How many clichés, and warm and fuzzy slogans can you fit on a campaign mailer or into a stump speech? We have the answer!

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Successful campaigns spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaign mailers: the art of making your candidate look good while saying nothing

Attention candidates: feel-good slogans for your speeches, mailers and brochures, guaranteed to elevate your profile and capture votes

“I am a proven civic leader with a clear progressive vision, courage and independence to tackle the big problems so everyone can thrive”. “I’ve proven experience to build a Seattle that is affordable, sustainable, and welcoming to all”. “I’m running to confront Seattle’s challenges and I’ll bring bold concrete solutions forward” “I’ll make sure our economy remains robust while offering solutions that ensure our neighborhoods remain vibrant and affordable to all.”

I wonder how many times during the current campaign for Mayor and City Council, that the candidates uttered clichés like these. Statements that fill candidate’s direct mails and glossy brochures and riddle their stump speeches while revealing little on where they actually stand on the key issues affecting Seattle.

You’ll see either vapid phraseology or really good but innocuous stuff that virtually everyone in Seattle agrees with – repeated on mailer after mailer, usually below or above a doctored image of the candidate, head up, a hand raised and finger pointed forward. Or they might be at a podium addressing the masses clenched fist raised, eyes and face determined as confident and solid as the rock of Gibraltar.

In other cases, you’ll see the candidate over coffee addressing a fawning diverse group of the candidate’s supporters. Then there’s the “rugged outdoors” shot. Perhaps they’re hiking and surrounded by their well-scrubbed family. Or better yet, squeezed into a kayak looking ready for whitewater (making sure the person holding it is strategically positioned off-camera).

It got me thinking just how many and what kind of cliches and feel-good stuff could be piled into a stock stump speech or campaign brochure. So here goes a boiler plate presentation for the ages.

All current or prospective candidates for office are welcome to borrow any of the following that’s sure to get them elected, provided of course you’ve got a few hundred grand and a “PAC” or two helping get it out to every voters (at least 3 or 4 times).

I’m glad to be here today to announce my candidacy for ________ . As a proven and experienced leader, I am committed to keeping Seattle affordable for all – including finding innovative solutions that serve the poor, working and middle class families. On growth, I’ll fight for dense vibrant transit-oriented, sustainable, and walkable neighborhoods. I’ll make sure neighborhoods, small businesses, renters, homeowners, and everyone has a seat at the table when key decisions are made upstream affecting Seattle’s future. I’ll champion working families and push for more livable wage jobs. I have the skills and expertise to help Seattle fight back against Trump. We will deliver basic services that make Seattle work for everyone. I’ll work to reduce property taxes for struggling seniors.  

I’ll make our communities safer with effective solutions to law enforcement. We’ll have bias-free policing and improved public safety.  What we need is a pioneering and skilled progressive like myself who’s ready to meet and solve these and other challenges that come with being a leading city on the vanguard of change.

And I’ll tackle head-on the homeless problem.  First we must carefully reevaluate our policies applied to sweeps and reform delivery of services to make them more efficient and cost-effective. I am committed to full review of all our policies and decisions from a racial and equity lens.

I have a long track record bringing groups together and I will listen to everyone. Growth is coming and I have the experience to tackle effectively the challenges that come with more growth. The solution to our lack of affordable housing is to build more housing and create dense walkable cities. HALA is a good thing but I’ll do more to ensure good design and make sure citizens have a say. Transit oriented pedestrian friendly development is key….. Yes I have plan to end the war within six months of taking office.  Vote for me and I’ll set you free etc etc etc.

It actually was pretty easy putting this basic template together for the ideal candidate presentation.  That’s because I borrowed darn near all of it from materials and statements circulated by our current crop of candidates.  And geez I see in a few places I came perilously close to saying something substantive.  Yikes.  

Wouldn’t it be nice to see them  “drill down” for a change, and offer real solutions on their materials going to voters – stuff  they’d do to make a difference in this city.  Alas, I doubt their highly paid campaign consultants would approve.

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About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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