This is the time of year that the buzz around town becomes political. Candidates run ads on TV and on the radio, and most of them are obnoxious in their zeal to appeal. But especially in a midterm election, most candidates are relatively unknown; it's an exercise in... let's call it "lightning branding." They're trying to both get name recognition and associate themselves with moms, baseball, apple pies, or some other universally attractive issue. And they've got like, a few weeks, maybe a month, where people are paying attention.
Since politics is the birthplace of "spin," I always find it interesting to see how the candidates position themselves, what they choose to highlight, whether they go negative on the other candidate, etc. I even think it's fascinating to see which colors they use on their signs. Red, white, and blue are obvious; I tend to respect those candidates who use other color combinations or are otherwise graphically creative. In NH, I like the guy who had his name printed on billboards that look like big license plates. And on Rt. 236 in Maine, a local candidate's name is so long, it's impossible to fit it on a billboard. So they broke up the name into like 5 signs, each with 3 letters of the name, then placed the signs along the road in succession at 10 foot intervals. Very clever!
The most obnoxious TV ads seem to be in Massachusetts, where the Deval Patrick candidacy has polarized the constituency. Patrick reminds me of Howard Dean a little -- he's the "different" candidate everyone seems to be buzzing about, one way or the other. He has a very good chance to be the Bay State's first black governor, but does his voice sound like cartoon character, or is it just me? One pro-democrat ad (probably by teacher's lobby?) I thought was particularly effective explained that apparently the commonwealth is now 41st in the country in school spending, behind (gulp) Alabama and (double gulp) Mississippi?! Yow. For all you Mass voters who thought they could safely elect "moderate" republican governors and expect to keep your core democratic values in tact, this is your wake-up call.
Speaking of schools, my daughter is in 4th grade and her teacher is big on civics and government, so they held mock elections the other day in school. Unfortunately, she said she wanted to vote but didn't know any of the candidates. Isn't this what almost everybody says when they don't vote? Isn't there some way around this, like, maybe at the polls there could be a standardized one-page sheet with their positions listed out? Or how about an independent consultant who sits there and asks you questions to determine who you probably should be supporting? I mean, for regular people, i.e., non-policitical-junkies, working a job or two, raising kids, doing laundry, raking leaves, it isn't hard to see how they don't have the time or inclination to learn about the candidates before election day. Then the day comes, and they know they SHOULD vote, but they don't know much if anything about the candidates. It's like sending them into Sears to buy a new fridge -- but there's no salespeople to help, there's no pricing, no features listed anywhere, they're all white and square -- then cricitizing them for not buying one! There's gotta be another way.
In any event, Tuesday could be a very big day. I am VERY excited about the potential for a referendum on the failures of Bush and the corruption of his cronies in congress. I'm heartily endorsing a straight democratic ticket here in NH, and not just for the sake of change -- I've had the pleasure of meeting people like Carol Shea Porter, Jackie Cilley, John Lynch, and I am as impressed with their character as I am confident in their abilities. Please join me in voting a straight ticket on Nov. 7.