Analysis

Serious business: seducing the California voter

California voters on election day casting their ballots in Los Angeles. (Photo: Josephn Sohm, via Shutterstock)

This, too, shall pass.

There will come a day in the not-too-distant future when we’ll be able to sit down in front of our television sets or computer screens without being subject to political campaign commercials. Hallelujah!

Between now and Nov. 6, however, we can all entertain ourselves with a new hobby while enduring the spots. What’s the hobby? Trying to figure out all the deceptive scheming that goes into what we’re seeing.

Make it clear that any ballot measure you oppose will “raise taxes on homeowners and families,” not to mention “hardworking Americans.”

There are a lot to choose from: Here’s a listing of the hundreds of political ads that have run in the San Francisco Bay area since July. And here is a collection of California political ads reported in April by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

There are certain iron rules that creators of state political advertising must follow:

–You must speak disparagingly of “politicians,” particularly “Sacramento politicians.” This holds true even if the candidate you’re working for desperately wants to become a Sacramento politician. Sacramento politicians smoke large cigars Behind Closed Doors while throwing away hard-earned taxpayer dollars (taxpayer dollars are always “hard-earned”) on “pet projects.” A close second are “out-of-state politicians.” They’re almost as bad. Those scheming Iowans, you know.

–Be sure to make it clear that any ballot measure you oppose will “raise taxes on homeowners and families,” not to mention “hardworking Americans.” In political commercial-talk, all Americans are “hardworking.” There are no “lazy, good-for-nothing Americans,” but if there were, they would not have their taxes raised.

–If you’re faced with a really tough challenge in defeating a ballot proposal, start screaming about an irrelevant issue. A proposal to ensure that all schoolchildren be reminded to brush their teeth? Easy. Just scream that it won’t do anything to reduce traffic congestion.

Go over every available photo of your opponent so you can convert at least one of them – the ugliest — into a grainy, black-and-white image that goes well with ominous music.

–Remember, a television spot for a candidate must do two things: solidify the party base with lots of red meat and at the same time, win over voters who are still undecided. That’s tricky, because while red meat may cause the party faithful to swoon, it may turn off the undecided. Fortunately, there’s the Muddle Option. Advocate “universal health care” while praising existing health care as “the best in the world.”

–You must let the voters know that your candidate, upon arrival in Sacramento, will be such a commanding figure that he or she will, in no time at all, single-handedly clean up the mess. (There’s always a mess.) Never mind the governor, and what the other 119 lawmakers might think. Sacramento will become a place where everyone will stand in awe of your new arrival.

–Come up with a simple, glittering campaign slogan. ‘Make America Great Again” worked great for Donald Trump. Remember, it has to fit on a bumper sticker – not like Al Franken’s description of a Democratic bumper sticker: “Blah, blah, blah — continued on the next bumper sticker.”

–Graphics are important. Have your entry-level staffers or interns go over every available photo of your opponent so you can convert at least one of them – the ugliest — into a grainy, black-and-white image that goes well with ominous music.

In a state as big as California, you can call political campaigning an industry. And most of the money raised goes to TV ads.

–Never, under any circumstances, allow a commercial where the husband explains something to the wife. No, no, no. The wife has to explain how awful the candidate or ballot proposition is to the husband. She explains to her really dim husband how Those People are behind that nefarious scheme that will result in their house being taken away, not to mention how it will increase traffic congestion.

It’s serious business, this seduction of voters.

In a state as big as California, you can call political campaigning an industry. And most of the money raised goes to TV ads.

For instance, the Secretary of State’s latest financial disclosure reports show that $47 million has been raised by both sides of Proposition 6, the ballot measure to repeal the road-repair gas tax.

Proposition 8, however, has it beat: More than $105 million has been raised by foes of the measure, which would require dialysis clinics to issue refunds under certain circumstances.

Those are just two of the 11 measures on the Nov. 6 ballot. And it’s not over yet. Owners of television stations, advertising agencies and consultants are ordering new carpeting.

Somewhere in California there’s a candidate devoted to speaking honestly to voters – telling the unvarnished truth, come what may.

You’ll find that candidate right there next to the unicorn.

 


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