The runoff elections, which to me are the political equivalent of sudden death overtime, are finally over here in Louisiana. I’m having a hard time adjusting to it. I still turn on the TV expecting to see some candidate come on and trash his opponent’s record, implying that the other shouldn’t be allowed to text in a vote on “American Idol.” Ah, if only they used penalty flags in political campaigns.
But for now, the politicians have vacated the airwaves, to the relief of all but the ad salesmen. Fortunately for them, another group has stepped in to fill the void. That would be the retailers and their badly re-written Christmas songs, making you out to be a Grinch if you don’t buy each of your kids a pair of $200 designer jeans with the holes pre-worn in exactly the right designer places.
There’s no doubt that such ads are effective, despite the fact that “JC Penny” doesn’t actually rhyme with “boughs of holly.” The question is, does advertising work just as well in getting out the vote? Based on a recent (actual) experience, a couple that I know was led to that impression.
On the day of this year’s general election, they were driving to their normal polling place. When they got to within a few blocks of it, they encountered a line of vehicles waiting to turn.
“Wow!” Anne commented to her husband, Doc. “I’ve never seen so many people coming out to vote as this year.”
“Yeah, isn’t it something?” Doc replied. “Well, this is a big election, and the candidates have all poured a lot of money into the campaign. It’s good to see that the voters have responded.”
“I know,” Anne said. “We ourselves vote in every election, even that one back in April where the only item on the ballot was that bond initiative to plant palm trees in front of the sewage lift station. You didn’t hear a peep about that one on the TV.”
“Well,” Doc told her, “I like to take my civic duty seriously and vote regardless of the amount of publicity. But for most people, I guess when they see all the ads it motivates them to take action.”
“It’s like the Black Friday of politics here,” Anne added.
Finally, their car reached the front, and Doc started to follow the line into the turnoff.
“Wait a minute!” Anne shouted. “This isn’t the polling place.”
“What is it, then?” Doc asked. “It’s where all the other cars are going.”
Anne looked out the window. “Doc, this is a Dairy Queen!”
“What? There ain’t no Dairy Queen around here.”
“Shoot! It’s that new one that just opened up. You know how people are in this town whenever a new restaurant opens. The school where we vote is in the next block. We did all this waiting for nothing!”
“Nah,” Doc replied. “I’ll be darned if I wait in a long line just for nothing. The hell with it; I’m going to go in that Dairy Queen and get us a couple of Blizzards.”
“That makes no sense. If you were waiting to get tickets to the ballet and found out you were actually in the line for the Monster Truck Rally, would you go to that instead? And what about all that stuff you just said about exercising your civic duty?”
“I am,” Doc answered. “I’m voting for the Dairy Queen, and from the looks of it, she’s gonna’ win by a landslide.”