff. A smart candidate starts to get really problematic and the smarter they are, the worse it is for the system.

It doesn’t matter if John is smart and running outside the system. If he cannot master the system, then he has failed. You can run for office this way if you are a principaled character with no intention of getting elected, but you are only running to raise awareness or to be on stage. If you run for office with the intention of winning, you have to figure out a way to play the game as it is actually played and also to maintain more than just the lion share of your integrity. That is the challenge! John thinks he can, but he needs more help.

This week, John needs to tell the people who are helping him that he needs more help. He is not mad and he is not blaming anybody. He can maintain his integrity, but in that case he is not going to get all these things done. If he is going to get all these things done, he will need more than a hug in order to maintain his integrity. He needs people who believe in him and who are cheering at him. People are giving John a lot of support on Twitter. He raised a lot of money at first and everybody was saying that he raised a lot of money and he is great, but now he is struggling to raise money and that looks bad because it seems like his support has evaporated. Any American who wants to help: Go to and donate some money. John also needs research done and he needs help writing position papers. There are a lot of researchers and writers out there, but John doesn’t know how to tap them.

There are surely a lot of people who listen and who would love to write a transportation piece on gondolas. John actually needs one of those, but understanding what John needs written, how he needs it written and how he needs to then actually write it himself, would take up all his energy even if he weren’t also going to six meetings a day. John does have a campaign manager who schedules him in those meetings, but he does not have a creative tsar who is next to him and who is thinking about the positive aspects of the campaign. John needs three ”me”s: One to go home and write all the crazy shit down, edit it and get it to sound reasonable, one to go to these meetings, shaking people’s hands and kissing babies, and the third will be eating a sandwich in the bathtub and getting all the time he needs walking around in the garden in a bathrobe swinging a cimeter. Those three guys need to partner up like the three wise men, because standards in John’s neighborhood have declined!

The emotional challenges of running a campaign (RL158)

Running his campaign has delivered John into a very discomforting emotional place that he had not been in for decades. He tried to suppress that emotion and to just get his papers out, give his speeches and fulfill the duties of being a candidate, because nobody is interested in your emotional response to transit or your emotional response to the experience of running a campaign. The question for John is not if he can figure out and handle this pretty complicated world of policy, but the complicated part is how to infest policy with meaning and how to recruit people who understand that their policy affects real action in the real world. How do you enlist them even if they feel that it is against their best interest?

Those are all emotional duties! The policy itself is just a set of encyclopedias. John has read multiple sets of encyclopedias before and he can read another. The question is instead if he can emotionally survive this and if it will be emotionally fulfilling. The fact that it feels dangerous and he is emotionally upset all the time is not necessarily evidence that he is not suited for this or that this isn’t good and great. He has entered a realm where there is a lot of reading to do, but to an unexpected degree there is also a lot of emotional studying to do. This is the stuff that no-one talks about! There are 50 books about how to run a successful campaign, but there are no books about how to emotionally survive a campaign and yet it is just as real, if not realer!

A lot of the decisions John has made over the last 15 years were on an intellectual level. Their goal was to protect his emotional well-being and to defend his emotional citadel. He was making emotional decisions so that his emotional citadel would never breach. He was sitting in that citadel and felt safe, but was he? Was that really healthy? During his campaign John had chosen a world where his citadel was irrelevant and he had to leave it to come down here. His outward challenge was to fill out 400.000 forms that were required by the job he had applied for. People were watching him wondering if he would be able to fill out those forms, because that was pretty hard. It is not hard! It is just work!

The question is instead if you can emotionally survive not just filling out the forms, but also having those people watch you and commenting on you while you are waking up at 5am every day. That’s the real stuff! John does not have a safe harbor to talk about it and he has only very few people to compare notes with. The question is not if he can make it to the meeting with the Firefighter’s Union by 1:30pm. Obviously he can! He can also answer their questions to their satisfaction. The question is if he wants to curl into a ball after he walks out of there. Yes, he does! The thing he needs to address in advance of becoming a public servant is what exactly makes John want to curl into a ball.

When you go back to the dressing room and curl into a ball after playing a two hour show as a Rock musician, everybody recognizes that you have just given a tremendous amount of energy and emotion to a room full of people. That emotion and energy is what people go to see Rock concerts for. The audience walks out into the night, feeling charged up in part because you have projected your emotion onto them and in part because they have vampired you a little bit. After that you are kind of a husk and you have to replenish. This is true in so many walks of life: You don’t recognize that you are drawing down and if your reservoir doesn’t have a chance to fill back up, then you are immediately using up whatever energy you are putting into it. To others that might merely read as being tired, if it registers at all.

Thus far in the campaign, there had never been a time when John was on his way to an event, pulled over the car and said he couldn’t do it. In every politician's life there is that moment when you are about to walk into a gymnasium and you just say that you can not. You just hope you don’t say that after you are already standing on the stage. In John's own emotional world he feels exhausted at first, but then this energy turns into anxiety, which is a horrible feeling! John mentioned it to several friends and he is really astonished at the number of people who say that they feel like that every single day for as long as they can remember, even those who John perceives to be calm and collected. He didn’t know where to put that information, because he always assumed that it would be just water off a duck’s back, but some of his friends are in constant fear that they are just one mistake away from total annihilation.

John is struggling to catch his breath already when he wakes up in the morning and all day long he is having a mild asthma attack. He never used to have that feeling at all! It is basically the feeling he had an hour before he went on stage, a butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of thing. Whenever someone would ask John to play a show, he would always say ”Great!” and then immediately pretend he didn’t say that. When the emails would start to come in about this upcoming show, he would delete them and when the show would eventually start to loom, he wished that he had not agreed to do it, even though he knows it is going to be a great show or the beginning of a tour. As the show then gets closer, he would always hope that there would be a storm and the show would get cancelled. The night of the show he would wish to have a mild car accident where no-one was hurt, but enough of an accident that he would have a plausible reason to not do the show. Maybe that was Dylan’s motorcycle accident? A lot of people think that he really had reached the end of it and took a dive and was not hurt nearly as bad, but just needed that time to not have to deal with things.

No place for self-doubt (RL158)

The actual learning experience is not about the state policy on rent control, because that is interesting, easy to learn and not emotional. Instead John needs to learn about what is going on inside himself. His anxiousness is a sign of importance. If he didn’t feel anything before he went on stage, he would either not be challenging himself or he would have stopped caring. How can John turn that energy to be a more effective public servant who is more useful to people as an agent to getting things happening and making good policy? It is not about his comfort in and of itself, but more about his discomfort at another level, which John is very aware of. When he is asked to write policy about things that are out of his world of interest, he doesn’t have an emotional block, but he can read about things he doesn’t understand or he can ask people who know better about it and who can explain it. That part is the work, it is not that ambiguous.

