This was a column of mine originally published on 7/31/12. There’s probably a few of you that have excess energy and can’t sleep about now…or about 5am. Maybe it will help.
There’s a time honored tradition for those who work on campaigns. The night before the election, entrances to polling places (always 150 feet from the building. Always.), key intersections, and anywhere else there is a blade of free grass on a high traffic corridor are littered with candidate’s signs. It’s doubtful that these signs change many if any votes.
If anything, they at least serve as a not so subtle reminder that today is the day to vote. For a primary that is held in the heat of the Summer, as families are trying to get the last few vacation days before an ever earlier school year starts, voting for partisan nominees of state and local offices are frankly not on most people’s radar.
Those putting up signs overnight are not “most people”. Some are working their first campaign, and maybe are just volunteering for the night to help out a candidate or a friend working on the campaign. But mostly they are the veterans. Those who find sign duty as a cathartic sign (pun not really intended) that the campaign is over. Virtually all that can be done has been done.
The act of putting out relatively meaningless signs is more about burning off unspent energy and pre-election day jitters than achieving an actual accomplishment. Driving late into the night from precinct to precinct burns a little gasoline, and a lot more restless energy.
For many, this campaign has been well over a year in the making. For some, more than two. There have been plans made and executed. Money was raised and spent. Mailers were created and have (hopefully) already hit mailboxes. Phones have been called. With the exception of a possible grip and grin visit by the candidate at a breakfast and lunch restaurant, and a little bit of sign waving at major intersections, not more can be done at this point.
And thus we wait. And while we wait, we may as well put up signs.
I haven’t actively worked or volunteered on a campaign for several cycles, but I did join a friend of mine who served as campaign manager for sign duty last night. It was strangely familiar. We drove. We talked, but not about anything in particular or anything constructive. It was just a bit of time to catch up, with no real agenda. For those who don’t work on campaigns (or write about them), it’s difficult to understand how refreshing it is to have Seinfeld conversations – those that are about nothing.
When you’re working a campaign or are constantly around politics, you begin to presume that most conversations have some sort of agenda. During sign duty, there are no agendas other than to get to the next precinct, find a spot where a sign will catch the eye of passing traffic, and wish that it had rained more recently so that the sign stakes or holders would more easily and quickly go into the ground.
It was a good time. Not for anything we did, but mostly for what we weren’t doing. In short, it was a brief time to relax. It was the ritual that the end is near. Good or bad, there is little left of this election cycle but to count the votes Tuesday night.
Some will then move on to runoff elections. Those are sprints that begin right away. Others will move on to November elections. In an era of gerrymandered districts, these contests at the state and local level are now few and far between.
Tonight, we’ll have a pretty good picture of what Georgia’s government is going to look like starting next January. We’ll know if we have a “solution” for traffic or an even bigger problem. We’ll know how we feel about ethics, gambling, and personhood. And then we can go back to our conversations with agendas and our strategizing and campaigning.
But for now, until 7pm, we wait.