This time of year sees the pages of this illustrious newspaper swell as the local citizenry comes forth articulating reasons why the rest of us should vote for their favorite candidate for selectman, school committee or dog catcher. Well, in actuality, there’s generally one letter writer per campaign, and then the candidate finds other folks to assign their name to the carefully crafted missive.
Endorsement letter writing has its own jargon. Certain things are code words for other, more insidious characteristics over which the letter writer hopes to gloss, or to which they hope to subliminally call attention. The following should serve as a handy dandy primer as one pores over the laudatory letters extolling the virtues of the respective candidates.
1. It’s Time for a Change
One of the most intellectually lazy retorts, this essentially translates into, “The person’s older than dirt and has lost it. Their on-the-job retirement must come to an end. Put someone in with a pulse, please.”
2. Knows the Community/Lifelong Resident
“I probably shoveled your driveway and dated your daughter. My opponent is a blow-in. This yuppie scumbag wants to turn our town into Cambridge. Vote the Townie Ticket.”
3. Is a Man of the People
“Not the brightest bulb on the chandelier, the lad never finished high school and has been on the business end of a monkey wrench ever since, but he is a lifelong resident.”
4. Has the Skills to Face the Tough Challenges
“He’s running against a ‘lifelong resident who is a man of the people’ — or a Townie idiot. He’s been here five years and has had enough of the amateur hour. He thinks he’ll run circles around these rubes based on his business degree and job experience.”
5. Puts the Children First
“They’ve never met a school program they didn’t like, and they are going to be banging the drum for school overrides so loudly your ears are going to bleed. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
6. Asks the Hard Questions
More of a social gadfly, they can ask the hard questions — they just don’t know what to do with the answer when they get it. Their approach is akin to that of someone taunting a chained junkyard dog who then needs someone to dial 911 for them to extricate said dog’s teeth from their backside.
7. Has Unfinished Business
“This bozo did nothing in the first term and hopes to come back and do nothing in the second term.”
8. Has no Hidden Agendas
“I’m running against a zealot, or a back-stabbing little twerp. Nobody likes that guy. I am the ABH candidate or Anybody But Him. If I win, I will run for a second term lamenting my unfinished business.”
9. Has the Experience for the Job
“Borderline senile, I’ve had the job three different times in the past 30 years and lost it again to an ‘It’s-Time-For-a-Change’ candidate. My wife and I are at each other’s throats, and I need to get out of the house. I figure harassing town hall employees is cheaper than a divorce. The legal budget is back in line, so let me come screw up the town again, for old time’s sake.”
10. Wants to Protect the Rural Character
” of my back yard. There is no way that development/industrial complex is going to ruin my scenic vista. If elected, I will do everything in my power to see that this development/industrial complex gets moved to the other side of town.”
There you have it folks, your own little primer on the hidden meaning behind endorsement letter buzzwords. If you can find none of those in the endorsement letter, then you just might have a candidate.
Mr. Woollacott is president and founder of Renaissance Group International Inc. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.