This has been an interesting and sometimes pretty nasty mayor’s race to watch in Philadelphia. I’m not a resident of the city, but obviously its governance has a big impact on the suburbs as well. The guy I like best, Michael Nutter, appears to have a fair chance of winning the primary, which pretty much guarantees a win in the general election as well.
This despite the fact that in this weekend’s profiles of the candidates, Nutter claimed that “The Lockhorns” was one of his two favorite comic strips (Doonesbury the other). Readers of the Comics Curmudgeon would doubtless be properly horrified at this choice.
I’m always fascinated by how candidates use these kinds of questions about favorite books, movies and so on to market themselves to particular demographics. I assume Nutter doesn’t actually like “The Lockhorns”, for example, but probably some kind of research shows that some slice of the voting population does, so he strategically mentions it. (Higher odds that he actually likes Doonesbury, but that could also just as easily be a way to signal to white liberals that he’s their guy.)
The other candidates largely made equally strategic choices. One of the key stories in this campaign has been the jostling for the African-American vote, which has produced some pretty nasty jabs from time to time, largely suggestions by Chaka Fattah and Dwight Evans that Nutter is somehow inadequately black. The current mayor, John Street, who has a long-time adversarial relationship with Nutter, has supported that attack. So Fattah and Evans largely used their favorites lists to try and connect with African-American voters. (Fattah mixes it up a bit with Robert Ludlum and Grey’s Anatomy as favorites.)
However, occasionally some real weirdness enters into the picture when a candidate has to list favorites, often because he or she isn’t thinking politically about the question. Say, when Mitt Romney said Battlefield Earth was one of his favorite books. Sometimes this kind of weirdness is pretty revealing about the candidate.
I think in the mayoral race, one of the things that made my eyebrows go up was Fattah’s choice for favorite quotation. First, he quoted himself. Second, here’s the quote: “Life-changing opportunities change and transform lives”.
Listing your own words under “quotations to live by” suggests you have an ego problem. It might be understandable if you were a really gifted wit or stunning orator. I can kind of see Martin Luther King saying, “Well, I kind of liked that bit about ‘I have a dream’, you know?” or Winston Churchill asking his aides, “Can I list that thing about how in the morning I will be sober but that lady will still be ugly? I thought that was pretty clever.” But, “Life-changing opportunities change and transform lives”? That’s like the director of the IRS wanting to list a paragraph from the 1040 as his favorite quotation.
It makes me think that Fattah’s a pretty undemanding boss to his speechwriters. Some more quotes they could probably add to his speeches: “When the sun is out, it is often quite sunny.” “Refrigerators generally keep food frigid”. “People praying at church makes churches a place for prayer.”