Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Political campaigns have slogans and themes designed to “sell” the candidate. Television commercials, bumper strips, brochures and flyers attempt with the fewest words and the catchiest jingles to stick in your mind at least until election day. The best message is one that attracts the most viewers and listeners in a way that they might find themselves humming or repeating throughout the day. The problem with this form of campaigning is that the message is probably an over-simplification of issues, may contain misinformation, and may have little to do with real issues. They work, however, and that is why political operatives continue to use them.
Some catchy phrases that led to success at the ballot box resulted in some terrible public policies. “End Parole” as a slogan helped candidate George Allen defeat the then Attorney General Mary Sue Terry who was ahead in the polls by suggesting that criminals were being let out of jail and were walking the street. The resulting policy led to Virginia building many more prisons than needed and an unfair criminal justice system. Governor Jim Gilmore’s promise to “End the Car Tax” which was a local and not a state tax led to nearly a billion dollars being shifted from the state to local governments and starving the schools of nearly a billion dollars with a grossly unfair distribution of monies among jurisdictions.
I never had a jingle or a phrase to attract voters. Most that were suggested to me with words that rhyme with Plum did not, it seemed to me, to convey a positive message. Two songs were written about my service in the legislature. Leonard Greenberg wrote a song about my being a friend of the consumer. The Bobbie Pins, a sub-group of the Reston Chorale, did a song on my 25th anniversary of being in the House of Delegates.
A hymn sung a couple of weeks ago at the United Christian Parish of Reston that I attend came closest to being how I would like to be remembered. It would never fit the format of a political campaign, but it conveys a powerful message that reaches beyond any formal religion to moral and ethical living. “For Everyone born, a Place at the Table” written by Shirley Erena Murray (https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=nvJwuVQDdUQ). I am going to refer to it as a song for it has application beyond religious settings as a hymn.
The song speaks of inclusiveness that we so often speak about but do not achieve — for women and men, young and old, just and unjust, for everyone born. For everyone born, clean water and bread, a shelter, a safe place, the right to belong, justice and joy.
The result will be that as individuals and leaders, we will be admired “when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace.” Regardless of our religious beliefs, the God we know “will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy.”