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The most wonderful time of year

The signs are all around – you can hear it in the voices of people talking in local diners or on the sidewalk, you can hear it blaring from their cars as they enter Selma off the Edmund Pettus Bridge, you can see it dotting roadsides and street corners and feel in the knees and the back – yes, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us: Campaign Season.

Apparently, there is a holiday approaching parallel to the blossoming campaign season, but I’ve hardly taken the time to notice as my mind is focused on the coming battles that will surely play out upon the streets of the Queen City as candidates jockey for position over their opponents and send outsized and unreachable ideas high into the stratosphere above.

As a self-proclaimed political junky, there is hardly a time of year that lifts me off my feet with excitement like campaign season, when seemingly level-headed people lose all sense of self and petition the public for support, which they wholeheartedly believe they deserve more than those running alongside them.

As a newsman, the reasons for such a beastly appreciation of the season are obvious – the daily news cycle sometimes grows stale, but the infusion of some hard political wrangling, barb exchanges, background glances, municipal logistics and analysis makes for an interesting read in newsprint pages.

But as a simple citizen, campaign season is thrilling because, for a few months every other year, we actually get to see the wheels of democracy spinning from the center of the storm – once they’re elected, the people become little more than an afterthought to those politicians so wrapped up in themselves and their ideas that they believe they’ve been sent away on some civilization-saving crusade that requires nothing more than their unique expertise and vision; conversely, during campaign season, the people are at the center of the carnival scene because they are needed for support, for fundraising, for message spreading and, most importantly, for votes.

I got wrapped up in politics and news at a young age – I remember watching 60 Minutes and NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw with my mother as a kid and thumbing through the pages of Time in waiting rooms and the Montgomery Advertiser at my grandparents’ house – and though it was a strange hobby for a young man to take up, I was always fascinated by the electoral process, the campaign game, lawmaking and all of the sides and desserts that accompany the feast.

But even with that bloodlust for political assassinations and executions, I recognize that the entire process is plagued with rot and its high constitutional purpose has been compromised in favor of entertainment, scandal, intrigue and controversy.

Still, as polluted as it is, campaign season provides at least a dash of hope for voters who believe, year after year, that this year’s slate of candidates will step up to the plate, ready to lay down a sacrifice bunt for the people, with no reservations about sacrificing themselves for the good of the electorate.

Everyone can feel that, from the most cynical observer to the most committed supporter, from veteran campaigners to children getting their first taste of the process, and that part of the process is what really sparks a sense of wonder in me – the theatrics and brutality are simply sideshows to the main event, which is seeing hope once again rosy the cheeks and stiffen the voices of the American imagination.

While I’m here for all of it – the machinations of democracy, the high-noon candidate duals in the streets, the web of insults that darken the sky and block out the sun, the lies and bloviations that ring out like tornado sirens – what I’m most excited about is that sense of hope and wonder that serves as a prelude to any election.

But, most importantly, I’ll be here after the fact, checking behind those candidates who survive the election and find themselves in office, to make sure that they are reminded of any broken promises, exaggerated assurances and incomplete work for the duration of their tenure.