The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

ELECTIONS: Well, the silly portion of the political season has finally arrived and not a moment too soon, I think; the voters can always use some diversion. This year we are all a-buzz about election signs and posters vanishing from roadsides the length and breadth of our happy little burg, vanishing with the rapidity of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies off the top of your grandmother’s oven. There’s no apparent pattern to the thefts; signs for Republican and Democratic candidates alike are disappearing during the dark of night with equal speed, with each side declaring that they are the injured party and blaming the other for the political pilferage. The local constabulary is now hot on the case, the gendarmes declaring that they will get to the bottom of the mystery posthaste and once again make our streets safe for politicians to annoy honest citizens.

Frankly, I don’t care if the signs ever reappear; the streets look just fine without them. I can remember the day when one such sign was put up on a telephone pole near a busy intersection on South Cedar Street, announcing that the gentleman running for office was an outsider, new to politics and, unlike his predecessor, who'd been in office for the better part of thirty years, not at all susceptible to the blandishments and corruption that come with political power; the poster finally weathered away halfway through the man’s third term in the state legislature.

And if the posted signs were in any way protected from the elements then they would never go away, remaining year after year until they became an embarrassment. One famously bald local politico had to paper over a poster like this at a bridge underpass; it had been there for years, reminding the voters that when they first voted the man into office he’d had a full head of hair and only one chin. Some politicians, on the other hand, do that sort of thing on purpose. You can save a lot of money on signs recycling last election’s signs for this campaign. It’s good for the environment as well.

I can see the point of stealing some signs. I’ve read somewhere that there are approximately 86,000 governmental bodies in the United States, the vast majority of which hold elections to determine who gets to run things. There’s so many state senators, assemblymen, aldermen, mayors, school board members, town supervisors, and library board trustees running at any given time that no voter can keep track off them all, and before long they all start to blur together in one's mind. The first time you really know who the candidates for some of these offices are comes when you see their names on the ballot. You have no clue who some of these people are, what with their signs disappearing left, right, and center, and in that case why not just vote for the incumbent, since you really don't want to waste your vote on someone you've never heard of and who was obviously not clever enough to steal his opponent's signs. Letting someone too dumb to steal his opponent's signs anywhere near the public coffers is not a good idea, I think; if he doesn't notice his signs are missing what else won't he notice when he actually has the job?

You don’t always need signs or posters to run for office. A few years ago my brother became the president of our local volunteer fire company, elected for reasons that surpasseth understanding, as the Good Book often says of the Lord when He goeth about smiting the hips and thews of passersby for no immediately discernible reason. My brother was a write-in candidate; he agreed to run because a firehouse faction, and yes, we have those here, needed a warm body in the race. My brother won, which everyone in the family found very odd, and makes one question the wisdom of the whole concept of universal suffrage. In the United States, candidates for public office run for that office; in the United Kingdom, a more politically sedate country, candidates stand for office. My brother is one of the few political candidates anywhere who sat on his ass on a barstool for office. He has since retired from the presidency, laying down the onerous burdens of civic responsibility and returning to a richly deserved private life, ending all too early a none too promising political career. He remains firmly ensconced on his barstool, however, offering sage political advice to all and sundry, which is what got him into trouble in the first place.

So for some, but not all, political races, stealing signs is not at all a bad idea. This, however, brings up the question of why anyone would steal the signs of the presidential candidates? Signs or not, it’s not like the populace doesn’t know who’s running, what with those two guys all over the evening news every night of the week and twice on Sunday. Still, you can never be too careful. I bring my Keep Cool With Coolidge sign into the house with me every night. You never know when you’ll run into a John Davis Democrat; better to be safe than sorry. People were awfully bitter about Davis' losing back in 1924.


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