John's personality is characterized by self-doubt. A certain amount of it is healthy and he is always trying to move the needle back to the healthy section, but during his campaign he is in a world with the expectation that you do not express any self-doubt. The other candidates do not show very much self-doubt either, although John happens to know that the other three people in his race do have considerable self-doubt. They are human beings. They do have emotional lives. John likes them all. When John meets the Firefighter’s Union to answer questions about their pensions, there is no room for self-doubt in his feeling about those pensions and their importance. The firefighters just want to know if John supports their position.

As an artist who was living in a world he had made for himself, John always brought that self-doubt everywhere. If he was in a conversation with somebody who had no room for John’s self-doubt, he would leave that conversation because the other person was a monster! In some ways, self-doubt becomes a companion and it keeps you honest and practical. John can’t live without it and it is part of his character. He even thinks it will make him a better public servant. But during the campaign he is being asked to perform in a circus and self-doubt is not what people have paid to see. You don’t sit in front of an executive board and say that this question has plagued you because pensions are emblematic of a deeper question of the role the state plays in providing for them. They would already be looking for their bell. They didn’t sign up for a class, but for a 30 minute interview where John can either tell them what they want to hear or give them an idea what they have to fight.

Certainty comes before the right thing (RL158)

People have told John that they don’t like his opponent, but at least they know where he stands and that allows them to make plans. They have a $40 million hole in the ground in Downtown that they are 2 days away from pouring concrete into and the fact that John’s opponent is either for or against it is less important to them than knowing exactly what he is going to do. Although they don’t like him and although they might like John, the fact that they don’t know what John is going to do is scarier to them than to know the opponent is against them. The first time John heard that it was really scary! Nobody knew what he was going to do and his reaction was ”I know, right? Isn’t that kind of great?”, but it is not great at all! John was meeting an environmental group and assumed that they must have a sense that John is 1000% an environmentalist. They did have that sense, but his opponent had been a reliable and grey-colored vote on behalf of the basic environmental package. He is not inspiring, but he is reliable. They don’t want just inspiring, but reliably inspiring.

It is almost like finding out what judge you have been assigned in court and you know on what side of the case they are, which allows you to craft a certain offense or defense. Even if you are in the defense of the ”hang him” judge, at least you know about it. You don’t want a new cat coming in there who is a real free thinker. You need to know how much this case is going to cost to defend and you want to look at the judge's track record in order to see how they tend to adjudicate similar things. That is much more desirable than a judge who really believes in justice.

All these groups are looking for are 5 out of 9 votes in the city council. The vast majority of them do not look at individual council people as much as they look at where that individual council person is going to fall in case of a split decision. Everybody wants 5 reliable votes. The environmentalists, the transit nerds, the cops. It is much more like a scorecard for them. They have this person and they have this person, the incumbent who is doing well in the race, and they are going to vote for them. For the rest of the seats it is unclear who is going to win and they need to know whether the candidates are going to vote for them or not.

John is running against the incumbent and everybody knows exactly where he fits into their scorecard. Out of all 65 people running for city council right now, John is the most unknowable for everyone. For the cops and for the environmentalist. He does not come from a siloed background and despite his attempt to populate his campaign by laying it out in writing, he still doesn’t have a voting record. He can promise that he will put a baby in every pot when elected, but that doesn't help unless he has previously voted for putting a baby in every pot 5 times, or conversely, against it. Everybody who runs for office wants to be liked by everybody, except for the people who run specifically because they hate a certain kind of civic leader, like for example they want to fight big developers.

You don’t have to get an unanimous verdict in the city council, but you are just trying to win. If you know that 4 people are against you and you know that 4 people are for you, you can just focus your attention on the one, which feels very efficient to a lot of political operatives. They don’t have to spend any energy on the 4 people they know are against them. If everybody would smell on John that he was malleable, corrupt and someone who is capable of being coerced or bought, maybe he would be more successful. People also love the situation where the candidate is dumb, but has a smart staff, because they can go talk to the staff and make a deal. Then the staff will tell their candidate what they should do and people vote for his great hair. That is how politics goes! There are people at every level of politics who walk into every room with the words ”What can I do for you?” The problem is that they neither know what John is going to do, nor can they reach him through the normal back doors. There are also those people who want to make sure that you owe them a couple of favors all the time.

Creeping corruption and hardball politics (RL158)

The path to corruption is not a big bag of money, but it is a collection of tiny little incremental failures to stand on your own principle. People come to John every single day and there is nothing dishonest about it. It is not a process of organized deceit and it is not a conspiracy, but people are just saying that they want to give you an opportunity to be their friend and in exchange they will do what they can to help you. While you are on a campaign it feels very human and humane. You are struggling, you want friends, you want people to tell you that they support you, and they are only asking for a very small thing: They want you to be their friend and they want you to remember this moment.

It seems so easy and you will take that deal gladly, because you are just trying to put together enough friends to get into office. Then you realize that the job of every one of those people is to remember that favor. If you don’t have a core, if your values aren’t your own, then it only takes one campaign until you have promised everything to everybody. You are excited about being in office and you are trying to accommodate every person who walks in here, not because you are looking for the best solution that helps everybody, but because you have already given a piece of yourself to everybody. It is astonishing how easy it is to be corrupted, let alone if somebody says ”Remember when we endorsed you and got 70.000 members of our organization to fight for you? You would not be here without me!” That is hardball politics!

When the Sierra Club sat down with John, they asked him why they should endorse him when they had endorsed his opponent in the last 3 elections. It would be a violation of their policy to switch. John' reply was: Wouldn’t you like to have somebody out there who is really on your team? They did and they endorsed him. They didn’t ask anything from him then and they didn’t make a big deal of it since. Now they are happy to see him when they run into each other. John had already been ahead of them. The Sierra Club is never going to ask him to do something he finds distasteful.

There are so many issues where any reasonable person would fall somewhere in the middle, where it is really difficult to know where you land. That is normal and should be part of good government and part of the discussion. There are 9 of them up here and 7 think this is a gimme, or there are 7 of them who don’t even understand the question, or there are 6 of them who feel like group A has a good point, but they are kind of overplaying their hand a little bit. At the same time, group B has a weaker point, but they are kind of noble. This is people business, but there is no real place for that in a campaign. In a campaign you are for or against stuff. If you start to have nuance, they ring the bell and your 30 seconds are up.

