Why I’m NOT running…

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

So, that went well.

After more than three months of mounting a campaign for a county wide office, I pulled the ripcord Saturday and said, “enough.”

It became clear that I am not cut out for politics, circa 2019. With the infighting, the false narratives and yes, concerns about corrupt conduct, I knew it was going to be bad, but like Maroon5’s Super Bowl halftime show, I didn’t think it could be this bad.

But it is.

Without question, there are some great and dedicated people (in both parties), some behind the scenes, some running for office. They have the passion and drive to fight through all the BS and come out of the other side, smiling.

That’s not me. I thought I might be able to make a difference and help people — which was always part of the mission statement here at The Times — but it became increasingly difficult to feel like it was going to be something I could survive and not be changed in ways I didn’t like.

When you wake up every morning and your stomach hurts, something is not right in your life.

That was me. Sunday morning was the first time in weeks I awoke without that gnawing, deep ache. Better, I had a sense of liberation. I could be me again, no edits, nothing beyond “what you see is what you get.”

I think now, beyond voting, I’m done with politics. Obviously, if a candidate really captures my imagination, I could see working behind the scenes for them, but I don’t see ever being on the front lines again.

I used to joke that politics is like high school on steroids, but maybe now it’s a bit more like high school on acid. Things get really distorted, twisted and at times, nasty and scary — but in a sneaky, stab-you-in-the-back kind of way. Honestly, I found the odd death threat from my writing here at The Times much easier to cope with — honest rage (albeit scary) is easier to handle than folks who claim to be your friend, but secretly are looking to mess with your mind or worse.

Again, there are folks who can surf the BS, come out the other side and still be themselves. But I’m not one of them.

Still, it was a learning experience.

I discovered that Democrats also have a strain of intolerance running through the party, something I had previously only ascribed to Republicans.

In speaking with campaign consultants in trying to get my floundering campaign back on track — campaigns and administrations tend to take on the characteristic of the candidate/office holder and I was becoming growingly ambivalent about running, a really bad thing in politics — I was advised to “unfriend” Facebook friends with an inclination to write stupid, controversial or “right-wing” points of view. Some of my friends are knuckleheads sometimes — but these same folks would give the shirt of their back to help you, even if they didn’t much like your politics. If cutting them out of my life was the price of admission, why buy a ticket to the show?

I also was advised to come up with explanations for this publication’s endorsement of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey in 2016 and walk back things I’ve written over the years. I found it tiresome to re-litigate the fact that Democrat Katie McGinty (Toomey’s 2016 opponent) was a terrible candidate, foisted on Democrats by Sen. Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, over the much more viable and qualified Joe Sestak. And yes, I find Toomey’s lack of courage in standing up to Donald Trump — he’s smart and surely knows better but is afraid of Trump’s base — deeply disappointing. But as few — certainly not me — ever envisioned the hell that is the Trump Administration actually coming to pass, Toomey seemed like the better choice at the time.

In fact, many of the instances The Times didn’t endorse Democrats was because they were exceptionally weak as candidates (the irony is, of course, that I’m not sure candidate me would have been endorsed by editor me, as it was becoming evident I was a flawed candidate as well).

It became increasingly clear that there is a mindset within parts of the Democratic Party to immediately discount and render as bad any person or any idea from the opposing party — something I knew was true about the Republican Party, but naively hoped wasn’t true about Democrats. I was seeing litmus tests and narrow ideological orthodoxy being pushed forward at times in a way that concerns me.

If Democrats are going to make the argument that they’re better — they have to actually be better. Being too liberal isn’t the problem (we really do need to raise the top income tax rate and change how we fund Social Security and public education) — it’s often being unable to see all sides of the story, not being able to look for good ideas, regardless of where they come from.

There are a lot of people in the party who are concerned about that too, so I hope at the end of the day, they prevail.

Meanwhile, life goes on. While I’ll keep The Times running under its current community contribution model (send in stuff, we’ll probably run it), I’m going to look for a way to make a difference in the community. I’m not entirely sure how that will manifest itself, but I know there has to be a way I do something to make things better.

For those who supported me and were patient as I wavered, I thank you. It is something I will never forget.   

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