Have you seen those puzzles which show you two seemingly identical pictures but ask you to spot a dozen subtle differences between them? Well, no one would mistake Dallas for my Pacific Northwest hometown, but in this period of national branding they each have their Starbucks and Half-Price Books, their Nordstroms and Macy’s. And in these weeks leading up to Election Day both their airwaves are inundated with ads for and against candidates while signs promoting individuals running for office proliferate.
Yet there is a major difference. In the northwest, as you drive off the freeway exit and towards my house, the median strips and city-owned sidewalks are cluttered with campaign signs. In Dallas, at least in the neighborhood in which I am visiting, the only election signs I am seeing are on private property. The signs are sometimes huge – after all this is Texas – but they are on lawns and storefronts, not on community property.
What a great idea! If my neighbor or I want to show support for a candidate, we can make a statement by putting up a sign. There is both courage and meaning to this choice as we publicly proclaim our views. But signs strewn on public property carry no such significance. They are props to promote name recognition, not endorsement.
What a terrible way to encourage voters to choose a candidate. While Lindsay Lohan probably has greater name recognition than either Carly Fiorina or Barbara Boxer, I have no doubt she would make a terrible senator. Despite my opinion that she might be a better choice than the latter of those aspirants :), it is ridiculous to vote for anyone because his or her name is well-known. We should rather support a candidate because of a thorough analysis of his or her principles and track record.
In an ideal world, every candidate should eschew commercials in favor of debate and policy papers. An electorate deserving of statesmen rather than politicians would not respond to a 30 second ad that plays on emotions and may or may not be filled with falsehood. But as a first step, I think it would be praiseworthy for localities to assert that campaign signs are laudable only when they are sponsored by an individual who is willing to stand behind them.