The wrong perception of the situation by outsiders (RL161)

Running this campaign for public office is extremely difficult from an emotional, practical and energetical standpoint. This is true for everyone! John overheard another politician say that he had a total nervous breakdown during his first campaign and was going to end up in a rubber room. It is so easy to call political candidates ego-driven and assume they do it all for glory because they like the sound of their own voice. Even for a total political voyeur and tourist like John there is no way of knowing how exposed you will be, how vulnerable you will be and how much you will be in front of people who are communicating to you in every way that the best you are going to get from them is a face like they are sucking on a lemon. Every day you meet 600 people and everybody is going to give you a lemon face. If you are lucky, you will remember to eat at the end of the day.

The idea that running for office is self-aggrandizing and will strike your ego the whole time is far off! If that is your goal, then just go on Facebook and post about your surgery and you will be getting more ego strokes than the President of the United States. John never had the feeling he would end up in a rubber room, but he got that human cornered feeling many times. Everywhere you look, something bad is about to happen and none of it is going to register as bad to people outside. John has spent his whole career being emotionally raw and it is rare enough to still be in that state as an adult, but now he is furthermore putting himself into a situation where people are squeezing lemons in his eyes all day.

Marching in the pride parade (RL161)

Everybody assumed that marching in the pride parade must have been an amazing experience, but the joy expressed by all those people was not directed at John, because he was participating as a political candidate. Trying to grab onto it and show himself there is the best he could do. He could have given back the joy by wearing an enormous feathered head dress and a G string and the parade would have become an expression of his liberation. So many people are truly expressing something real and powerful, while John's message was that he wants to be their elected representative. In almost any situation as a candidate you are carpetbagging, but people in this parade are not conscious of that fact or are not connected to that in their emotions. You are always carpetbagging unless it is an event that you have set up yourself for people to come and yell at you about street cars.

Back-door Buddhism (RL161)

By reverse-engineering Buddhism, John had lately been coping pretty well with the difficulties of his campaign. He was arriving at Buddhism in some back-door, meditative way that is very effective and sometimes involves some swears. Swearing doesn't seem to be included in original Buddhism, but when you are meditating, your mind is full of it and you think at first that you are not doing it right. You are trying to be present and you are trying to recognize all the notions you learned or heard. Ultimately you arrive at the mathematics of the soul: The core principles that are true across all religions, the core principles that are the equations the spirit is written in. You are in the particle accelerator of the spirit and it just breaks it down to the elements.

Caring about a thing as a whole (RL161)

John has never cared as much as a whole about a thing than what he cared about his campaign. When you make a record, you care about each aspect of it. It is hard to care about the record as a whole while you are making it. What you really care about are this bass part and that tambourine part that you are working on right now. You never waltz into the studio thinking that the tambourine part doesn't matter, but you go in with the attitude to get it right every time, because the tambourine is what lifts this tune. You are caring very deeply about the parts, but not about the record as a whole. Being in the studio is something really comfortable, as high-pressure as it is. It is some kind of knowable high-pressure while you are deep in the implementation details and doing of things. Running this campaign is the opposite of that for John. Few of the individual events in the campaign thus far have been moments on the level of "getting this bass part right".

Each time some of the other candidates appear in front of the Concerned Shoppers of America, they want to give their stump speech a little bit better and tailor it to the Concerned Shoppers, but there is nothing John wants to do less than talk to the Concerned Shoppers, not because he is not interested in hearing what they are concerned about, but because every one of these events are a kind of theater and the Concerned Shoppers are not going to tell John what they are really concerned about. There is very little real communication happening other than by accident. Every one of those building block events requires much more effort than what you get out of it. The compulsories in sports where you have to compete in order to be allowed to compete, are very similar to a primary election. Of course not every event can be the most important high-stake thing in the world - otherwise you'd perish, but you also have to take each of them seriously. Despite there not being an eternal, huge amount of long term gain from hitting it out of the park, there are potentially huge ramifications if it goes terribly wrong. It is worst kind of existential compressor/limiter: No matter how great it gets, you are just "good" and those 300 shoppers might consider you, but if you say something wrong or you fart, it could be potentially catastrophic, because now there is really some news to report on. Every single moment is an opportunity for somebody to stand up and say "When did you stop beating your wife?". Every morning you wake up in fear that this is the day the Internet gets at you.

Focus on winning? (RL161)

One of John's opponents has demonstrated a couple of times already that he wants to win badly enough that he is willing to attack John personally, but despite the attacks being kind of ineffective, he really wants it and keeps on trying. John learned to survive this by not only caring about the overall project as much as never before, but he also had to learn that he is ultimately fine with either result. If he wins, it is cause for celebration. If he does not win, it is also fine. It will be a profound lesson and experience, not personally as in the "what a journey"-style, but John has gained a lot of knowledge that is going to be useful to him down the road. Helping his people, his fellows, is one of his core principles and now he knows how to do that better. If John would focus on winning, there would be so many opportunities every day to do something against his believes and he sees what it does to people. There are hundreds of people in the consultant game who want to facilitate you making the wrong choice in order to win and they will advise you to unscrew your opponent's brake lines. If you on the other hand don't think about winning, then your goal is something else. John's goal is not to keep his personal integrity intact, because he already had his personal integrity intact before he started running the race. The goal is to work hard and strive every day to do the best job he can while keeping in mind that he is not willing to do anything to win. That's the only thing that gives John comfort. The anxiety will well up in him to a point where he has never felt so bad. Anxiety is a terrible feeling! Telling himself that he is not trying to win, but trying to do something else, trying to help, is getting him down the road.

John was looking for sympathy the other day (first mistake!), talking to his mom, and she told him that he had worse months than this and he survived worse than this! "So, survive it!". That is actually good advice, and it is very different from "You've got to win!" If you are desperate to have some thing and it is starting to seem less and less likely that you are able to get it, there is a constant and growing temptation towards more radical actions in order to get that thing, which is what John worries about from his opponent, who is somebody who thinks they can defend themselves by some kind of Daniel karate kick, mainly just blowing out their pants and landing on their face. Trying the most radical thing in the world just makes things worse. Getting advice from the outside is like the siren song of getting involved in all kinds of negativity and you will respond to what other people have said in order to show what you would do differently. You jump into somebody's @-responses, rustling around and showing how you are different, just to monetize the Schadefreude of somebody else's bad day. While it is alluring, does it actually help? The more you feel you are not getting closer to what you want, the more you are considering more and more crazy things in order to get there, and that is very anxiety-producing. He can hear other people's mantra, particularly when it gets down to the wire: "When you look back on this, are you going to feel that you did everything you could have done? Do you want to look back on this and feel that you didn't pull out all the stops?" For a lot of people, that means if somebody is running abreast of you or a little bit ahead of you near the finish line, you trip them instead of running your own campaign as well as you can and "May the best man win!" In American politics you get a healthy dose of "Here is my platform, here is my campaign!", but also "Did you ever look at the other guy? Did you really not notice how his nose is a little croocket?" Of course, that aspect is presented as a fair comparison "Look at the two of us and pick the best one!"

