Of all the analyses of both Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 election, one question is not getting the attention it deserves.
How will the high winds affect the cardboard political signs that have been reaching peak concentration along the state’s roadways?
Will Sandy knock down the most visible aspect of the months-long effort of some members of our community to get elected to positions of leadership? Will undecided and persuadable voters have to go to the polls without being forced to see so many names of people running for office? Will that make any difference at all in the outcome of next week’s election?
We are not likely to find out. Voters may not like the signs but the candidates do, and they are probably going to be part of the political landscape for a while.
These signs provide little information — sometimes no more than the last name and office sought — but are integral part of what people expect a campaign to look like. Aside from knocking on doors, putting up a lot of signs is the key piece of evidence that a candidate is “working hard” and is willing to do what it takes to win. This makes a candidate look “serious” and worth considering for a vote.
Putting up a lot of signs usually means that a candidate has raised some money, and it usually means that he or she has a good group of volunteers. Both send good messages to voters who might know nothing more than the candidate’s name.
Which is really the whole point. The signs don’t tell you how candidates feel about the issues, and they usually don’t say which party they belong to, even though that is often the most important piece of information a voter can have.
They do, however, cement a last name in the public mind (unless the signs are for a certain former governor with a name so unusual and familiar that he can be known on his signs by his first name only, like Madonna).
With more money than ever flooding into our campaigns, roadside signs someday may become a quaint artifact of the past, such as pin-on campaign buttons. Until then, however, not even gusty winds will likely make candidates give up their roadside signs.
Probably because of the one piece of information they invariably convey: After all the talking, it’s time to vote!