Today’s Courier Herald Column:
The Georgia campaign season is set as of noon today. At that time, qualifying will end for all of Georgia’s Congressmen, State Senators and Representatives, and many local level office holders.
Many incumbents will be running for re-election. Too many will run unopposed. They’re familiar with the system. Quite a few are even jaded by it. Regardless, they generally know what to expect during a long hot summer culminating in a July 31st primary date.
The “lucky” few who enter runoff elections will get a few extra weeks of door to door campaigning in the August heat and humidity. For those, they will know if they are their party’s nominee on August 21st, the date primary runoffs will be held.
First time candidates are set for a reality check. Promises made by activists, friends, consultants, and other politicians for support while talking one into becoming a candidate often fail to materialize. Some of that is the fault of the sin of good intentions. Often the fault lies with the candidate for hearing what he wanted to hear instead of what was actually said.
This phenomenon often results in endorsements that aren’t actual endorsements. Candidates talking to other elected officials often receive encouraging words of some sort. Most politicians will give other perspective office holders similar quotes. Those who choose to twist “I think you’ll do great, best of luck” into an endorsement are either naïve into the system of which they have just become a part, or deliberately manipulating the words of what was said and what was not for their own benefit.
First time candidates also love the phrase “I am not a politician”. In a shocking turn of events, it has been revealed if your name is on a ballot and you’re asking me to vote for you, you’re a politician. Don’t begin your new career with such self-loathing. It’s unseemly and projects that you don’t either understand who you are, what you’re trying to be, or that I’m too stupid to figure this out.
Despite that many voters are actually ignorant, a candidate can’t tell them that. Which is unfortunate, as some could use that knowledge. Or any knowledge. But they should leave that to opinion writers. We like to pretend we know everything. Much like politicians like to pretend they can solve all of our problems.
Political consultants have the job of telling the candidate that they’re ignorant. They get the job of explaining to the candidate who wants to gut and replace the tax code with a flatter system of taxes with fewer deductions is translated to the voters as “Jobs!”. They will also note to their clients that the best way to project that the candidate best represents the party of limited government is to produce direct mail promising to add government regulations to marriage and to express freedom of religion by promising to stop the spread of Sharia Law.
And then there’s the job of the voter. First time candidates who believe they have fallen into a reality version of Mister Smith Goes to Washington are about to find the level of indifference within the general public. Many voters are completely unaware of the summer primary, but after dutifully listing to the candidate’s pitch will pledge to vote for them in November. Others will quickly ask what party the candidate is from, and then say “I always vote for the Republican (or Democrat)”. The look on one of these voter’s face as you try to explain that there are primary elections where you have to choose which Republican or Democrat will still be around in November is something every candidate should experience early, so they understand what they’ve really gotten themselves into.
And after weeks of all this campaigning, the campaign will end as it begins: With most voters on vacation. Those who are leaving town to begin summer with a Memorial Day vacation are also likely to be out of town for one last trip of summer before school begins the next week. Cynics would say that would be to hold down the number of non-core voters as parties choose their nominees. Cynicism is also commonly defined as the power of accurate observation.
Whether you’ve just begun a campaign, or are planning a vacation, have a great weekend. We’ll resume “normal” activities here next week for those who are still around.