Having the wrong friends (RL161)

John has two friends in Seattle, pals whom he had known for more than 20 years and who are active in the political chatter. They will never run for office themselves, but they are chatterers on the Internet, well known public figures, and members of the nattering nabobs of negativism. Although they are liberals in every way, they are on the wrong side of the "$15 an hour"-argument, mostly because they are small business owners and thought about it from their own bottom line instead of the long term benefit for everybody. They did not sense in what direction the political wind was blowing, they came out vocally against $15 an hour and then they defended their public pronouncements long after it was clear that the public wanted $15 an hour and $15 an hour was going to be good. They should have thought about it and should have changed their minds.

Quite a few members of the astonishingly large group of political operatives in their mid-20s have come up to John with a sneer and an ugly smirk, telling him that they are very concerned about his relationship with "these two guys". John's first response was "What do you mean? Those are my pals for 20 years!", but his friends are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of politics. The ugly smirk was a way of communicating that within the political class it matters less what you say than who your friends are, even if you totally disagree with them. Among those people, your friends are considered a more reliable indicator of what you are going to do than what you say. The premise is that you are lying when you say things. What is true is who you break bread with. It was a shock for John, because he breaks bread with everybody! They judge where a person stands by looking at who their donors are and who speaks on their behalf on Facebook.

Most people running for office have been thinking about this their whole adult life. They have always made sure that their friends are the right kind of friends. They only associate with people in a narrow band of the political spectrum or the work that they do. But somebody like John spent his whole life sitting down at the table with everybody! There are people he loves, but whom he still finds reprehensible. The idea that his friendship with them would somehow compromise his ability to stand up to them is foreign, non-traditional and very suspicious to these people. The presupposition that the candidate is lying is astonishing to John, especially by these self-appointed political operatives who see themselves as the gatekeepers of the system. The only way that one could assume that everybody else is a liar is to first understand, believe and accept that oneself is a liar. This is the same with hypocrisy: The people who are most obsessed with hypocrisy tend be either active hypocrites or tend to just sit around waiting to be shown as a hypocrite. It takes one to know one!

These are the people leaning in whispering conspiratorial advice to John. These are the people who see themselves as the beacons of integrity. They know the right decision and they are judging whether the candidates live up to this expectation, but then they reveal themselves as liars because they presume that everyone else is a liar. You realize that it is very hard to enter into this world and not agree to be a liar, not agree to presume that the other guy is lying, not agree to presume that who your friends are says more about your vote than what you say, and not agree that having an answer to everything is better than being willing to consider all the arguments.

One more month (RL161)

With one month left to go until the primary, John has to wake up every day and reaffirm these things. Reaffirming them is what allows John to get out of bed and go through the process. It is so divorced from doing whatever it takes to win that it feels like John is participating in a race with all the other candidates running on the track while John is swinging through the trees or flying overhead in a dirigible he made himself. In a month he either has made it through the primaries in which case he has won an election, won his first public vote and got the confirmation that the public does not play by the same rules as the political class. It will show that he is able to reach the public and that the rules of the political class ultimately only apply if you allow them to, or he will lose in the primary, in which case it proves that the political class knows how the game is played and the public makes choices based on the political class. In any case, this will be very instructive and very profound.

Generational shifts (RL161)

Another one of these young political people told John the other day that they need more diversity in the candidates. John is very lucky, because he is running in a race with 4 white guys, which turns him into the diverse candidate. They need more gender diversity, more racial diversity and - gesturing at John - more age diversity. John was at the age of a typical candidate and what they needed were more younger candidates. 35 was preferable to 45, because youth is also a thing that is discriminated against. It took John a second to realize that at 46 years old he had crossed a threshold to people in their 20s and was just at an indeterminate age. This is one funny business of the generation shift: Back in the days, you became an adult when you turned 18 and you would join a pool of adulthood. At the time there wasn't such a thing as a young adult. If you look at pictures of people in their 30:s in the 1930:s, they are trying desperately to look old. It was the baby boomers who were the first to make a distinction between being 30 and being 50. In a hunter/gatherer society, John would be at the end of his useful lifespan.

During the last few days, John spent a lot of time crouching in the dirt looking out over a mountain valley, imagining himself not in prehistoric times, but as a subsistence hunter in today's world. He had his ladies with him on the trail and he needed to keep this tribe going, defend it against wild animals, other humans, find food, work together as a tribe, but with the knowledge that one of them is 4 years old, and realizing that he is less useful to this tribe at 46 years old than what he would have been at 26. If this tribe were a bit bigger, like if there were 10 or 15 of them, it would be much better, relieving John from his role of being out at the leading edge with a spear, fighting against a bear or another tribe. He would instead have a lot more strategy, a lot more plan, and not to forget: his knees are bad. There is a tipping point in your mid 40s when your eyes go bad and your joints go bad and you realize you would be a drag if you were out on the savanna.

John's generation was the first generation that was raised with the idea that there wasn't just a static adulthood, but that you in the contrary weren't supposed to trust anybody over 30! Later 40 became the new 30 and then 45 was the new 35. They are the first people who have ever talked like that, which is crazy! It reflects how desperately we took graceful adulthood away and replaced it with this constant consumerist, striving, young-obsessed, desperate feeling. Now the dumb generation X that nobody likes are the test case again, baking in the hot sun, trying to figure out how to be 45. The yuppies did it in the grossest way possible, they were terrible in their 40s! If you think about when John's dad was in his 40s, they had rut so much devastation, but they were not thinking about their age in the same way and they were horrified when their children said "Don't trust anyone over 30!"

Now here is John, way over 30, hanging out with the wrong people.

Running a campaign in the age of smartphones (RL162)

John was thinking about smartphones in the context of his campaign. Did we have iPhones during the last election in 2011? A lot of the people said that they did and even John might have had one at that time, but he definitely did not have one in 2007. The iPhone came out in June 2007, but it went big about a year after that. John’s first iPhone was a 3GS and if he had never upgraded the operating system, he would still be using it today! He already had screen time problems back then and he is astonished how big a part of his life Twitter still is. He doesn’t understand it because they predicted 4 years ago that it would be over, but it is not. John looks at his phone all the time!

