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Things I learned from the Mickey Kaus for Senate campaign

- April 29, 2010

Mickey Kaus is an O.G. blogger–possibly the very first political blogger–who not long ago switched to Twitter and has even more recently decided to run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in California. His concerns seem to be labor unions (which he thinks have too much power) and immigration to the U.S. (which he thinks there’s too much of).

He’s said that he has no chance of winning, and I’m assuming that the purpose of the race is to gather material for a book. “Kamikazefiles: A Skeptic’s Crusade to Bring Common Sense to California Poilitics,” perhaps? (Sorry–I already told you I’m bad at titles.)

I still wonder a bit, along with others, why Kaus isn’t running in the Republican primary–I’d think that his signature issues would fly better with Republican voters and, more to the point, somehow I’ve always imagined Republican politicians in California to be more colorful–better book material–than their Democratic counterparts. San Francisco aside, I imagine prominent California Democrats to be dry, time-serving bureaucrats (like the comically Dickensianly-named “Gray Davis”) in contrast to wacky offbeat characters on the Republican side of the aisle. On the other hand, perhaps the very fact that the Democratic primary is not competitive this year–the incumbent, Barbara Boxer, is facing no serious opposition–has encouraged Kaus to run. Perhaps he feels that people will feel it’s safe to pull the lever for him as a protest vote, safe in the knowledge that it won’t make a difference. In the more competitive Republican race, primary election voters probably won’t want to throw their vote away.

But back to the title of this post. From Kaus’s website, I’ve learned that William Bennett has a radio show, a discussion which prompted Kaus to ask “why doesn’t the GOP at least try to win over a piece of” the African American vote on the immigration issue, that “It’s a potentially deep fissure that could pry apart the Dems’ coalition.” I don’t really see blacks lining up with whites to support the right of the Arizona police to stop Hispanics on the street–but I haven’t seen poll data on this, so maybe there’s something going on that I wasn’t aware of.

The other thing I noticed was that Kaus is asking for campaign contributions. I can’t imagine he can get serious money from people clicking on the website, so this makes me wonder why bother–can’t he just buy the ads he wants from his own savings (or from contributions from wealthy friends)? One possibility is that if he gets a bunch of small donors, then he can say that X number of people contributed to the campaign. It’s an interesting general question–donors for money or donors for P.R. or donors as potential future activists.

What next?

The other question is, where does Kaus go next? I can’t see him returning to blogging. Blogging is fun, and it’s addictive, but once you stop, I think it shouldn’t be hard to quit. Also, after thinking about politics and policy for several months, it’s gotta be a bit boring to return to writing about how bad the L.A. Times is and bemoaning that the major news media isn’t picking up on National Enquirer stories. I’m not saying that these aren’t legitimate issues, just that it can’t be so interesting as a political blogger to be chasing down National Enquirer stories.

More likely, I think, is that Kaus will return to book writing, maybe following up his memoir of campaign hijinks with a more serious policy book. He’ll probably go back to the blog–if for no other reason than to keep his ideas out there–but I think with less enthusiasm and more of a sense of duty. And once you’re blogging out of duty–once blogging feels like a job–the jig is up.

Having a high-profile blog can be a great opportunity for Kaus to get involved in the give-and-take of political ideas, but my impression is that he has less interest in this kind of day-to-day engagement and would be happier focusing more deeply on the issues that concern him most. In my most recent interaction with Kaus, I was disappointed in his apparent lack of interest in following through on his original claims, but in retrospect this makes more sense given that his interest has moved from politics to policy.