This past year, I worked on the campaign of a candidate who ran for president that you probably have never heard of. Buddy Roemer, former governor of Louisiana, ran in the GOP primary and later as an Independent before suspending his campaign back in June. Roemer spent much of his time campaigning in New Hampshire where he hoped to earn a spot in a debate against Republican Party front-runners Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. After raising just under a million dollars by refusing all Super PAC and special interest money and restricting donations to no more than 100 dollars per person, Governor Roemer managed to gather just a few votes shy of only a thousand in New Hampshire and given the limitation, he just never could gain the notoriety required to compete on a national level.
Only one million dollars ' given by the few thousand lucky Americans who perhaps saw him on Morning Joe a time or two and combined for an average gift of about 43 bucks. Compare that number to the nearly one billion dollars each that President Obama and Governor Romney have raised, along with their associated outside groups, and it may not be hard to understand how and why you've never heard of Mr. Roemer, perhaps until now. But if you were told that a man who graduated as valedictorian of his public high school, went to Harvard and earned two finance degrees, became a four-term congressman and governor of his home state, and later built several successful community banks, you probably would wish that you had at least been given the opportunity to hear his name and message at some point during this year's election process. Without gaining enough traction in the polls, Roemer was not invited to participate in a single one of the 27 nationally televised GOP primary debates. It seems like the rules and standards that govern our political debates and forums should be reversed. But at least for now, that's just the way it is.
April 2, 2012: "We Luuuuv Buddy!" (Sally Field in Forrest Gump accent). BTW, to my Kentucky friends: of the maybe 50,000 basketball fans I saw today wearing blue, maybe 50 in Kansas gear. The Dome should be pretty biased for Big Blue Nation tonight. | Buddy Roemer, Joshua Chavers, Presidential Candidate, Americans Elect, 2012,
As election season has now come to a close, and Mr. Roemer goes down as merely an asterisk among the also-rans in the 2012 election, a few people have asked me if I thought my time was well wasted. I have responded to them without hesitation and with an unequivocal yes. I was raised in the conservative south by a mother and father who taught me to never just follow the crowd; to fight for what is good and stand for what is right even if I'm the only one. Hopefully, I'll remain that way for the rest of my life. Working on Governor Roemer's campaign was an outstanding experience. It was great to meet so many every day, average Americans from all walks of life and from such a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. I met Tea Party conservatives from Florida, Occupy members from Los Angeles, and everything in between who were equally attracted to Roemer's message of ridding corruption and restoring a sense of fairness and goodness back to our country and to our political system. They all had at least only one thing in common. They knew that America ain't what it used to be and that something is just not quite right. This 68-year-old country boy, who grew up on a cotton farm just outside of Shreveport, was speaking their language.
Did Roemer's effort or even mine make any difference? I don't know. I hope it did. I think it probably did. Buddy will be one of those few guys in 10, 20, 30, or 50 years from now when everything really hits the fan that people will look back on and say, "Yeah, we probably should have listened to that old man". But even then, sadly, only about 100,000 Americans will even know who he was. I initially got involved in the campaign because I thought the timing was right and I had never heard a politician or any candidate say the kinds of things he did. When I first heard him, I knew then that I might never see another candidate in my lifetime, of his skill and experience, saying the types of bold things like he did. I thought the time was right and that America was ready for a real reformer. It's just too bad that a man who spoke the truth - a man who stands for and lives on principle, was not allowed to even participate in the discussion or debate; and that powers outside of our control did not allow him to be known. I learned a lot about what we are told and think is a sort of fair and democratic process. I learned a lot about the power of the mass media to control who is included and who is not. I learned a lot about the power of influence and money and advertising. I have no doubt that if the 130 million or so Americans who go to vote on November 6 would have been given the chance and opportunity to hear and know Buddy Roemer, the guy would be our next president.
There were some writers and media members along the way who made fun of him. They did that in Louisiana when he ran the same way. He never took big, corporate money ' ever. It's hard to even win county commissioner in Louisiana without oil money. But that he did on five different occasions, as congressman and as governor. They laughed at him, until he was invited to a statewide-televised debate. Next thing you knew, he was rising in the polls. And then he won. A few snarky journalists may have laughed. But really, the joke's on them. It's on all of us. There's just a system in place that is none too kind to a guy like Roemer. But, he tried. The biggest impression he left on me is the truly sincere and genuine demeanor with which he always carried himself. You can really judge a man's character by how he talks about people and how he talks about things while in private, when no cameras or voice recorders are running. I remember being in Manchester and seeing the postal employee who delivered mail to the campaign office be so impressed that Buddy gave him his cell phone number and said to call him anytime. That he did the Tuesday morning of the primary. Buddy answered on the first ring to hear the gentleman wish him good luck and assure him that he already had his vote.
I've had the pleasure of being with him one on one and he is the same guy riding in the back of a taxi or eating at the Burger King that he is while on a national t.v. set with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. He was always passionate and loved to talk about policies and ideas that he knows would make America stronger. You can tell a lot about a man by how he acts out on the street or in a restaurant toward common folk who have no idea who he is, and who never will. Unlike many executives who have attained his positions and achievements, and unlike many or even most politicians and candidates for public office, it truly was never about him. It was about his country and his fellow citizens. I would even say that could have been one small part of the problem. He didn't promote himself enough. He just wasn't arrogant enough. Gov. Roemer could easily get a show or write a book, which he may still. But the point is, he's happy just being a regular guy and going about his business. Now, he's back working at his bank in Baton Rouge, doing some radio here and there and taking his wife to IHOP and Barnes and Noble after a weekend visit to the movies. He was just trying to help. So maybe he was able to educate a few people on some issues and draw awareness to a few important things. Maybe just that alone is good enough. I have this daydream that in a second term, President Obama relieves Jay Carney (although I like him alright) and hires Buddy as his new press secretary or that Romney realizes there's something quite charming about an old-timey Louisiana accent. I could listen to the man talk all day long. I'm proud and honored to know Buddy Roemer and to have been associated with his attempt, however feeble or quixotic it may have been, at making America a better place for everyone.