Sunday, April 03, 2005

I Would Have Said Eric Byrnes, But the Letter 'Z' is So Darn Funny

We are in the midst here in Oakland of a political contest based on a brilliant idea but doomed to ruin by faulty execution. The outcome will be sheer folly. In the neighborhood where we live, our city council member has quit in the middle of his term, and the election to replace him is being done by mail-in ballot, which I think is splendid. Coaxing the voter, making it easy for the voter, is democracy pure and simple. Let's get the citizenry voting, I say, and hope that making it easy to do removes an anxiety, makes the act seem inevitable in the way that brushing your teeth is inevitable, and thus creates an incentive to learn more about the candidates. If that does not create wiser voters intent on the good of the republic, perhaps it will move self-interested voters a little closer to understanding what their self-interest actually is. If not admirable or enlightened, at least the results will be coherent.

So far so good. There's a window of several weeks between getting the ballot and the deadline for sending it in. I think this softer deadline will make it more likely that voters will pursue answers to their questions about the candidates rather than making their vote a last minute decision, impulsive and confused. We shall see. But the defect in all this is that this election does not allow for a runoff, and nine candidates are running. In theory a candidate could win with a little more than 11 percent of the vote. A council member chosen by a third or less of the electorate seems all but guaranteed.

One of the candidates asked for permission to put a sign in our yard. We said no. The campaign put a sign in front of our house in the little strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb. We have declared hegemony over this strip of grass. I now tell you that I have doctored the sign. It now says the incumbent council member supports Barry Zito for the seat he is vacating.

In the aftermath of vigorous and controversial off-season trading in which star pitchers were sent hither and thither, Barry Zito is now the ace of the Oakland A's pitching staff. I am proud to support him on opening day and every other day.

Hmmmmm. I seem to be turning this whole election into some kind of joke. But the politicians got there first.

Addendum: My wife says the information on our yard sign consists of more than words. In spite of the alteration, shape and color may communicate to some that we support a certain candidate whom we do not support. As for the apparent enthusiasm for Barry Zito, viewers may simply assume we have a teenaged son who is adding to the original sentiment of the sign but not obliterating it. I believe the word is palimpsest. Also, Zito gave up four earned runs in six innings. The sign comes down.

1 comment:

B. Wieder said...

Put the sign back up. If Baltimore is a sign of things to come, he may need the job.