An average of 111 million viewers tuned in throughout the Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots in February 2012. Meanwhile, a meager 67 million watched the first presidential debate of 2012 — actually up 30 percent from the first debate in 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported. Radio audiences are likely no closer on any given day.
The politics snoozefest ought to emulate the sports marketing which constantly cleans its clock in the ratings.
First, the NBA has superb character-based marketing. Nearly everybody can identify the “big” players on the Utah Jazz or Miami Heat. Few recognize the faces of their legislators. There are a few ways to turn that around.
“Heroes of Capitol Hill” trading cards with statistics on the back is an easy way to start. Elected officials can use identifiable entrance music for public events and TV appearances, like wrestlers do in the WWE. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer can quarrel over who gets to use “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
Colorful sponsor logos can adorn politicians’ clothes, like NASCAR automobiles.
Want to clean up Washington? Tide detergent can help. Catchphrases are essential too, like the iconic “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” for William Henry Harrison and “I like Ike” for Dwight Eisenhower during their presidential campaigns.
Second, holding elections on Tuesdays is far from ideal for turnout. Why not hold elections on Saturdays before and after college football games, and during halftime?
Those who show up at the voting place get politicians’ autographs and “game used” political memorabilia. Sports-style mascots will be on hand to keep the children entertained – perhaps the jolly “Filibuster.”
Third, keep things lively in between presidential elections. Major League Baseball’s all-star game, at the mid-point of the season, awards the winning side with home field advantage in the World Series. Likewise, the party which wins the midterm congressional races gets the first presidential debate in front of its nominee’s home crowd.
Institute an NHL-style penalty box during the yearly State of the Union address. The sergeant at srms can oust attendees for “unsportsmanlike conduct,” like when Rep. Joe Wilson blurted “You lie!” Settle Senate stalemates with a physical challenge. (Caution: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was once an amateur boxer.)
Next, use sports lingo in politics. States can proudly promote an added congressional seat, like Utah’s new 4th District, as an “expansion team.” Losing consecutive elections is a tennis “double fault” or a golf “double bogey.” A “Hail Mary” might be explained as John McCain picking Sarah Palin in 2008.
Finally, following British soccer where teams are elevated or replaced from a league’s play, demote poorly-performing Senators to the House of Representatives. This dynamic system, along with new term-limits to ensure fresh blood, should keep things interesting.
Every good politician should know how to lace up a pair of bowling shoes. Those who can’t be pro athletes can always run for office.
In his baseball book Bunts, even political columnist George F. Will remarked wistfully, “I want to be a baseball writer when I grow up.”
Adam Silbert, an attorney, served as a field organizer for the 2012 Obama campaign.