As a candidate, your name and face is plastered everywhere on your campaign – from lawn signs to literature to billboards. It would be easy to start to believe that the campaign is all about you. Unless you are running as an Independent candidate, this is simply not the case.
An overwhelming majority of those who are successfully elected to public office run under a party banner. Running with a party has massive benefits – supporter lists, brand recognition, financial backers, and a PR team (to name just a few).
The benefits come with some trade offs. You will likely face a vetting process to ensure that there is nothing that your opposition can use against you. This process can be stressful and potentially embarrassing but it is ultimately a means of protecting you and the party. You also will need to understand the party platform and use your personal skills to sell it to the voting public.
Hopefully, as a member of the party that you are running for, you will agree with the vast majority of the platform. However, there may be parts of the platform that you may have some disagreement with. No party is a monolith that is made up of members who agree on every detail. When you sign up to be a candidate for a party, you should accept that you won’t publicly air your grievances with those platform planks that you disagree with. The proper place to have those discussions is behind closed doors. I assure you that the party platform has been designed to help you attract the maximum amount of support because it has been thoroughly tested with potential voters.
I see party politics similar to singing in a choir. A great choir is made up a vast array of different voices who sing different parts – tenor, bass, soprano, alto, etc – but ultimately, they are all singing the same song. As soon as one person starts to sing a different song, the whole choir suffers. If you consistently deviate from the party platform and challenge it publicly, you risk bringing down every other candidate who is running under the same party banner.
Does this mean that you should become a robot who simply parrots the party talking points? Of course not. . As a candidate, you need to breathe life to the platform. Within that process you can likely massage the delivery of the message a little bit so that local voters will connect to it.
Politics demand a certain amount of ego. You need significant confidence to sell your vision and even more confidence handle the attacks that can come back at you. Party politics may ask you to suppress your ego from time to time. You may not have 100% flexibility to speak your mind in public at all time.
Remember that successful election campaigns are not vanity projects. They are true team efforts and they provide you with a wonderful opportunity to make the lives of your friends, family, and neighbours better.