Now John is running a political campaign where the candidates are campaigning 24 hours a day because their phone is right there. There is no time at which somebody can’t tweet something political at John that he is expected to respond to. Even 10 years ago you had to sit down at your desk, turn on your computer to read your emails, let alone 20 years ago when you picked up the newspaper in the morning, read the headlines and then sat down at the phone and dialed people or waited for the phone to ring. If the phone wasn’t ringing and your name wasn’t in the newspaper and you weren’t out actively campaigning, you were off. Maybe you were sitting at a typewriter, but you had some mental freedom from the process. What has been characterizing John’s campaign was total involvement 24 hours a day which has taken every last shred of him.

Last night somebody from a Washington State Bicycle Advocacy group found a video of John (Timestamp) very early in the campaign when somebody had asked him where he stands on bicycle license plates. John honestly pictured himself on his Schwing Sting Ray with a little license plate that said ”John, Washington”, held on to the back of the bicycle with two twist ties, and he replied that he supports bicycle licenses. Every other candidate on the forum was holding up a sign that said ”No!” and John was just ”Why noy?” and the room was ”Booooh!” and a couple of his supporters were shaking their heads vigorously.

Later John realized that it was a trap, because only people who hate bikes want licenses for bikes. It was a new idea to him that anybody would hate bicycles. Somebody found the video somewhere, capped it and started tweeting at him ”Really John Roderick?” John was on Twitter reading some Eugene Mirman tweets, and all of a sudden he was in a fistfight with somebody who was mad at him about something. He wrote him immediately saying he got that totally wrong and didn’t know what that meant. John has educated himself since then, but he still got 15 lecturing tweets from this person.

During his podcasting career it has happened a lot that he got angry replies from fans. The part people don’t understand is that John didn’t say something dumb in order to be offensive, but because he was being dumb. He can grow, but nowadays he has to grow in public. If you don’t reply to that person, it seems dismissive, but if you do respond, you are arguing on the Internet and you are leaving this huge trail of tweets. John is very comfortable with the amount he has learned and the amount he has grown. The push-back from podcast-listeners and super-fans had contributed to that, but there is always going to be something that somebody can pull out from a podcast and say ”Can you really believe these guys?” You can’t have one without the other!

It might not always show, but Merlin himself feels more and and more forgiving about stupid stuff he sees happening at a remove. People do stupid stuff! Merlin gets why people pile on Donald Trump. He is a farcical character who takes a certain amount of relish and he is trolling people (a word people always use wrongly when they mean teasing and baiting). He is deliberately saying something extremely controversial, because the more people talk about him, the more real he seams. Merlin feels pretty bad about a lot of dumb stuff he said, but those were the words that came out. Other people are the same way, too! Merlin gets a surprisingly small amount of generally obnoxious stuff thrown at him and he feels very fortunate about that. Sometimes it happens that somebody heard Merlin say something and somebody else mentions it third hand out of context but of course now he is Hitler. That happens. Part of it is the environment.

All the insiders in politics are not only interested in what John says, but they are even more interested in who he hangs out with, basically implying that we are all just liars on one level or another. People understand that many demagogues artfully put together polemical and hurtful things, because they know they are trying to reach a certain group. Other people speak in a code that pretty much everybody knows. Is the Confederate flag really about heritage? Maybe to you! How much of that is just the rhetoric of being in public as a public person? Maybe people are so accustomed to everybody out there trying to portrait some brand and they assume that everybody is deliberately choosing all the awful things they say. Politics is always a rhetorical place where you are trying to catch the other guy with their pants down.

Turning your opponent's words against him (RL162)

Trying to turn your opponent's words against them is one way of running against somebody that goes all the way back in politics. You try to portrait someone who is ultimately also a person of good will and who is trying to help other people by serving in the democratic process. Then you turn that person into a repository of everyone’s fears and hatreds. People tried to swift John Kerry who fought nobly in Vietnam, a fact you could turn against him. His opponent, a rich kid who dodged service in Vietnam by joining the National Guard and did not even fulfill his commitment, could be perceived as the better candidate because John Kerry misreported what his role in a battle was on some river in Vietnam. That is the insane political process that doesn’t bear any relationship to reality. It is unfortunate but it is real and neither John nor anybody else can change it. You just have to accept the things you cannot change and have the courage to change the things you can.

What makes this process different now is that the rhetorical culture has expanded out into the world at large. Normal people are now sitting on the Internet and are using those same techniques to turn normal people into the opposition or the enemy. We spend a lot of time removing words from our lexicon, but that doesn’t successfully remove the underlying thoughts and prejudices. David Duke can speak without using racial slurs, but you still know what he means. Evangelicals always speak to one another in a coded language so that you know whom you are dealing with.

We are applying this kind of political matrix to our normal conversations as well. Somebody goes online and says ”I am at somebody today, she was so basic”, which sounds very classist. You are trying to educate this person, but also discredit them and silence them. All that comes from our political culture and has infiltrated our daily lives. From those daily-life-people it then comes back into politics again. It is not like a super-pac was swiftboating John, but if somebody disagreed with him on the podcast and chose to interpret it in a certain way, they could decide that they independently were going to become a flaming sword to alert the world to the fact that John is a bad candidate and a bad man.

People will come out the woodwork saying they used to be a fan, but then one time John Roderick didn’t reply to their email fast enough, they realized that he was a narcissist covered in white privilege and they made it their personal mission to destroy him. Everybody has got the same resources now and everybody has access to the same communication channels. People just keep lobbing dirt clods at somebody until one of them sticks. One does not get credit for not participating in that form of mud sling either. John wanted to run a clean campaign and he got a lot of pressure from his own team to challenge his opponent on his record. When he did that, his fans were saying they thought John would run a clean campaign!

John was caught between a rock and a hard place. Some people thought that John running a clean campaign meant he was never going to say anything about his opponent except that he is nice guy, and that he would spend all his time ideating up in the clouds, while his own staff was screaming at him to get in the press and differentiate himself from his opponent. You get to do both and John tried not to be personal. Ultimately, the attacks against him would not come from his opponent, but from somebody on the Internet who was angry at John for the way he talks and the way he is and the way he lived. People have crusades that will get them a lot less attention than going after John in public. That is a real opportunity for somebody if they want to. Three more weeks before the primary, which are going to be long three weeks!

Introducing art and esthetics into the discussion (BW230)

Only once or twice during the first 3 months that John has been running his campaign has he been asked a question about culture, arts or any aspect of civic life that is outside of pretty narrow silos, like ”What is your zoning policy?”, ”How will you float a bond to build what kind of mass-transit system?” These are the silos that you are expected to have very detailed answers for. Outside of that, somebody will maybe ask a broad question in some forum, like ”How will you help the arts? Go!” and everybody’s eyes will glaze over because nobody recognizes how important the arts are to civic life, how much city government affects the arts community and ultimately the difference between building spaces and building places, the difference between Seattle being a bunch of space or Seattle being a place.

