Everyone's in a hurry these days. Kids can't wait to grow up. Retailers want us to start our Christmas shopping by Labor Day. And politicians want us to start thinking about voting for them six months before the election.
The blissful peace on the political front was broken in Georgia by incumbent Gov. Sonny Perdue last week when he regaled us with a folksy, feel-good television spot designed to convince us that he's a swell guy. The commercial was narrated by the Republican's favorite DINO (that's Democrat In Name Only for the acronym-challenged) Sen. Zell "Zig Zag" Miller.
Good old Zell, the renegade politician who campaigned vigorously for both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, extolled the personal and professional virtues of the sitting governor. The commercial's annoying catch phrase let us all know how lucky we are that "Sonny did" all the marvelous things that he's done with his life.
The ad was typical of the kind of thing you see early in a campaign, before all the mud-slinging begins a little farther down the road. It was heavy on the sugar but contained no real meat. I suppose we should enjoy the positivity of these early ads, because inevitably the candidates will go into attack-defend-counterattack mode as Election Day approaches and the competition intensifies.
If any of the candidates are interested in what kind of campaign advertising might sway this independent voter's opinion, I suggest they treat the situation like a job interview. They are applying for a specific position, and as voters we are trying to find the most qualified man or woman for the job.
Consider the kinds of things you'd want to know if you were looking for someone to do a specific task for you. Let's say you were looking for someone to fix the transmission on your car, for instance. What kinds of things would you want to know about the person who'd be doing the work for you?
First and foremost, you'd want to know if he knew his way around a transmission. You'd also want him to be honest, dependable and hardworking. It would be nice if he was also friendly and likeable, because those kinds of people are just more pleasant to be around, but that would be a much less important factor in your decision.
What kinds of things wouldn't matter in your quest for a competent mechanic? I for one wouldn't care where he went to church, what hobbies he had, how long he'd been married or how many kids or grandkids he had. All those things are important on a personal level, but they have no relevance to the issue at hand, which is getting my car fixed.
In a similar vein, I couldn't care less whether the person running for governor taught Sunday school or has a truckload of grandkids or played quarterback at the local high school 40 years ago. I'm happy he's led such a full life, but all I care about when I go into the voting booth is what kind of job skills he brings to the table and what he wants to accomplish to make our state a better place to live.
So my plea to Sonny and the rest of the candidates who'll soon be polluting the airwaves with their campaign ads is to stick to what matters. Don't waste our time trying to get us to fall in love with you. Tell us what, specifically, qualifies you to do the job you're applying for and what you want to accomplish if we hire you.
I'm sure you're all great guys and gals, but we are looking for workers, not best friends or people to baby-sit our kids.
- Bill Ferguson is a columnist for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org