The Story Behind The Can’t-idates by Craig Tomashoff


Like most of us, I grew up being told that if I really applied myself, I could grow up and be president someday. As I got older, though, I realized this was right up there with Santa Claus on the list of lies our parents told us to keep us in line. The system has become so warped, there’s not room for unknown people with limited political experience and zero money. And yet, every four years, hundreds of Americans file the requisite paperwork to run for Commander in Chief.

The Can't-didatesI know, I know….the second I talk about “real people” running for president, images of tin foil hat wearing guys living in their moms’ basements come immediately to mind. We automatically assume anyone who says they’re running for president is a nut job. I used to think that too, up until 2012. I was working as a producer on an Australian talk show that filmed in Los Angeles. The host wanted to do segments that would show Australians the quirky side of America. I’d suggested finding some real people running for president, because they’re always good for a laugh.

Eventually, I booked a pro wrestler/vampire named Jonathan the Impaler, who was definitely on the fringe but was still fascinating. His demeanor seemed crazy but his interest in serving his country was actually commendable. I started to see, for the first time, that ordinary people who run for president are bigger believers in the America Way than most of us. They embrace the right to run.

From that point on, I was completely fascinated by the notion of “citizen candidates.” I just didn’t know what to do with that fascination. Then came the spring of 2015. I wasn’t working, which meant I had a lot of time to do something I’d wanted to do since I was in the third grade – write a book. At the same time, pretty much everyone I knew was complaining about the lack of good options for president. These two things combined in my brain to create the concept for The Can’t-idates: there are 1600 people running so what if I went out to find a diamond in the rough I could throw my support to?

From that point on, my life has been consumed with these people we just assume are crazy. I sent letters to all 193 people who had filed their presidential paperwork by March 1, 2015, exactly a year before the first Super Tuesday. I explained that I wanted to know what motivated to do something that everyone else figures is insane. I heard back from about 100 of them – strangely, I never heard back from the guy who listed a Washington, D.C. Motel Six as his address. I did a phone interview with everyone who called me and out of that, I found 15 people whose personal stories were so much and so compelling, I had to meet them.

So, in May 2015, I jumped in a rental car and drove 10,000 miles across America in three weeks to meet the “Can’t-idates” and get a sense of what the country was really thinking. It was a life-changing trip, as I like to think the book explains. It’s as much the story of my personal journey as it is the story of the people I interviewed. In particular, as I was preparing to leave on my road trip, I realized that I would be getting back three days before my son graduated from high school. I had to get him some kind of gift, and couldn’t afford a car, so I decided to give him something that would keep on giving. I’d show him that it’s important to go after your dreams regardless of what others think. The people in the book were doing that. I was doing exactly that by writing about them. So ultimately, the book is my gift to inspire my son.

It’s worth noting that every agent and publisher I sent my proposal to either gave me a quick and resounding “no way” or they ignored me completely. There was nobody who believed in this book but me. Ordinarily, I’d see the odds stacked against me and fold. This time, maybe because I knew I was getting old, I decided to do what I believed in. And see what happened. For nine months, I researched and wrote the book assuming I’d have to publish it myself and never sell a single copy.

Once my first draft was done, though, someone I’d worked with during my time writing for People Magazine had started a publishing house. It was exceedingly small, with only a handful of titles, but he had faith in me and my book and that was enough. Again, someone with a dream that everyone else says is crazy. The theme continued.

I realize the odds of The Can’t-idates becoming a bestseller are roughly the same odds as me winning the presidency this year. However, I also realize that I had to show some faith in myself and my ideas. So as much as I want people to buy this book, just having it exist is enough to make me happy. That’s my lesson for anyone thinking of writing their first book. Don’t worry about who will buy it or who will read it. Just do it. Do your “crazy  thing” and see where it leads you.

About the Author

Craig TomashoffCraig Tomashoff is a freelance writer/producer based in Los Angeles. His blogs appear regularly at Huffington Post.com. Most recently, he was a producer for The Queen Latifah Show. Prior to that, he served as Executive Editor of TV Guide, and has also worked as Associate Bureau Chief for People. In addition, he has written for the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Emmy Magazine. Prior to The Can’t-idates, he was the author of You Live, You Learn: The Alanis Morissette Story and co-wrote I’m Screaming As Fast As I Can: My Life In B-Movies with Linnea Quigley. He has also worked as a television writer/producer for such series as VH1’s Behind the Music, The Martin Short Show and The Late Show With Craig Kilborn.

His latest book is The Can’t-idates: Running For President When Nobody Knows Your Name.

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