Monday, December 4, 2023

Summer mood

What gives in City Politics?

  What a lovely summer we’ve had here in the Swamp!

     The relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions has reopened restaurants, bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and other popular sites for indoor recreation.  The recent heat wave notwithstanding, the weather has been gorgeous for outdoor pursuits.  Gun violence is an ongoing concern, but for the most part those blasts you hear at night are, in fact, fireworks.

     Speaking of safety, one thing seemingly hasn’t recovered from pandemic-fueled restrictions, and it too has contributed to a relaxing summer season.  Namely, the summer has been oddly devoid of City Politics. 


Campaign lite

     What gives? Normally, campaign season has its unofficial kickoff concurrent with outdoor festival season.  Most festivals were canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic, but they’re back this year with record breaking attendance.  In a typical summer, every festival is crawling with sweaty, red-faced pols kissing hands and shaking babies. Or some such. You know, stumping for votes.

     This year, apart from some parade appearances, most festivals and other outdoor events we’ve attended were delightfully hack free.  Mud Hens games, outdoor concerts, all clear.  Nary a clipboard in sight, leaving us to sip warm overpriced beer at our leisure.

     The other sure signal of campaign season is the roadside littered with campaign signs. Large billboards at every crossroads. Smaller signs on slender wires along every major thoroughfare, getting slowly weather beaten and bent out of recognition.

     To date, the roads have been mostly empty of such litter. Oh, there are signs here and there.  But nothing like the usual disorganized flock of cardboard and plastic demanding attention.

     Likewise campaign literature. The usual raft of muddied roadside trash with grinning pols and vague promises is largely absent from local gutters.  We haven’t noticed any gaggles of campaign volunteers with sweat-stained t-shirts stumping door to door, either.  

          Watching television? It’s been relatively politics light. Campaign mailers are a bit more numerous, maybe even more than normal, but those aren’t as annoying, because they can easily be ignored and recycled.

Don’t work harder, work smarter 

     We can only speculate as to why the summer has been this way.  There aren’t as many impediments to annoying pols begging cloyingly for votes as in the pandemic years.  Perhaps some candidates haven’t fully gotten out of COVID campaign protocols.  Or maybe they are struggling to raise money, which could also be a hangover from COVID restrictions.

      We don’t think these explanations are correct.  We think it’s more likely that there is a crop of younger, smarter, more strategic candidates this year.  See, stumping for votes at festivals or other large gatherings is extremely non-targeted. The number of attendees who are registered to vote, let alone registered in Ohio, let alone registered at an address in the correct district to vote for this particular candidate, let alone likely to vote in a weird August primary and pull the ballot for the party of this candidate, is probably very close to zero.  Pols typically do it anyway because it’s always been done, and their opponent is probably doing it. Never mind that it’s a colossal waste of time and energy.

     Ditto TV commercials. Non-targeted, thus non-strategic. Waste of money, waste of time. Same with yard signs. Non-targeted.  Thousands of people will see both. The vast majority of those people are not registered likely voters in your district.

     Door to door can target registered likely voters, as determined by public voting records, but COVID has changed the likelihood of folks answering doors.

     What is left? Direct mail. Voting lists can target registered voters in the correct district who are likely to vote in an off election and likely to pull the correct party ballot. It is cheaper. Perfectly targeted. Strategic.  Mailers can be sent in waves, building specific messages. They can even be tailored to messages likely to resonate with different voters.

     Like we said, smarter.

     We hope this is the explanation. Because if so, as the OG pols fade away, the new generation will rely mostly on direct mail, supplemented by minimal door to door. And every summer can be as delightful as this summer has been.

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