Johnson's World: Vote for Me

With much more than a new president at stake, some say you can tell how important elections are by the amount of printing that is produced.

March 1, 2016

If you haven’t noticed, we are in the thick of presidential primary election season. We’ve been listening to the bellicose pronouncements of the many candidates for over a year. The more hostile the candidate, it seems, the more successful they are. The field has been narrowed down to a select few who also happen to be those who yell the loudest.

If you live in one of the states with early caucuses or primaries— namely Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina— you’ve already had your say as to which candidate will run in the general election.

If not, and if you are reading this article “hot off the press,” your turn to vote may very well be coming up right about now or within the next few weeks.

Will you be voting? Many people don’t. Statistics vary, but it is certain that no more than a quarter of eligible voters turn out for primaries. And that’s a shame.

I won’t try to convince you to vote for a particular candidate. If you are clever enough to read Johnson’s World, then you are smart enough to make up your own mind. No, instead I urge you to look beyond the incessant hype surrounding the presidential election and to look in your own backyard. The presidential nomination is only the first line on the ballot.

The entire United States House of Representatives is up for reelection, as is one-third of the U.S. Senate. Incumbents usually run unopposed in the primaries, but if you don’t like your congressman or senator the primary is where you will select his opponent.

Six state governors are up for re-election, and six more states will chose new governors. Furthermore, most of the seats in our country’s 98 bicameral state legislative bodies are also on the block.

Chances are the leaders of your local city, village, township, and county are on the ballot. Many are retiring, leaving vacancies to be filled. The same holds true for school boards, public libraries, and fire protection districts.

Some of these races are hotly contested and vitally important. These are, after all, the people who will decide if you’ll be allowed a building permit to add on to your house, if your snow will be plowed, or if your flooding will be mitigated.

If you aren’t in the “in” circle of local politics, how do you know how important an election is? How can you identify the hot issues?

The Answers Are in Print

Local and even state election budgets are quite small compared to those of presidential candidates. You’ll find no super-PAC money in everytown USA.

If a race is noncontroversial or uncontested, the candidate will conserve money. He may do nothing more than put out some posters in the city or yard signs in the country. Both of which, I note, are printed.

If a race is contested the candidate will put up a website that no one will visit. She’ll ask supporters to contact friends and neighbors, which can be very effective.

If a race has some hot-button issues that are locally controversial she may employ a service to make robo-calls, which do no good and annoy the voters.

What to do? The hardest-fought races require a medium as old as (and crucial to) our nation’s democracy itself: print.

You can tell how important an election is by the printing.

Some marketing gurus like to say that print is an unnecessary expense. They’re wrong, and professional political operatives know it. Any successful contested campaign uses fliers, brochures, and lots of postcards.

Printing is one way to yell the loudest. It can also be, however, a good way to seem intellectual and to get your points across above the roar of the crowd. If you really have a message and a plan, only print can convey that to the masses.

This spring I urge you to do your civic duty and vote in your primary election. Vote carefully. Vote thoughtfully. For goodness sake, vote for a candidate who stands for something and who takes the time and effort to be sure his or her campaign clearly states what the issues are and what their position is on those issues. There is really only one way to do that, of course, and that is in print.