Category Archives: Learn Civics

General forebodings

Every Tennessean should consider finding an opportunity to be in the Capitol gallery when the General Assembly is called into session. The experience of hearing the voices rise among the stunning stonework evokes reverence for our history and pride at being a citizen of the Volunteer State.

Of course much of that dissipates mere moments after the gavel comes down, when our elected (yes) representatives (really?) take up subjects like guns in grocery stores, “say pray, not gay,” the 21 Black Helicopters agenda, and whatnot. But enough of it lingers for me to continue recommending attendance.

Session begins today, Tuesday, January 14, 2014.

If you want to catch the Legislature in action this year, you’d better be quick, as its members cannot raise campaign money while in session—so they’ll be itching to shut that whole thing down as soon as possible.

The Tennessean published a rundown of what is expected on the calendar this year. (WARNING: autoplay video)

Are you ready to run?

The final episode in the series on how to run for office is online at

“Final” is just another way of saying “to be continually refined,” as I want this to be an ongoing conversation, even if it’s on just a simmer at times. I’ll restate my initial call to action:

Good people are needed in elected positions, no matter whether you prefer your government big, small or sort of medium-sized. People who care and are skilled enough to put that passion to effective use are in high demand.

Are you one of these people? Can you do this? What other information or coaching do you need? I will keep answering these questions as long as they keep coming.

The qualifying period for most local offices is open now, through February 20, 2014. The state and federal (and remainder of local) offices start the petition process on January 3.

Give it some serious thought.

Links to the full series are all here.

Your campaign media punch list

In the latest installment of the “Ready to Run” series, I share some advice culled from a few campaign message veterans plus my own observations on how to, and not to, conduct yourself in the media (social and otherwise) during your campaign.

Like the rest, it’s just a breeze through a topic that could take many pages, but hopefully it’s distilled at just the right strength to energize your buzz but leave you thirsty for more. Wait, how did we get onto bourbon?

OK, back to running your campaign media. As a bonus, I did some analysis on the Twitter account I mentioned in the piece, and on its rival campaign’s.

Running for office: All about the Benjamins, Andrews, Abes, and even Georges

In this week’s installment of the “Ready to Run” series, we take a look at dealing with campaign finance. It’s a subject that’s impossible to fit into a digestible column’s length, so if you come away with unanswered questions, please leave a comment either here or there, or on Facebook, or Twitter. Email me. Just ask.

It’s easy for an idealist like me to want to leave aside fiscal matters and just run on merit (and maybe unicorn breath). But the realities of electability are undeniable, and the political machine’s nihilist soul evermore intones “Ve still vant ze money, Lebowski.” Even so, a foolish campaign can start with more than enough, and still lose on election day.

Read on.

As a reminder, the full series is cataloged on this page.

The dates, initial forms, and team you need in your run for office

The fourth of seven is online. I’m really hopeful that a few of you take this matter to heart and decide to act.

Now that qualifying has begun (for county primary elections), I’m watching for new names to show up on the petition pick-up list. But the election commission says they won’t publish the list until tomorrow, so I am left just wondering.

Do leave a comment if you know of someone who is planning to run, whether in a county primary or in an office for which qualifying begins Jan. 3. I would love to know how to improve on this series. What is missing so far? What are your main questions?