Friday, September 25, 2015

Money Changes Nothing (Part II of a continuing series)

(Part One, "Money Changes Everything", brought a smarting rebuke, you may recall.)

With midyear fundraising north of $7 million and a throng of top-tier candidates, Houston voters were expected to see a barrage of mayoral advertising across the airwaves come fall. Yet, the race is only now crawling onto television.

To date, five candidates have paid a combined $1.6 million to advertise on network television, half of what was spent on TV in the last open-seat race in 2009.

Instead, they are embracing other advertising methods and retail politics: door-knocking, community appearances and a seemingly endless slog of forums.

"The campaign's not about who's going to win the air war," University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said. "It's about who's going to win the ground war."

I'm going to stop there with the excerpt because Rottinghaus got it right.  The rest is just politico/consultant crap.

Teevee advertising does not persuade undecideds to vote.  Everybody who intends to do so -- something on the order of about 15% of registered Houstonians -- will, and the other 85% are too busy or too bored to do so.  There's no compelling motivator for the casual, occasional voter outside of HERO, and everybody already has their minds made up about that.  Ben Hall's record may be under assault from pro-King forces, but that's a side skirmish.
Because the universe of active and engaged voters is so minuscule (no, I did not spell it wrong), teevee advertising isn't going to persuade those who are voting to do so for someone besides the person have already chosen.  There is likely some meaningful number in context with the afore-mentioned 15% who have only narrowed their choice down to a couple or three men (sorry, but the runoff qualifiers are going to be cis-males) and if those people make an ultimate decision based on a teevee commercial, then the electorate is even more ignorant than I would have believed.  And to use just one specific example, Steve Costello's ad buys -- he should already have plenty of name recognition after three winning citywide races -- are the greatest waste.  But 625 large is peanuts to him.  Like Donald Trump, he can spend whatever he chooses; the best thing you can say about that fact is that he can't be bought (theoretically, at least).

The newspaper only reports the teevee and radio advertising expenditures as a measure of their resentment.  They aren't getting any of that money, you see.  And therein lies the real problem: the system has been corrupted by all of this cash flowing in, but the medium most likely to report that story doesn't.  This story being reported is one that only some campaign staffers, a few whored-out professional consultants, and a small cadre of contemptuous bystanders (like me) care about.  If that is 1000 people in the entire city of Houston, I would be surprised.

Accounts of fundraising totals, campaign finance reports, media buys, and the evaluation of "viability" attached to such, are the sniffles and coughs of a body politic with a bad case of affluenza.  But the pols aren't going to do anything about it, and the media that benefits from the advertising isn't going to so much as mention it.  The fat cats who write the big checks, and call in their chits after the election, like the system just the way it is.  Sick.  After all, they know people who know how to profit obscenely by raising the price of medicine.

Oh, there are a couple of presidential candidates talking about healing the system, and there's a populist movement laying the foundation for eventually changing it, but they are low voices and short on helping hands.

If you're one of those people who doesn't care what's going on with the mayor and city council races, you're not reading this blog or this story in the paper.  If you're one of those people who's still undecided about who to vote for, or which way you might go on HERO, you might ought to report to the nearest Texas MH/MR facility for a psychological competence exam.

And if you do -- care, that is; you have a pretty good idea about who you're voting for, when you will vote (first day of early voting, somewhere in-between, or on Election Day) -- then very little of what I have written here is influencing you.  Your mind is made up.

But there's seven million bucks in potential ad revenue, and ad buy commissions, and political staff and their resume' garnishments at stake.  For those couple of hundred folks, the stakes are high.

For the two men who move on to the one-on-one in December, it's a big deal, of course.  Their futures are heavily invested.  It's a BFD to them, their families and supporters, and certainly the people they will owe some payback to if they wind up getting to sit in the big chair in the middle of the horseshoe down on Bagby.

Ads you see on teevee for the next five or six weeks -- or most probably, all the ones you won't see -- will have nothing to do with the outcome in November.  The real contest comes after that.  The playoff, in December.

So if I were one of those profoundly indifferent 85%-ers in H-Town, I'd go back to watching millionaires bash their brains out for the entertainment of a few billionaires and a couple hundred million Idiocrats.  You know: the people who put on jerseys, paint their faces, scream and cry at their teevees over a duel of gladiators.

That's the real game, with the real money being spent, on your teevee.  And if, Flying Spaghetti Monster forbid, a political advertisement comes on in the middle of it, hit fast forward or change the channel.

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