Retorts: An early season election primer

WHAT’S SAID, what’s meant and what’s understood in an election season.

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.


Categories: Opinion

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