It’s only March, but the political season is already underway. Huge signs are popping up at every street corner advertising the two-word platform of the candidate: MY NAME.
A little later in the campaigning, the candidates will start generating those charming three-fold brochures which inevitably includes a stiff photograph of himself with his (or her) suffering spouse, a couple of I-could not –possibly-be-more-bored teenagers and a dog.
Also included is the candidate standing next to a police car (implying crime-fighting skills by osmosis), and then a shot of the hopeful pictured earnestly speaking to a “typical” citizen (who turns out to be the campaign treasurer).
Then there’s the platform, along with what is really meant. One size usually fits all.
- Fight crime! Hire more police officers! (Even though I have no idea how to do either of these without busting the budget and raising taxes).
- Cut taxes! Reduce waste! (I’m pretty wasteful at home and my real job, so I can probably spot it).
- More services! More parks! (For my neighborhood).
- Solve the homelessness problem! (Get a reaaaallly big bus and drop them off in Montana).
- I am not a tool of special interests! (Until I get elected, then – as an incumbent – the developers become my best friends. However if I lose, it’s “What was your name, again?”)
Now, it’s not just the politicians that give politics a bad name. Too many voters (and most all non-voters) have a frail grasp on the big picture. Here are some examples of terms that are automatically translated in the minds of the not-too-thoughtful.
- Affordable housing = ghetto shacks a block from my house, typically cardboard held together with staples.
- Gun owner = Dick Cheney in training.
- Teacher = Someone whom I expect to be excellent for my kids, but shouldn’t expect excellent wages.
- Concerned citizen = Jury duty bait.
- Public opinion polling = compiling lies by phone during my favorite TV show.
- Homeless = Shiftless.
- Bloc voting = empowering minorities, unless it’s not my group, in which case it’s machine politics.
Alas, there is not much to be done about all of this. Electioneering is a little like baseball: it takes too long, and nearly all of us up as losers by November.