Small decisions made by the city council do have an effect on the broad spectrum of what kind of place Seattle is, but no-one is capable of biting off that big mouth full or addressing it really except by doubling down on statistics. That was the real challenge for John! Not only did he need to perform the kabuki of figuring out an answer about policy while sitting on a dais next to people who live and breathe policy, but he also needed an answer that made him seem credible and authentically different. He furthermore needed to raise these other questions, like ”Yes, we are building square footage, but is it quality square footage?” If you are just building gulags, you may be accomplishing the data set and you might have added 10.000 new apartments, but if they are unlivable and miserable places, what have you done? You have committed a crime on your own people!

All that is a world that no-one else has on their radar at all. They yell at developers all day about their profit margins, but they won't tell the developers to not build apartments with 7-foot ceilings (213 cm), because living under a 7-foot ceiling feels like living in a refrigerator box. The zoning allows for it because your only consideration is square footage. Having built 10.000 new apartments where the windows don’t open is not a triumph! It is almost otherworldly to the political class to consider things like that, because as soon as you use the word aesthetic, they just see putting streamers up. Aesthetics? Like what color the walls are? You want them to be Robin’s Egg Blue? What do you mean? We are trying to build stuff here! We are serious people and we are doing serious things!

But aesthetics are serious, my friend! If you build ugly things, they will decay because nobody loves them and you will have built proto-slums that were disgusting to begin with. There is a reason why we love old buildings: They were built with care, they are beautiful things and people want to live in them. If it is a little bit more expensive to give an extra foot of ceiling height, it will more than pay off over the long course of the life of the city. Try and say that in 1.5 minutes on a public forum!

The lack of role models for a public campaign (BW230)

A lot of us in the punditry class arrive at a place where we have spelled out our vision of the world and people like it, but if you do feel strongly and you do believe in a better world, what are your other options other than selling T-shirts and building a little army? The reason more people don’t run for city council from outside of those typical silos is that nobody does it, so we don’t have role models and John didn't have one either! He was doing this on principle and maybe he could inspire somebody else to run for city council. Maybe if John sat up there in the city council and said that it is more important to him that their buildings are livable than to maximize square footage, he will be greeted with a chorus of boos! John has not been booed yet, but there is an audience in the city council. You can go there and visit and the meetings are also televised.

People with politics as their primary interest (BW230)

One of the things that John still struggles to grasp is that there are a lot of people for whom the democratic process in all its arcana is what they do instead of going to the movies or building model airplanes. It is their interest and their hobby. They don’t go to the dog track, but they go to the 32nd Democratic legislative district community forum and listen to the candidates for city council speak. They are not crazy people, but through the way they were raised or the way they see the world, they regard this form of engagement as important, not just personally, but that is how democracy happens.

When you think about the Iowa caucuses, all the way down to the race for dog catcher, 99% of us go ”Huh, that’s interesting! I wonder where that person came from and how that process works. Oh well, here is my ballot, I’ll check one of these boxes and my work is done”. During the year leading up to that ballot arriving in your mailbox there were literally thousands of people dedicated to volunteerism and public engagement at the level of just going and sitting in an auditorium and taking notes of what the candidates said. John sees a lot of people in their retirement in their 60s and 70s do those things and starting to get involved in the party. There are a lot of people in their early 20s who do it, because they are ambitious and they want to be in politics. The legislative districts are the fount from which all politics spills.

Seeing politics as a calling (BW230)

A lot of people were watching John’s campaign, trying to discern how serious he was, not only about this campaign and this election, but how serious he was being a politician. A lot of the people in the democratic process and the gatekeeper class say things like ”Well, the best way to run a good campaign is to lose your first campaign”, so there is a good chance that John will lose his first elections. He was working 18 hours a day, sweat dripping down his brow, and people were very blithely telling him ”Oh, you will probably lose this one” To them, that is no disqualification. What matters to them is that you lose and then you run again. By doing that you demonstrate your passion for it and you acquire the skills necessary to do it successfully. John heard a lot of people say that if he kept doing this, he could absolutely win elected office, so they wanted to be his friend, but John was probably not going to win this election. All John can do is survive until tomorrow while people were telling him that this was just an initiation process! That is too difficult to bear!

Over the course of John’s life there was absolutely a time 15 years ago where he thought that the 30-Years War needed more scholars. A lot of what happened in the 30-Years War set the course in the modern world and John sees history often divided in ”there is before the 30-Years War and there is after the 30-Years War”. Not enough people are studying the 30-Years War, because it is very difficult to understand and very difficult to study. It is not glamorous and there is no Napoleon, so all the people who study that shit get confused and all the books that have been written about the 30-Years War are also confusing. John said 15 years ago that somebody needs to make a clear picture of the 30-Years War and maybe he should be the one to do that! He thought about it a lot, he read a lot of books about it, he came to the point where he thought he got it, but as soon as you bring in all the other stuff, it gets very confusing. It was entirely possible that this could have been his calling for a time. Making music was absolutely his calling. Doing podcasts is really fun and feels very natural.

A lot of people in the political world were listening very closely to hear John say either that he had discovered his calling and this was all he wanted to do now, or conversely that this was really hard and weird and he was not that into it and depending on what happened in the upcoming election he would either serve in public office for a time or he will lose the election and will immediately go back to what he was doing before. They were listening for that because they frame the idea of running for public office at the level of a calling and the only people who should hold public office are the ones who want to be part of that professional class, who want to enjoin this world and become one of the exalted. The idea that there is value in citizens holding office for a time and then resuming their normal lives was a fundamental premise of the founders of America. Farmers or merchants would come, do their time in Washington and then take what they learned back to their village. That was a healthy society. That possibility still exists, but we have abdicated that responsibility to a clique.

If John would have gotten elected and sat in that chair the first day, somebody might have come in, started wagging their finger at him and yelled about the color of the fire hydrants in the port. John might be ”OMG, I love this so much, this is really engaging!”, but even if he had listened to the person, he would then have leaned into the microphone and said ”Sir, your problems are not significant and you should find a better way to use your afternoon! Giving you 2 minutes to talk about the color of the fire hydrants is not doing any of us a service!” Nobody talks that way and it may be presumptuous of John to think that it would have any value in the process either. That kind of perspective might not be included for good reasons. Maybe there should be a robot city council sitting in a Downtown square that people could go to and yell at. That would be healthy for everybody! John didn’t know and him not knowing how it is going to be like is healthy for Seattle. He couldn't say if it was healthy for him because it didn't feel healthy for him at the time of recording.

