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Watters writes: "If we were living in an alternative history like the one in HBO's 'Watchmen,' a world in which white supremacy, not democracy, was the enemy, maybe I'd sign the state of Illinois's anachronistic loyalty oath. But I did not."

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy waves a document while discussing Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson with the Illinois 'Loyalty Oath' superimposed on the podium. (image: Angela Watters/RSN/Gettman/Getty Images)
Senator Joseph R. McCarthy waves a document while discussing Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson with the Illinois 'Loyalty Oath' superimposed on the podium. (image: Angela Watters/RSN/Gettman/Getty Images)

ALSO SEE: Part One: How to Run for Public Office - for Those Who Score Low
on the Narcissism Scale

ALSO SEE: Part Three: How to Not Go Nuts When Running for Public Office?

WTF Is That Red Scare Loyalty Oath in My Candidate Packet?

By Angela Watters, Reader Supported News

11 November 19

If you don’t think you are better than everyone around you and you don’t think you have what it takes to save the world, this series about running for office is for you.

How to Run for Public Office, for Those Who Score Low on the Narcissism Scale – Part Two 

f we were living in an alternative history like the one in HBO’s “Watchmen,” a world in which white supremacy, not democracy, was the enemy, maybe I’d sign the state of Illinois’s anachronistic loyalty oath. But I did not. It’s been illegal since 1969, so they make it optional. Why, when we have a Major League Baseball Umpire threatening to overthrow the government with an AR-15 if Congress goes through with its constitutional authority to impeach the president, is the state of Illinois still worried about the spread of communism?

The origin of this loyalty oath can be traced back to a Democratic downstate Illinois House representative from Anna, Illinois. A-N-N-A has the dubious distinction of being a Sundown Town with one of the catchiest and most racist acronyms for historically “white only” towns in the Midwest. “Ain’t No [N-words] Allowed,” is the town from which Mr. Clyde C. Choate hailed. “Sundown Town” refers to a town in which African-Americans faced threats of violence if they remained there after dark. Within a year of moving to the region, I'd been told of the acronym in hushed tones by both Black and White folks. After Choate singlehandedly destroyed a German tanker with a bazooka in WWII, the man ran for the state house and won. During his thirty-year tenure in office he both investigated the University of Chicago and Roosevelt College for Sedition and initiated the aforementioned loyalty oath. Still known today as the “Guardian Angel of Southern Illinois,” the man has a mental hospital named after him. 

It’s my understanding that Choate’s idiosyncratic “Loyalty Oath” is a Red Scare relic that’s never been flushed out of Illinois political campaigning, and it’s intimidating as hell. Not even Joseph McCarthy’s home state of Wisconsin uses one. But if a so-called Blue State puts this bullshit in your candidate packet or makes you swear an oath as an anti-subversive, I can’t even imagine what Red State candidates are asked to sign and notarize. You don’t have to sign it, and if you live in Illinois and decide to run for public office, you shouldn’t.

The rest of the candidate packet is pretty straightforward: A statement of candidacy, which asks for basic residency information, your intended office, and party affiliation if necessary. In Illinois, school boards and many mayoral races are non-partisan. A financial statement of interest form, which essentially asks whether you have a business contract with the government entity for which you intend to serve. Then there’s the form that takes the most actual work: the petition. You should make several copies immediately. The petitions are where the long road toward winning your election actually begins. 

In Illinois, you are given a time frame for petition circulation – no more than ninety days before the filing deadline. This is your chance to build your team, to prepare them for the more challenging period six weeks before the election, and to remind them that they will have a nice break between these more intense periods. 

The number of signatures you will need to collect will vary (I needed 50), but one thing is certain, don’t try to collect them on your own. Your petition gatherers will serve as the skeleton crew of your future campaign team. Don’t be afraid to approach close friends and family and acquaintances with similar interests. In my case, I approached other parents with children in the school district. Having friends circulate petitions for you makes them part of the process. It may be a good idea to pass out more copies to get more signatures than you need, just to get your name out there. 

Once your petitions are collected, signed, and notarized by the distributor, it’s time to make copies and prepare to be the first person at the courthouse on the filing deadline. Ballot order matters, and in Illinois, ballot order is determined by the order in which your packet was received. If you arrive at the same time as another candidate, ballot order is determined by a lottery or drawing. A study of California city council and school board races showed that “being listed first on the ballot increases a candidate’s likelihood of winning office by about five percentage points.” If being timely with your election packet can increase your chances of success in your state, I urge you to be the first to file. Some states randomize order or determine the order by lot, so check on your state’s election website to learn more about how your state determines ballot order.

You don’t have to be a genius to run for public office, just look at Donald Trump. He did it, and you know to the core of your being that even a misogynist dickhead from your office would do a better job than Trump. What Trump illustrates is that you don’t even have to have special expertise to run for office and win. Good elected officials hire the best public servants they can find to run the show. Great elected officials listen to the advice of experts and weigh that advice against the concerns of constituents to make the best possible decisions for the community. We need more smart, thoughtful, regular folks in public office – not more grandstanders and blowhards. Take that leap and file. 

Next: Part Three: How to Survive the Long Wait Between Filing and Campaigning, AKA Fundraise, Meditate and Repeat 

Angela Watters is the Managing Editor for Reader Supported News. She was elected to the school board in her town in April of this year.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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