POLITICAL campaigns and races in rural counties have often been decided by just such seemingly whimsical reasoning.
However, if you’ve spent any time in rural areas, then you have some grasp of how small town people and farm folks look at elections and politicians. On the surface, that remark may seem foolish, but rural residents’ reasoning runs much deeper and more serious than that statement may seem.
Longtime residents of metropolitan areas probably think that’s a silly reason for voting or not voting for a candidate. But, having spent the majority of my life in small towns, and more than 50 years of my three-quarters century were in those communities editing and publishing newspapers, I understand the reasoning. It goes to character.
Yes, it says something about the speaker’s character, but it also raises the question of the depth of the candidate’s character.
While, metro residents may seem to be more attuned to issues, small town and rural folks put a lot of stock in a candidate who has the gumption and, yes, strength of character, to look a man in the eye, shake his hand and ask for his vote.
Numbers, of course, play a major role in how a candidate and his campaign people approach the race. If the area to be represented is sizable in both population and/or geographic area, much of the candidate’s appeal will be directed through appearances at events catering to candidates and through advertising and mass media messages to the electorate.
But, a candidate who dismisses the press-the-flesh/knock-on-doors approach as too time-consuming, colloquial and lacking depth is usually making a major mistake. And, to think that a voter who wants to look you in the eye probably doesn’t know what the issues are, is usually a misjudgement by a candidate and his campaign workers.
A VOTER who wants a candidate to shake his hand and look him in the eye can probably tell from the candidate’s reaction if the politician is committed plus confident in his depth of knowledge of the job and the issues.
Rural and small town folks have always done a lot of handshake business so they generally have a good feel for a person’s sincerity and honesty. Of course, there is a difference between a politician and someone you see and do business with regularly. Naturally, if the pol is local, he/she understands that they have to face most voters frequently. Maybe they see them shopping every week or go to the same church or hold civic club membership in common.
That kind of exposure will go a long way toward ensuring a candidate’s honesty. He knows he has to look the same people in the eye daily or weekly and there are less places to run and hide.
MY DAD was someone who did business on a handshake his entire life. His word was his bond and he was proud of that. Dad was also proud that other people came to him to do business because they knew his handshake was backed up by his word. And that was always good.
Dad didn’t trust any man, especially a politician, who couldn’t look you in the eye, shake your hand and talk to you.
He bought and sold cattle for most of his all-too-short 57 years. Cattle sellers would come to our house at such outrageous times as midnight because they KNEW Dad’s word was good. Even if they’d never met him, they knew he would treat them right.
Most people of his generation and before looked to politicians to be the same way. And, if a pol couldn’t shake their hand and look them in the eye, they weren’t going to get their vote.
It would be nice for that kind of trust to exist universally today.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.