The Season of Political Literature

I notice my wastebasket filling up with political literature as the season gets into full swing. Currently we’re approaching primary season, and because I’m registered as an independent, I don’t get much during the primaries. My wife is registered with one of the parties (though I’ll note that her voting habits are as independent as mine) so we still get plenty of literature.

The literature normally consists of a card or a flyer, and there is never any substantial information. There isn’t space for it. It’s just packaging and campaign slogans. Behind he literature there are good candidates and bad, but the campaign content is always shallow.

In trying to learn about the candidates I will read interviews in newspapers, I’ll peruse websites, though many of those are as bad as the mailed literature, and I’ll do some research. I’ll do my best not to be influenced by campaign ads, though I have been turned off to a few candidates by the kind of ads they aired or printed.

The only information that will come in the mail that I appreciate is the sample ballot sent by our Supervisor of Elections. Shortly after we receive that, my wife and I will have a discussion, one we have before each election. We’ll each mark the ballot and then we’ll go through them and discuss each candidate and issue and the choice we’ve made on our own. (She researches candidates much as I do.) We’ll discuss our choices. Sometimes we change one another’s mind on some candidate or issue (especially on issues).

Campaigns and candidates often remind me of a present one member of our family gave another. I forget who was the giver and the recipient, but the present was very small, and the giver wrapped one box in another until it was the largest package under the Christmas tree. It took a long time to unwrap. At least the present was nice, though small.

In the case of campaigns, it often seems that one works and works to unwrap the candidate, only to find another bit of packaging. We’ve handed the campaigns over to the packagers, the political consultants and professional campaign managers.

I say “we” here intentionally. It’s easy to blame everyone else, but many people will show up at the polls this year barely acquainted with the names of the candidates, if they even know that. They will have a positive or negative impression that is built from ads and is based more on how good of a team each of those candidates fielded, specifically how good that team was at packaging their candidate favorably, and harming the other candidates packaging.

If the media did their job, researching and informing us, it would change things a great deal. But the media won’t do that unless we, the readers and viewers demand it, and refuse to support those news sources that fail to do so. Ultimately, the one and only thing that can change the way elections work is an electorate that wants the information to make an intelligent choice.

What can we each do? Be an informed voter and encourage others to do so as well. That’s the most important thing we can do.

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