THE BLOG
05/16/2012 09:49 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2012

A Glimpse of What Politics Can Be

We all know what's wrong with politics today: The money, the shouting, the prioritization of ideology over solutions and progress. It's easy to be cynical and think there's no other way for politics to be done.

But Jefferson Smith has shown Portland that there is another way. In last night's primary, Jefferson capped a come-from-behind surge to advance to a runoff in November.

In a world where negative ads and gotcha politics are the norm -- yes, even though I started out as an organizer, and helped pioneer a more vibrant people-powered politics, I use them, too -- Jefferson stands out for running an entirely positive, grassroots campaign based on principled positions.

Jefferson's surge didn't happen because he went negative on the people ahead of him. He would have struggled to do that even if he wanted to, since he didn't spend any money on opposition research.

Jefferson didn't buy his surge either. There's a controversial and expensive infrastructure project that's been proposed to build a new bridge from Portland to Vancouver. Other candidates in the race supported it and were rewarded with donations from powerful groups that want to see that project happen. It would have been easy for Jefferson to cut a deal with those guys and close his fundraising disadvantage with other campaigns. But he didn't believe the project is right for Portland, so he took a pass.

Jefferson's surge was about what he did do. He built from the bottom-up. He engaged a network of 1,000 volunteers who knocked on almost 50,000 doors. His supporters organized 107 house parties all over Portland where they invited their neighbors, friends, family and and co-workers to hear Jefferson speak. And these supporters owned the campaign, which led all other campaigns in the race with over 2,250 individual donors -- a new record in Portland politics.

They were still outraised and outspent but they weren't outworked or outreached.

This is what politics can be. It doesn't have to be about who has the most money or the most damaging ad. It can and should be about which candidates people want to work their asses off to get elected.

That's what propelled Jefferson Smith into November's runoff and it's why no matter where you are you should take an interest in his campaign. Watch the video below and then head to his website.