As a lifelong Houstonian, one who still identifies politically with and votes in my hometown, Austin politics has always appeared at least somewhat foreign. Yesterday, however, the first television ad of the mayoral election, by Steve Adler, crystallized that the realities of politics ubiquitous throughout the country are present in Austin as well.
In a 30-second spot, a smiling Adler — a well-to-do and ambitious lawyer who has never run for or held political office in the past — spoke in vague platitudes about what he would do if elected Mayor, all to the tune of lighthearted music.
Repeated members of the community appear throughout the advertisement to ask Adler questions, such as trying to enlist his support to help a neighbor's construction project or assisting a young girl with her homework. In a bizarre-yet-folksy tone, Adler brushes off their questions with a policy prescription of his own. He tells the neighbor who wants his help in building a garage that he will reform the permit process, and he tells the young girl that he wants to help education. I get that this humorous transition is supposed to resonate with voters, but politicians don't need to subliminally remind voters of their tendency to not answer questions.
The ad ends with a dog barking at Adler and him responding that he wants to keep the no-kill policy in Austin animal shelters. I agree that's a good idea, but is there an organized effort now to start putting down dogs again? It appears to be a rather non-controversial statement.
The old maxim is that politics, all too often, is the art of talking a lot while saying very little. Adler's ad appears to have this down to a science. Though, not to appear to pick on him alone, most of the dialogue between all the major candidates has followed these patterns. Austin might be "weird," but their municipal politics are nothing if not normal.