The American Commons: James, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. It’s been several months since your campaign for Governor of California wrapped. As you often said yourself, the campaign was a longshot. Still, by the most recent count, you received over 7000 votes, which is impressive in a race with nearly 50 other candidates. Now that you have had some time to reflect on your experience, we’d love to pick your brain a little bit. How did you come around to deciding to run?
James Hanink: In a meeting of our California State Committee, we agreed that it was critical for us to have a candidate for the recall election. As a party, we need to have candidates! In addition, the structure of the recall would even allow a voter to support the governor but, as a backup, vote for a replacement at the same time. Shades of rank choice voting.
The American Commons: Was it a difficult decision?
James Hanink: Since I was the only party member in a position to run for the office, and since Desmond Silveira would be my seasoned campaign manager, the decision wasn’t especially hard.
The American Commons: What ultimately convinced you?
James Hanink: My wife gave me her OK, noting that running would “add some color to my obituary.”
The American Commons: What was the process for registering as a candidate? Was it fairly simple, or were there a lot of barriers that you had to overcome?
James Hanink: The process was fairly simple. It involved filling out a few forms and gathering a hundred voter signatures. Several party members helped in collecting the signatures. Though the requirement was finally waived, candidates were also to supply the last five years of their tax returns.
The American Commons: How did you decide on your campaign theme?
James Hanink: We just did a variation on core party ideals: Solidarity: from common ground to the common good!
The American Commons: What were some things that surprised you about the campaign process?
James Hanink: It was a surprise to see how often various groups—political action committees staging debates, sponsors of voter guides, media outlets, vendors, and thoughtful individuals—took the initiative to contact the campaign.
The American Commons: Is there a significant difference between what you expected running for office to be like and what running for office was actually like?
James Hanink: The one significant difference is that I needed to do more research on specific California issues than I’d anticipated. The big three are homelessness and housing, water infrastructure, and budget priorities.
The American Commons: What are some things that you learned on the campaign trail?
James Hanink: Not to waste time and that not being organized is the main source of wasting time!
The American Commons: Are there any funny stories from the campaign that stick out to you? Yes, a couple come to mind.
James Hanink: The first is funny in a good way. A young student wrote me a letter asking how I would fix California. I told her it would take hard working teams of people to fix California and that I hoped that she would be able to join one soon. The second is funny as in peculiar. Some of the keenest campaigners turned out to be hard core libertarians, die hard supporters of Lyndon Larouche, and secessionists who want California to break away from the United States.
The American Commons: Are there any encouraging stories from the campaign that stick out to you?
James Hanink: Yes, there were a number of friends and former students that I was able to reconnect with. Lots of different paths but lots of support as well.
The American Commons: As you were campaigning, did you get the sense that the American Solidarity Party platform and messaging connected with the people you spoke to?
James Hanink: My general sense is that for some the consistent ethics of life theme did, as well as the need for political participation in terms of “civic friendship.” It takes more time to explain economic democracy, so I think that our distributism remains a challenge.
The American Commons: What elements of your campaign did people seem the most drawn to?
James Hanink: I think a good many people were at least intrigued by a “senior” who connected philosophy with contemporary politics.
The American Commons: What elements of your campaign did people seem turned off by?
James Hanink: Some people, I suppose, were not pleased by my insistence that an exaggerated capitalism is bad for democracy and that Californians too often were complicit in the established disorder.
The American Commons: If you had the campaign to do over again, what would you do differently?
James Hanink: I would take more initiative in recruiting volunteers for specific projects.
The American Commons: Do you feel that your state is fertile ground for American Solidarity Party candidates, or is the Democratic/Republican stranglehold still pretty firm?
James Hanink: Governor Newsom spent $70M+ on his campaign. We spent $6K. It’s money that has the stronghold, and this is pretty much the case throughout the country. Money largely controls the media and thus manipulates public opinion.
The American Commons: What advice would you give to others considering running for office?
James Hanink: It’s doable, but it’s definitely a team project. If you are running to win, that’s great. But it’s also good to run simply to get the word out about the American Solidarity. We have something to offer that contemporary politics desperately needs.
The American Commons: Are you considering running again in the future?
James Hanink: You bet. The regular gubernatorial election is next year. In December we’ll begin a new round of signature gathering.
The American Commons: What have you been up to since the campaign wrapped?
James Hanink: Reading and writing and getting more exercise!
The American Commons: Is there anywhere that people can follow your current work – on social media, or a blog/publication/et cetera?
James Hanink: Yes, I’m on Facebook (for now). I blog for the New Oxford Review and host a videocast, The Open Door. My philosophical publications are available on Academia.edu.
The American Commons: Thanks again for your time!
James Hanink: My pleasure!