Running for office as an introvert (BW230)

John is a pretty deeply introverted person. Learning that people had different emotional natures was very useful to John 10-15 years ago when he realized that he did not perform the same way that other people did and he did not function in the world the same way that other people did, not because he had an intellectual deficit or because he was afraid or damaged, but because he had a different emotional nature. Running for office was in some ways an athletic contest and just as there are people who are better suited for the high jump or for long distance running, there are people who are better suited to run for office.

People with certain emotional natures are empowered and rewarded by people touching them, engaging with them, talking to them and spending time with them. It is much more difficult to run for office if you prefer to be in the company of a small group or no group. That has been an enormous challenge, because John used to be able to budget several hours of every day to keep his own council, but during his campaign he had no opportunity to do that! For months he had 8 meetings a day and every one of those meetings involved John walking into a room of people he had never met before, not knowing what their expectations were, introducing himself and in a very short amount of time and convincing them that he would be a good representative. It would already be emotionally draining if he were an extrovert and a high jumper, but he is somebody who likes to discuss things over 1.5 hours instead of 2 minutes and he is somebody who needs to curl up somewhere for 1.5 hours afterwards.

John’s emotional reservoir had been drained over the course of his campaign and there wasn’t ever really an opportunity to fill it back up. Every little bit of additional resilience he threw into this empty tank filled up a little bit in the bottom which he then would use up immediately. Having no reserve was very new to John and he didn’t know where to find it. John is not especially good at taking care of himself and that process of filling up the emotional reservoir has always been a mystery to him. He doesn’t know how it works and how doing the crossword puzzle in the bathtub replenishes him while sitting down in the hotel bar and arguing about Chomsky with some people depletes him. He sees other people being replenished by sitting in the bar and when they are left alone, they ramble around their homes all by themselves and they lose it. John doesn’t know how and why that works and he doesn’t have a strategy, history or methodology of figuring out how to fill that tank faster, or how to drive around with an empty tank all the time.

Running for office vs holding office (BW230)

One thing couldn’t be more clear: The set of skills, the talent and the techniques you need to successfully run for office are completely different from the set of talents and techniques you need to hold public office. You can be a great campaigner and a terrible public servant. The problem is that you could be a great public servant and a terrible campaigner, but it is very hard to win as a terrible campaigner. The only people we ever allow to hold public office are the ones who hold the skills of campaigning and we make no allowance for the fact that the best public servants are probably the ones who suck at campaigning. How would we get the best public servants into office if not subjecting them to this grueling experience? John honestly doesn’t know! The public wants to vet people. Maybe it will be possible in a future world where social media will be connected to the democratic process and you can endorse people on your own time in your digital profile realm and that will carry some currency.

This election may be an example of that. There are a lot of people voting for John who know him from the Internet and they have had plenty of time to sit with him. Even though he hasn’t exactly articulated his housing policy, they are confident that they know John’s thought process. Even though that is a big advantage for John and for the voters who feel that they have known him intimately for a long time, do we really want to live in a world where we are electing podcasters? That would be a real switcheroo! The problem with social media is that it is fickle. We don’t want to live in a democracy that is based on Facebook likes! Some new leaf blows into the machine and all of a sudden everybody changes their mind. Some tiny piece of evidence comes along that appeals to our emotions and all of a sudden we want to completely change course. That is what true participatory democracy looks like in a social media age.

Consensus is impossible to determine and you would have to look at it over a 100-year scale because in the immediate term, everybody was just flitting around like fruit flies. We have representative democracy in part to buffer that tendency. We elect people to speak on our behalf so that there is some object-permanence in politics. We have always aspired to be governed by philosophers and there are good and bad examples throughout history. Vaclav Havel was a pretty great president of the Czech Republic, but it is also easy to elect dreamers who just kind of dream the budget away. John can’t say for sure whether he would want the entire city council to be made up of podcasters. There should be some, there should be one, and it should be John! Currently he is the only one who is running, so it is an easy choice for Seattleites.

Testing ideas in different contexts (BW230)

In RL163 John talks about talking confidently even if you don’t know what you are talking about.

Dan had to look up if there really was a 30-Years War, because even if there hadn’t been, he would have totally believed John. You want to use that power of being confident only for good and not for evil! You should say things with conviction as a form of experimentation or as a conversational gambit, but not to start an argument. Put the idea out there with as much care as you can and see if it stands up! The alternative is the current tendency called Bellinghaming (after Bellingham, WA where it is really pervasive), the over-apologetic and diminishing presentation of ideas because you don’t want to be emphatic and you don’t want anybody to live under the tyranny of your own thinking. That way of presentation tries to make the world safer for people by not having any particular emphasize on things, or by not privileging one idea as better than another. It is a contemporary methodology, but if you want to explore an idea and see if it has merit, then stand it up! Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes! If it doesn’t hold up, then you know that the counter-argument is better, or now that we are all standing here looking at it, we can all see that it is no good! If you stand up your ideas, you also need to be able to stand them down and say ”Haha, ooops, that was dumb!”

Merlin does this all the time! It is part of his empathy and part of his process of trying to put himself in other people’s thinking. He tries to inhabit other people’s thought process so that he can better understand where they are coming from. If you do that long enough, then you realize that every idea has a place where it is very valid. Not even the person who you most disagree with will just generate ideas to piss you off, but everybody is generating ideas out of their own fountain and they all have validity within their context. You play around with ideas, you listen to other people and you try and figure out where they are coming from. Then you start to see ideas as those floating organisms and your first goal is to figure out where they are coming from and in what world this idea is valid. Then you compare and contrast it with all the other worlds that you know, starting with the worlds you know well, but also extending out to the worlds that you don’t know well. You keep testing the idea!

Maybe this ideas was generated in a Tennis-club mentality and within a Tennis-club world view it works, but as you leave the Tennis-club and as you are walking around an upper-middle-class neighborhood, does this idea keep holding water? It seems to hold water pretty well here. Let’s go to the South-end of town where people are working in what we would call working-class jobs. Does this idea still hold water? In a lot of cases, as soon as you even go 2 miles away, the idea no longer works, because it was so rooted in its original context. If you never leave the Tennis-club, you would never see that this idea does not work elsewhere! That is the problem most people have. Carrying ideas around and holding them like color-swatches to all the different versions of eggshell-white there are. Is this eggshell-white the same as that eggshell-white? My God, it is not, there is a little bit more blue in that one! That sort of comparison is really fun, but you can’t do it unless you first know the idea and are interested enough in it to say ”Here it is, I’m going to live in this idea for a minute”.

