Welcome to election year! True confession: When I was a kid, I looked forward to election day almost as much as Christmas.
Growing up in a country store, we didn’t see many celebrities. When someone wearing nice clothes would come in to campaign, that was a big deal. To this day, I love politics.
I have always admired people who run for office. My parents were amused by my fascination with politicians. I was disappointed if a candidate visited during the school day, when I wasn’t in the store.
I attended political rallies, studying the candidates. Some of them were polished speakers, while others struggled to string together a few coherent sentences. More than once, I suspected a candidate had consumed a little booze, trying to work up enough courage to face the crowd.
Since becoming a broadcaster, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few hundred politicians, from U.S. presidents to county coroners. Most of them are hard-working, qualified folks. But there are a few who get on my nerves. I have put them into a few distinct categories.
Mr. Photo Op: He’s the guy who has never voted for a tax of any kind. In fact, he votes “no” on everything, and is against any new idea. However, he’s always smiling for the camera, holding the giant scissors in the ribbon-cutting photo for the new school that he voted against.
Ms. “I’m only here for the food.” She’s the city councilperson or school board member who never asks any questions, and rarely offers any ideas or solutions. She does, however, enjoy the free catered lunches, and will never miss an out-of-town conference to expensive hotels and restaurants.
Mr. “I’m not a politician.” He always insists he’s only a good ol’ boy, just one of us. He once helped coach a little league team, so he always reminds us of that on the election ballot, as in, “John (Coach) Doe.” He doesn’t really keep up with the issues, but he does smile a lot, volunteers at the concession stand, and will pay for your lunch. He has never lost an election.
Mr. “Doesn’t stand a chance.” Nobody ever sees or hears from him. We’re not sure if he lives in the district, or even the state. But as sure as daylight becomes dark, every election year, he shows up and runs for something. He’s usually attempting to settle a score, like when the sheriff locked him up for DUI on a lawnmower. He’s never gotten more than thirteen votes, but he loves to see his name on a ballot.
Mr. “Let’s Make a Deal.” He’s part of that grand political tradition: what’s in it for me? After being on the city council or county commission for a few years, people begin to notice. He has a nice home, a new car, and he wears fine clothes. What he doesn’t have, is a job. Someone once made the accusation that he could be “bought.” He took offense, saying, “That is an outrageous statement! I cannot be bought!” After a short pause, he said, “But I CAN be rented for a few days…”
Ms. “Now you see me, now you don’t.” During campaign season, she’s on full display. Her signs are everywhere, and she accepts every invitation to speak. But when a controversial tax increase is being considered, suddenly she is very busy. She dodges reporters like an NFL running back. And on decision day, she votes for the tax hike, and then quietly excuses herself, heading to an “appointment” through the back door. But just like birds that migrate north each spring, she’ll be back in time for the next election season.
Mr. “I was confused.” He votes against a complicated proposal, and when there are unpopular repercussions, he pleads confusion. “I thought I was voting FOR it,” he explains, demanding a re-vote. Oh yes, he will be re-elected.
Finally, Mr. “No Comment.” The most frustrating one of all. Despite the fact he was elected by, and is paid by the people, he will refuse to answer questions from reporters, or even his constituents. Try that with your boss, and see how it goes. “Young man, did I just see you taking money out of the cash register?” “Uh…no comment!” Hello, unemployment line.
All this political talk reminds me of a story. A congressman was on the campaign trail, giving his stump speech. He closed by saying, “So go out and vote for me on Tuesday!” An elderly man jumped up from his seat, and yelled, “Not me! Not me! I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter himself!” The congressman looked him right in the eye and replied, “No sir, you wouldn’t. Because if I was St. Peter, you wouldn’t be living in my district!”