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Run the Other Way

Run the Other Way

Fixing the Two-Party System, One Campaign at a Time

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Bill Hillsman is simply, in the words of Slate.com, "the world's greatest political adman." With his groundbreaking consulting work on Paul Wellstone's senatorial, Jesse Ventura's gubernatorial, and Ralph Nader's presidential campaigns, he was the first to publicly challenge the conventional strategies of political campaigns, the inefficiency of campaign spending, the desultory, banal, and insulting political ads. As Hillsman says, "I don't believe you can annoy someone into voting for your candidate."

Hillsman first rocked the political establishment during Wellstone's 1990 Senate bid, with witty, sharp political ads that had audiences glued to their television sets and talking about the commercials for weeks afterward. In the end, he helped Wellstone overcome a $7 million campaign spending disadvantage to win the election. And the risk taking continued when he ran Jesse Ventura's Reform Party gubernatorial and Ralph Nader's Green Party presidential campaigns. In one Nader ad, a child looks out at the viewer and says, "When I grow up, I want politicians to ignore me." In an ad from Ventura's campaign, a boy playing with a Jesse Ventura action figure ("New, from the Reform Party!") takes on Ventura's voice to growl, "I don't want your stupid money!" With bold and brilliant ads like these, Hillsman helped two underdog candidates become senator and governor, transformed Minnesota politics, and showed the country that it has viable and appealing options outside of the two major parties.

Run the Other Way offers fascinating and disturbing insights into the shadowy, cronyistic world of political consulting: the grossly overpaid consultants, incompetent and inaccurate pollsters, fundraisers who take a dollar for every dollar they raise, and strategists who use negative advertising to intentionally keep people from voting. But it also gives us a from-the-trenches look at how Americans can turn the weapons trained on us back against the master propagandists, and in so doing revitalize our badly damaged democracy. Fleshing out his case with real-life stories from his involvement in numerous campaigns, Hillsman takes us behind the electioneering scenes of old Washington hands and trouble-making independents, including Ross Perot, Warren Beatty, John McCain, Arianna Huffington, and Colin Powell.

An outsider with an insider's vantage point, Hillsman sees America at a crucial historical moment defined by the continuing decline of both major political parties and the rise of independent voters. Edgy, controversial, and often humorous, his political ads have energized voters and revolutionized election campaigning over the last fifteen years. This is a book for everyone who's ever run for office, thought about running for office, or voted for someone running for office. Run the Other Way investigates the many imperfections in the greatest system of government in the world and challenges all of us to make it better.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416568339 | 
  • September 2008
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Election Industry, Inc.

Americans own the greatest political system in the world. It works wonderfully well for everyone involved, except two groups of people:

Voters. And candidates.

Political parties, pollsters, political consultants, fundraisers, media mavens, junk mailers, spammers, special interest groups, lobbyists, and various other meretricious sorts all profit handsomely from our current political system.

Who pays for it? You. And me. And, of course, any candidate brave enough to run for public office.

After over a dozen years trying to upgrade political communications, I have come to... see more
INTRODUCTION

These are notes from the underground of American politics.

As much as I love Aaron Sorkin's televised portrayal of politics, The West Wing, it presents an unrealistic, idealized picture of our government. The reality is much closer to The Sopranos -- escapades in raw ambition, with professional political hit men operating in the shadows and out of the public's view to maintain a vise-like grip on political power and to eliminate any threats to the two political parties' profitable business territories.

When you work for rebel, underdog candidates, like I do, even the occasional victory is one... see more

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