There are ideas that don’t work, like the Confederate Flag. It is very easy to be inside the head of someone who’s like ”It ain't about racism, it is about history!”, because that idea was very persuasive 40 years ago and to an increasingly small group of people it remains very persuasive, but as you get more information and hear from more people, you realize that the idea doesn’t stand up. In 1960, the only reason it resonated with people was that it was one of the elaborate American codes that allowed us to express an idea that we can’t say, but we can put an emblem on it and talk about it one removed. It is not hard for any of us now to see what people are saying about the history of the Confederate Flag, but it doesn’t work in most of the rest of the world. We have consensus enough on that particular example, but other ideas are much trickier and no less passionately held by people.

That stuff is super-interesting to John, partly because he doesn’t take ideas personally. There are so many of them and John has considered so many people’s ideas! He has taken them to bed with him, he rolled around with them, and he asked himself ”Are you my idea now? Do I like you that much?” In the morning he would set up a saucer full of milk for it out on the porch and say that if you are here in the afternoon, maybe you can keep living with me! Dan had a time where he was scared of that, because if you think about something enough, it may become the way you think and you won’t be able to fight against it. You will lose the original concept of thinking that way. A lot of religions have that philosophy of ”Don’t even think about it like that!” When John was in his late teens, he spent a lot of time talking to Hare Krishna in airports. He was young and he warned himself to be careful. What would happen if they get their ideas into your ideas? What would happen if their peanut butter mixed with your chocolate? Are you going to become a Hare Krishna? Be careful! That shit starts to make sense to you and all of a sudden you will be the one to ask people if they have a second to talk about Hare Krishna.

John spent a lot of time on college campuses talking to people handing out chick tracts and wanting to talk to him about Jesus. A lot of these people were his age and they were really emphatic, excited and full of joy about it. They wanted to talk about it, they wanted to share, and John wanted to hear what was making them so excited! To him it was just a thought experiment. What if he felt that way and if he believed something that intimately? He felt the same kind of fear: He didn’t want to look dogmatic in the same way that the other person looked to him, but he always wanted to be free! Over the course of 25 year he was of trying ideas on. For example, the first time he heard of eugenics, does that make sense? Then you follow the logic and can’t really get behind it. Interesting word, interesting school of thought and ultimately Libertarianism. You have to try all that stuff on and push on it. John has done that his whole life!

John is not living according to a system and there is no idea that threatens his system. He has a constellation of ideas that have worked and held up over time, and every once in a while he goes back and revisits one. Sometimes he comes to the conclusion that although a particular idea had been with him for a long time, it doesn’t work anymore. He never takes the whole spiral and he is never holding it against a model in order to check if he is still a secular humanist or a liberal democrat or a Methodist or whatever. That is what causes the most harm to people: They have a template and they allow new ideas in but if it strays too far from the template of them being a Methodist, then they are really exploring the ideas that make up Methodism and whether or not it all works for them anymore.

You see so many people who make this epic switch of political party, like ”I am no longer a Republican, because I can not abide the ideas that the Republicans are against gay marriage and so I hereby leave the Republican party”. That sort of thing would never happen to him! John is a liberal Democrat, but believe him, barely! Many of his defining ideas are not part of the liberal Democrat canon, but it is a good short hand, because it clears the room of all the Ted Nugent fans. John used to be a Ted Nugent fan himself, but his selector bot came along one day and said: As good as a couple of his records were, they are not good enough to keep this one around. This fish is starting to smell!

Reading people and behavioral templates (RW13)

John has the ability to perceive multiple layers of a situation at once, the ability to hold two contradictory ideas simultaneously in his head without being confused and the ability to see the interconnectedness of things. That feels like a gift and is not a thing he trained to do, but it felt very much like learning to run really fast. What he did was read history, read other people and use his perception to learn better. Reading a thing and making a connection to something else was exciting to him, he would even see where the connections were incomplete and would then study and read up on the shadowy realms he didn't know. But what kind of gift is that? It is nothing you can see or measure! It sometimes even looks like spooky mindreading perceptiveness that can seem extrasensory. People look surprised and scared and ask how he did know that, but it was plain as day! If people behave like dorks, he will totally play that up!

There are templates and people are not that different from each other even though they feel that their problems are unique, but in reality they are out of a playbook. It is combinations of things that make situations unique, but the components aren't that different. Most people are not making those connections, they are not realizing that they have seen this situation before which means that this is a template. John has been doing that his whole life and built up a mental file cabinet with all these patterns. Coming into a totally new situation where he doesn't have a set of patterns to refer to is pretty unusual. While he was running for office, he was entering into a world where he didn't recognize some of the patterns, most notably the universal distrust of other people that infects politics. While John does have a whole file of trades of distrustful people, he hadn't understood that politics was a culture of distrust where people were reinforcing one another's distrust, presupposing that everyone shared the same mentality.

John normally lives in a world where people can be situationally distrustful when it comes to money or when it comes to their sex lives, but unlike in politics they are not presuming that everyone is lying all the time. If you do presume that, then you have to look for other signs and signals to determine how predictably someone is going to behave. For the longest time, John couldn't break out of a believe system where people would question absolutely everything he said, because according to them every politician says the same things even if they may sound different. People are pattern-recognizing! John filled in some of that information, but living in that world is not his preference. It would be an uphill battle for him to learn those signifiers. To learn them would mean to adopt them and you would at the same time lose your original believe that people are mostly honest.

This is why sociopaths dupe us: We assume they are speaking to us in the same way that we are speaking to them, especially in a situation where there is nothing to gain or lose. When someone says "I never masturbate", you know they are lying, but there is a reason why, probably because they are embarrassed. When somebody says "I have never cheated on my wife", you can believe that or not kind of based on the rest of their character. But if somebody comes into a room and is just lying to you about nothing, you are never going to anticipate it, especially if they start that way as a stranger, presenting themselves as a normal person, but it is all completely fake. A lot of people are duped by that. History reveals a lot! When you reassess the live of somebody who just died, even lies that they maintained throughout their whole life become visible. You apply that knowledge to your templates, too.

Blocking political critics on Twitter (RW39)

There was an influential website in Seattle run by 3 young snarky-progressive women who had said something aggressive about one of John's shows on Twitter and he just blocked them. Because they also wrote about politics they wrote a post about the fact they were blocked by a candidate. John had to un-block them and wrote them a personal letter with an invitation for an interview over a coffee, which they gladly accepted because they thought they would rip this city council candidate a new one. John met with them at "Fort Saint George", a strange little place in Chinatown and all three of them had pre-sneers on, waiting for him to hang himself with his half-bigged wit. By the end of the evening they were all total bros, they said they had misjudged him and while they can't endorse him publicly, he is a pal now. They talked about stuff off the record. You can't do that with every critic, because if you reach out to Pitchfork with that, they will just write another article about this ham-handed, pathetic attempt to influence them.

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