Final Campaign Lessons: On the Street and On the Tube
There was a knock on the door late Sunday afternoon and the 10-year-old in our house looked up from his book: "Oh, no, another candidate," he said.
He was right, of course. But put aside his exaggerated exasperation and consider what a privilege it is to have so many candidates dropping by, making their arguments, ready and eager to talk about policy, personal background or whatever the voters have on our minds. In fact, the kids have been thrilled by the shoe leather democracy that has blossomed in the District this season, not only the much-ballyhooed door-to-door campaigns of Adrian Fenty and Linda Cropp, but the many other candidates in ward council races and other elections who have decided that this is a small enough city that it can make a real difference to go out and meet the voters, one by one.
It's a delicious antidote to the politics of 30-second TV spots, and you can see it all over the region, in Maryland, Virginia and the District. It is, several campaign consultants tell me, a reaction to polling and anecdotal analysis that shows growing popular cynicism about TV commercials and the facile, silly messages they often communicate (of course, the door-to-door trend also reflects the fact that more and more voters are able to bypass TV spots because they time-shift their TV viewing or devote their screen time to video games, the Interweb, and DVDs, media where candidates have a much tougher time making contact.)
So it was that I watched D.C. candidates pressing the flesh and making their arguments at yesterday's Adams Morgan Day and Chevy Chase Day street fairs--Fenty gregariously edging his way down crowded 18th Street NW, where seemingly everyone wanted to shake his hand; Cropp gamely moving up and down the block where I live, still knocking on doors even in the final hours; Marie Johns dancing the Electric Slide (one of the great uniquely-DC pop cultural phenomena) outside the Chevy Chase Community Center; council members Kathy Patterson and Jim Graham jumping into the throngs in Adams Morgan to debate rent control, affordable housing and baseball; Andy Miscuk pushing on with his courageous challenge to the most incomprehensibly popular political figure in the District's history, the useless delegate to the House of Representatives.
But as inspiring as all this street-level politicking may be, most folks still pick up their political messages on the tube or on the air as they drive to work, and so I've been jotting down what I've learned from the ads on TV and radio:
Speaking of MoCo's top job, I take it from Steve Silverman's ads that Ike Leggett is a "good guy with bad ideas." But the more I hear in Silverman's spots about Leggett's ideas, the more I like those "bad ideas" (raising the gas tax, building lots of affordable housing, expressing skepticism about the Purple Line). Does that mean that Leggett is a bad guy with good ideas? Count me confused.
Also, in all those ads that start out saying nasty stuff about the other guy, and then suddenly the screen lights up and the music shifts from minor to major key and a guitar strums gently and the announcer tells us that "There is a better way," I have to confess that I like the discordant soundtrack much, much better. Can't we have the same ads, but with the music swapped around the other way?
I've been listening to more ads than watching them, and I recommend to all voters that you take an hour or so and whatever your race, listen to the stations that seek an audience of people not like you. You may find candidates presenting entirely different views of themselves to what they assume is a completely separate and different audience. For instance, as best I can tell, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer is advertising almost entirely on black stations, where announcers who sound stereotypically black laud the old man for his service to that community. Similarly, Maryland attorney general candidate Stuart Simms has spots airing on black stations that talk about how the Baltimore lawyer would provide justice "for us." If I want justice too, am I therefore supposed to vote for the other guy?
And do you have to be as dumb and weird as that couple in the Rushern Baker TV spot (it's the first spot on the list on that linked page) to vote for the challenger in the Prince George's County Executive race?
But let me see if I understand incumbent Jack Johnson's TV ad--if Baker was involved in a few county contracts and that somehow taints him, then the fact that Johnson dished out many, many county contracts to friends makes him worthy of reelection? Something does not compute.
Back into the District: Adrian Fenty's TV spot focuses in on his worn-out shoes. The man has $2 million to spend on this campaign and he can't afford a decent pair of shoes? And I've now watched that Tony Williams-Linda Cropp ad at least a dozen times and what I don't get is why two people who so evidently don't care for each other would sit so closely together. And remind me please why I can't vote again for the bowtie man?
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 10:24 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 10:34 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 10:36 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 10:45 AM
Posted by: Mike Panetta for Shadow Representative | September 11, 2006 10:52 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 11:33 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 12:07 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 12:43 PM
Posted by: Fisher | September 11, 2006 12:48 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 12:52 PM
Posted by: Terrell | September 11, 2006 12:54 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 1:09 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 1:13 PM
Posted by: THS | September 11, 2006 1:41 PM
Posted by: DC Democrat | September 11, 2006 1:52 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 2:12 PM
Posted by: Joseph Boggi | September 11, 2006 2:14 PM
Posted by: Black D.C. Ward 4 Voter | September 11, 2006 2:56 PM
Posted by: myopinion | September 11, 2006 3:22 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 3:33 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 3:34 PM
Posted by: Kalorama Kat | September 11, 2006 4:06 PM
Posted by: Fisher | September 11, 2006 4:09 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 4:23 PM
Posted by: D.C. Black Ward 4 Voter | September 11, 2006 4:35 PM
Posted by: Mark | September 11, 2006 4:41 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 4:45 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 4:53 PM
Posted by: Frankey | September 11, 2006 4:56 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2006 5:15 PM
Posted by: DC Black Ward 4 Voter | September 11, 2006 5:47 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2006 10:34 AM
Posted by: JC in DC | September 12, 2006 11:51 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.