The political world did a double take on Monday night when the news broke that blogging pioneer Mickey Kaus, in what seemed like an elaborate stunt, is planning to launch a Democratic primary Senate campaign in California.
Ever the contrarian -- indeed, with a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for ruffling feathers -- Kaus isn't a conventional pol; he's a professional purveyor of dissent. The last time he actually held any elected office was when he served as student body president in high school. His senior class totaled 541 people (Kaus checked his year book for the exact figure) and the school total was roughly 2,000.
"I was an ambitious student politician in high school," the longtime Slate blogger told the Huffington Post.
So if the whole idea of Kaus now taking over the seat held by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) seems just a bit too far-fetched to believe, you're not alone. Kaus doesn't really believe it himself.
"I don't think I'm going to win," the author of Kausfiles said. "My goal is to get attacked. If they notice me enough to attack me I will declare victory."
So what, exactly, is Kaus doing by attempting to throw his hat into the Senate ring? The whole enterprise, indeed, comes off as a play for publicly. But Kaus says he's not in it for generating attention or headlines, though he is weighing the idea of publishing a virtual diary about his experiences as a candidate. He's trying, he said, to give voice to Democratic counter-orthodoxy.
"I'm a Democrat and I'm unhappy with the party's rigidity on a couple of important issues," he said, pointing to the Employee Free Choice Act, immigration policy and the sway of teacher's unions over education policy as three prime examples. "I kept running into Democrats who said, 'I've been a Democrat all my life but I don't like what the party is doing here.'"
"I thought it would be useful to run a serious campaign to give people the opportunity to register their dissent on these issues," he added.
The idea of 'Senate candidate Kaus' sprouted roughly six months ago, when he was particularly frustrated about the state of Democratic politics.
"I have no particular beef with Barbara Boxer," he said. "She is sort of a state-of-the-art Democrat. But state-of-the-art Democrats are the problem."
He procrastinated for a while without ever really abandoning the notion. On Monday, Kaus said, he woke up and felt compelled to act on the urge -- with a March 12 deadline for filing the necessary forms staring him in the face. Going forward, he plans on posting a "manifesto" online, detailing however many policy points he feels are necessary to define his candidacy.
But it really isn't a candidacy yet. Kaus first has to secure 65 "good" signatures -- as he puts it -- with legitimate addresses and properly spelled names before he can officially be on the ballot. He refused to say how many John Hancocks he already has. And even if he does qualify, the operation remains remarkably bare-boned, though that's perhaps appropriate for someone fully expecting to lose. Kaus lacks a staff, website and fundraising apparatus. Though, with respect to the latter, he pledged to get something set up eventually.
"I'm a one-man campaign," he said.