Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Sign of the Times

Roadside political signs. We've all seen them, and we've all ignored them. I am not sure where they got their inglorious start, but it must have been a time when cars drove slower, or our collective high speed visual acuity was better, because they are perhaps the lowest grade interaction in what is decidedly a low-grade affair: campaigning.

Very few politicians enjoy campaigning. It is dismal work dodging yap-happy cockapoos while knocking on the doors of cranky strangers; pressing the flesh with party activists who have an altogether uncomfortable level of commitment to the cause; and making the heavy-handed pitch for monetary contributions. And on the flip side of this filthy penny, I don't know anyone who enjoys getting dinner time phone calls from robotic facsimiles of hopeful politicians or a daily stack of fundraising appeals in the mail. It really is the perfect combination of dreadful: people who don't want to do something to people who don't want it done to them. As I re-read what I just wrote, campaigning begins to sound more like some kind of dual action intellectual rape than it does a sensible way to choose our leaders.

Political signs are the hands-off and less-imposing low hanging fruit of the campaign world. In fact some highway-proximate landowners seem so indifferent to political signs that they will allow candidates from decidedly different political persuasions to erect signs on their property. There is no political statement that illustrates voter apathy better than a shoulder adorned with Romney, Obama, Cardin, Bongino, and Harris signs at regular intervals. The signs run together in the same way all politicians have managed to run together in the American psyche.

As a former (successful) campaign manager, I know many of the challenges associated with road signs (as opposed to yard signs); from finding suitable locations, to making sure the text is visible from a speeding automobile, to putting the signs back up after foul weather. I also know just how limited an impact even the most well-placed and numerous road signs can have on the ultimate outcome of an election.

But I have recently driven by a few signs for Dan Bongino's United States Senate campaign here in Maryland. Bongino, who I do not know personally, has been running for the Senate for what seems like an eternity. He has never held elected office of any kind, and as such, is suffering from something that doesn't take a campaign consultant to diagnose: lack of name recognition. So in what seems to be a transparent ploy, the Bongino campaign has taken to nailing placards on the side of Bongino road signs that simply say "Jobs Not Taxes."

This tagline represents all that is wrong with politics and government in this day and age. I cannot express how angry those three words make me, how much I'd like to berate the person(s) who think that its a good idea to dumb down a campaign with a slogan that makes no sense even in the abstract, who thinks it is appropriate to attempt to communicate with voters (at high speeds) with a throwaway phrase that insults their very intelligence. Mr. Bongino may have good ideas, might even have a compelling message, but when his campaign makes the strategic decision to forgo meaningful discussion in favor of something as basely moronic as "Jobs Not Taxes" then I am not much interested in hearing the rest of Mr. Bongino's message.

And it appears as though I am not alone. Mr. Bongino may be the only major party nominee for a US Senate race in the country to finish third in his race, behind both the Democrat Ben Cardin and the Independent Rob Sobhani. This despite a years-long campaign that has failed to raise enough money for a meaningful presence on television, and a candidate that is still fighting for "name recognition." With a month to go, the time for building name recognition is well passed. What might be even more insulting to Mr. Bongino is that his opponent, the incumbent Senator Ben Cardin, is now referring to the Independent, Rob Sobhani, as his opponent, apparently comfortable simply ignoring the Republican nominee.
 The issues of taxes (i.e. government revenues) and economic recovery are complex issues, intertwined with one another in a way that even the most qualified economic and tax policy experts can not and do not fully understand. Jobs Not Taxes indicates that Mr. Bongino is not interested in the hard and detailed work of actual governing (something he has not done, at any level), but rather in trying to (unsuccessfully) elicit a Pavlovian response in Maryland's voters by telling them what he thinks they want to hear, even if it is so simple-minded as to have the opposite affect.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

His whole campaign is moronic, you should see his Twitter account, he's send out tweets like "Cardin for big government, Sobhani for more taxes and bigger government", Sobhani has never called for higher taxes or bigger government. It's intellectual dishonesty to all voters and to his supporters who just gobble this stuff up and spit out:
Taxes booooooo
Jobs Yayyyyy