Campaign Catalogues Push Voter Variety

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

We hear about campaign spending every election. Candidate A is ahead in fund raising; candidate B is building up his war chest (gasp! He said war! Next he’ll say he’s battling for office!); Candidate C is saturating the market. You can’t win a national or statewide office without a whole bunch of money.

While some manage to win with smaller war chests (gasp!), your chances improve as you buy ads, mail flyers, bribe babies, and give candy to special interest groups. Or maybe those last two are the other way around. Or maybe not.

I don’t have a problem with candidates getting their message out; but their message often amounts to “the other guy’s stupid – vote for me, I stand for traditional family values and giving you a bunch of money that we took from you in the first place!”

There’s also the fact that political office these days seems to belong not to the better public servant, but to the one with the best PR machine. It’s a variant of the same old problem: whoever has the pretty face and the best sound bite delivery gets elected, whether he’s most capable or not.

When you get to rural counties or small towns, it’s different: there’s less budget and less need for one. This is my third run for office and I’ve spent exactly zero, because I don’t need to introduce myself: I’m right here. Nor did I spend anything when I was elected fire department secretary (“Let’s vote for Mark – he can type!”), or during that high school class election in which I somehow tallied a minus number of votes – despite voting for myself. Maybe I should have thrown around some swag on that one.

I could go on about being frugal and how it’s evidence that I could handle your money, but the truth is I’ve just been broke and cheap. Frugal is a good reason to vote for someone; broke and cheap probably isn’t a great selling point.

Anyway, I hadn’t given much thought to the whole war (gasp!) chest thing until, days after signing my name to another Town Council run, I started getting campaign ads. Not ads for other candidates – ads from companies that wanted me to buy their election materials.

I don’t have a problem with that. It’s good old fashioned capitalism at work, and if someone wants to buy a product made right here in America, that’s great. Someone has to manufacture the materials, run the company, come up with the slogans, and do the ads for the ads, so yay.

Um … they are made right here in America. Right? Just a sec …

Okay, I’m back. As best I can figure, about 90% of these products are American made. I can live with that as long as the other 10% doesn’t come from some Chinese kid working sixteen hour days for half a bowl of rice.

It’s amazing to me, the stuff you can give away when running for election. Pens? That could backfire: if a voter’s pen runs dry or springs a leak, he’ll stare down in a murderous rage at – my name. Then there are:

Emery boards. Grind down your fingernails, all the while slowly erasing your candidates name while wondering who Mr. Emery was and whether his decedents still get a cut.

Your photo on campaign signs. Boy, that’s opening you up for trouble. I saw an Obama sign that someone defaced … I kind of liked the eye patch, but the handlebar mustache was a bit much.

Lollipops.

Heh. I can see it now: “Hunter sucks!”

Paddle fans. You’d have to stress to everyone that they’re fans, not paddles. Especially if they’ve got your face on them.

Rulers. What are you trying to tell voters, here? That you measure up? Or that you’re so old you can remember when everyone owned a ruler?

Then there’s my favorite: bookmarks. I’m a fan of that idea, because I tend to grab whatever scrap of paper is on hand to mark my place. This can lead to both embarrassment and identity theft. Also, it’s nice to think people still read.

One catalogue offered a 20% discount for candidates. Um … who besides candidates is going to buy campaign material? Do people get their names put on big signs and hang them on their walls?

I don’t recall any candidate for our Town Council distributing campaign materials, but I’m tempted after getting a flyer from a local company. What attracted me to their ad was my name, all over the thing.

A sign said “vote Hunter, County Commissioner”. Another was much better: “Hunter, Congress”. Hey, finally a high enough level to have perks. Lead me to the Congressional swimming pool!

They had a bumper sticker with “Hunter, YourCampaiagnWebsite.com, running for office”. I assume that’s a template, otherwise everyone would be fighting for that web address. Sadly, my website is MarkRHunter.com, and other than poking fun at the process, there will be no mention of politics there prior to the election. Unless it looks like things are going badly for me: Then I’ll fire up the mud slinger.

My favorite of all, and one I might actually make use of someday, was a t-shirt. It said:

“Hunter. Sheriff.”

Hey, I already work in the building! I’d only have to move offices!

No, no, I have no plan to run for Sheriff in three years. That job’s hard; you have to actually be in charge, make decisions and stuff. But if I can get a logo put on almost everything, couldn’t I advertise my writing that way? I’ve got a novel and an anthology coming out, and the fire department history book in the works, and in today’s publishing industry advertising dollars are few and far between.

Imagine a bookmark with “Storm Chaser” on it, or a bumper sticker with my web address. Best of all: a t-shirt that says “Slightly Off the Mark”.

I’d run for that.