I can’t really talk about politics without talking about the one guy who understood it best, made sure I understood it and got frustrated as hell when newbies to the process refused to listen. Good old “Johhny G”, my dad Giovanni Francesco Guerrera, was a politician in the grand style of former speaker of the House of Representatives – Tip O’Neill. “People vote for people.” “All politics are local!” Those are the clear cut salient facts that my dad foisted upon me at a tender age. Dad was one of the men who moved Hillsborough Township into the 2oth century. He was Mayor and on the Township Committee for numerous terms in the 60’s and 70’s. He was always involved in local, state and national campaigns – sending me to represent him once to a meeting in the Jimmy Carter Whitehouse – but that is another story. His passion for politics was learned at his daddy’s knee – Pontelandolfo’s Francesco Guerrera. My nonno, with other Italian immigrants, started Hillsborough’s Democratic Organization! Whoops – let’s get back to today and personal politics.
Yeah, yeah, we all care about issues, platforms, programs etc. But the reality is, if you are my friend and I ask you to vote for me you will. Just like we buy candy from our friends kids to support organizations we don’t particularly agree with – for me it is the Boy Scouts. I hate the politics of the Boy Scouts but love the kids in my extended family who pound on my door in cub scout costumes – I mean uniforms selling candy. So ethics be damned, I buy the candy. See – people buy from people.
Daddy always said the way to win an election is like pyramid marketing – you get a core of folks who adore you for whatever reason – and get them to contact and pitch you to the friends who adore them for whatever reason. People respond to people.
National and domestic issues are important but how does that break down to me, my family and my home town? Now you get it – think local. Well, politics in Pontelandolfo is about as local centric as you can get. It is time for me to stop thinking about my larger than life political pappa and tell you about Pontelandolfo.
The candidates actually go from house to house and talk to people! How amazing! No robo calls here just house calls. That means you need a strong bladder, because at every house you have a caffè and conversation. What really amazed me is that people actually told you if they would vote for you or not! Having lived in Asbury Park, where if everyone who swore they voted for me really had I would have been Queen for a day, I was amazed that folks might actually deign to tell the truth. “Hey, you’re my pal and I love you but I don’t like the guy at the top of your ticket so – sorry no can do!” Remember from my earlier post, you vote for the Sindaco (mayor) and then write in one name from his ticket to be your choice for consigliere (council). Check out the sample ballot – put an X in the circle for the Sindaco and write in one name. ( I did discover later that some folks had indeed told a wee lie to my cousin and really didn’t vote for her – but that was an anomaly.)
What people were talking about in the bars and around the piazza were the local problems that the commune has. Some of these issues are indeed national – like there are no jobs for young people. Others are very local and personal. This is beautiful village and yet some folks are dumping their garbage and nothing is being done to clean it up. The elderly often can’t subsist on their incomes and something must be done to provide local support – or to petition the province for help. The local library was something I witnessed and heard “Rocomincio Da Te” candidates talk about. It needs books! It needs to be perked up and better utilized. Programs for young people are always an issue. Are sports enough? Should the commune increase arts based programs? Each list of candidates distributed their platforms and spoke about issues like these.
Technology is not totally ignored in this very personal approach to campaigning. Cars are outfitted with speakers and festooned with campaign posters. A pre-recorded “Vote for XXXXX,” and “Vote for the (insert name of ticket” could be heard blaring up and down the streets and barely streets of the country side. At first I was taken aback – whoa is that an obnoxious gelato truck? Well, there is no obnoxious gelato truck – what a gift that would be – but campaign aides rousing the voters. The second time I heard it I went out on our balcony to see which ticket it was. It was the one I was voting for so I waved and cheered. Does the spirit good to see your team out and about. Since Pontelandolfo has lots of small family farms and the families really are out working the fields and tending the animals, I could see the benefit of the mobile system. Where I couldn’t see it was in bigger cities – where the blaring through the busy streets was constant. If I lived in one I might be forced to wear earplugs or toss pomodori out the window. Jack and I followed one rolling billboard and blaring sound system for about 20 minutes in a town that shall remain nameless. Well – here see for yourself.