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Participating in the Political Process/Is starting a political party a full time job?


Dear Professor John C. Berg,

Please would you be kind enough to tell me whether starting a political party (and being head of it) is a full time job? In order to have enough time to give the new party a chance of success, would someone have to quit their current job? Obviously, starting a political party is an expensive business, so anyone starting a party would need an income; but assuming they could be supported by their spouse/family, would they be best served by quitting their job and working full-time on their party? Or, would someone need all the money they can get, and be better off juggling their current job AND working on the new party?

I ask in relation to the novel I'm writing, so the question is hypothetical it's not something I'm planning! However, I'd very grateful if you could tell me what someone starting a new party would be most likely to do, and what would be the best thing for the party quitting to give the party all their time (but losing an income), or staying their job and having an income to support the party with, but having less time on their hands?
In the novel, the person starting the party comes from a comfortable upper-middle class background, and both his wife and his father are willing to support him (plus, he will obviously be looking to interest some wealthy backers in investing in the party!). Would this be enough to keep the party going, or would that person need to work?

Thank you so much for your time.

Very best wishes,


You would not have to quit your job -- although it would help -- but you would have to have a lot of other people working with you. The rules vary by state, but in general to get a party recognized you have to either get a whole lot of people to register as members of that party (and not all states have party registration), or else you have to get someone to run for office as the candidate of that party and get a minimum percentage of the votes -- often 5%, but more in some states, as I recall.

If you have a lot of money, you can hire people to get the signatures/registrations that you need, and you could always hire someone else to run the operation -- but more than someone from "a comfortable upper-middle class background" could afford.

Hope this helps! I'm away from home at a conference, and don't have time to write more right now.

Participating in the Political Process

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John C. Berg


How to run for office and win, how to lobby, how to promote your political cause effectively, how to get involved in electoral and issue campaigns, how to get a job in politics.


I have been a professor of political science since 1974, and direct a graduate program in professional politics. I have worked on many campaigns in various capacities.

American Association of Political Consultants, American Political Science Association, Caucus for a New Political Science, National Society for Experiential Education, International Political Science Association.

Polity, New Political Science, Policy Studies Journal. Author of Unequal Struggle: Class, Gender, Race, and Power in the US Congress.

PhD, Harvard University, 1975
MA, Harvard University, 1973
BA with Honors, University of Wisconsin, 1964

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