Time to go vote for something…

Elections – don’t ya just love ’em?

With California’s direct primary election just days away, I’m sure plenty of potential voters – some of whom might actually be registered – are scratching their heads in bewilderment over the diverse selection of politicians and measures seeking their endorsement on Election Day.

Admittedly, picking the right candidate is no easy choice – just check out the past decade or so of decisions we’ve made at the polls.

The great majority of us spend most of our time agonizing over the selection of the least worst candidate or proposition on the ballot, and still wind up kicking ourselves into insensibility over our choices a year or so later.

Sad as it may seem, not all of us have the time to attend every political debate, read through every voters packet and peruse every piece of campaign literature that comes our way.

Fortunately, there are a few general guidelines that we can all follow to help get us through Election Day with a minimum of future repercussions.

For example, consider campaign signage.

If you come across a candidate who’s got something like 33 campaign signs on every block, you should probably steer clear of him.

At the very least, all those signs are annoying. They also tell the voter that the candidate in question has spent something like $7.5 million on a collection of communitywide eyesores. If this guy can squander that kind of money on an excess of unsightly campaign signs, what’s he going to do with our taxpayer dollars if and when he’s elected?

On the other hand, the candidate who thinks that tacking up three posters painted by his 9-year-old granddaughter constitutes a slam-bang campaign also bears watching. In political circles, this is the kind of candidate we refer to as an idiot…

Beware, too, the political hopeful who spends all his time slamming an opponent’s record, personality and sexual preferences while telling you absolutely nothing about himself. This guy either has no political platform of his own or he’s keeping away from his own political record because he’s wanted on felony arrest warrants in three states.

Then there are the guys who attach themselves very loosely to the coattails of famed – preferably dead – statesmen in order to make their point.

In Tuesday’s election, for example, there’s at least one organization (which shall remain nameless) that begins its printed argument against a much-debated regional transportation measure with the words of former President Ronald Reagan: “There they go again!”

Uh-huh…

I’m sure the late president at one time also said, “Everybody in the pool!” and “Honey, have you seen my burgundy cummerbund?” but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what any such statement has to do with a 2006 transportation measure in Solano County.

Just dense, I guess…

Originally published June 4, 2006

Are you ready for November?

If you’re like a lot of Californians, you woke up the morning after the March 2 primary election much like one wakes up following three days of dedicated barhopping on the wrong side of Seattle.

You know how it goes, sort of shaking your head and asking yourself with painful slowness, “What have I done? Why did I do it?”

Sure, you walked into that voting booth feeling pretty confident that you knew the issues and the players.

After 15 minutes or so of staring at the 21st-century electronic voting screen, though, it’s likely you found yourself wondering if you’d made the right choices.

By the next morning, things were getting even woozier, weren’t they?

It all seemed so simple and, yet…

Even worse, we’re going to have go through all this again in November and that’s the election that can give us shakes and night sweats for the next four years if we’re not careful.

(OK, everybody who voted for Richard Nixon or Gray Davis, raise your pale, clammy hands.)

Despite the fact that studies show Americans prefer to get their election advice from Comedy Central and slightly inebriated radio talk show hosts rather than the news media, I’m going to give you a few valuable tips that should help you avoid the morning-after-election blues.

*   First of all, don’t put your faith in the political parties – or all your politicians in one basket, or something like that.If you vote a strict party line, you’re likely to elect a whole mess of Democrats or Republicans, neither of which have done a helluva lot of good in the past 40 years. Vote instead for an individual you believe in or for one who, at least, has promised to put a chicken in every garage or who has the coolest wristwatch.

*   Follow the money, too.  Look for the candidate who’s spent the most money on his or her campaign and then vote for somebody else. Let’s face it, if some goofball has to spent $171 million on an election campaign, he’s probably covering something up.

*   Beware the candidate who seems more interested in his opponent’s past or qualifications than he does his own. Either this guy has a serious identity problem or he’s trying to divert attention from his own shortcomings – or his most recent grand jury indictment.

*   View with suspicion any political action group with a name like “People for the Reform of Honesty in America’s Environment for God and Our Neighborhoods.”

Groups like this invariably are made up of a small, but wealthy, special interest coalition whose goals are exactly the opposite of what their name implies. The aforementioned organization, for example, would probably be lobbying for the right to dump radioactive neighborhood churches into the ocean without so much as a toxic-church-disposal permit.  And the spending warning for individual politicians applies to political action groups as well.

If “Americans Who Really Care About Education and Safe Salmon Fisheries” has to spend $213 million to convince the voters of their sincerity, they’re probably planning to burn our schools to the ground during the biggest damned salmon barbecue ever conducted west of the Mississippi.

Really. I wouldn’t kid you on something as important as politics, amigos…

Originally published March 21, 2004