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Opinion: Riding for the Brand

19 August 2018  

Why not identify who you are in an election?

The great American Western writer, Louis L'Amour, wrote hundreds of stories and novels. One of his short stories was Riding For The Brand. The term is found in some of his other stories and books. It implies a loyalty to the ranch that a cowboy worked for. As I understand it, a hand that rode for the brand had years long employment and felt like part of the ranch family. “The brand” had earned his respect and loyalty by keeping him on, even in the hard times. A cowboy who worked for wages, generally was a much more itinerant employee. He might work on a cattle drive, work for awhile on a ranch, then move to a different part of the country that was paying higher wages. He might become a prospector or a miner.

The phrase is used today in business and in leadership classes. An individual's personal brand is how he or she presents himself or herself to the world. The same goes to companies and political parties. During this election cycle, I've noticed that some of the candidate's yard signs fail to list what political party that candidate belongs to. It is realized that this is a primary election this month, but still, it would be nice if a candidate would show which party he represents.

This gets back to a discussion of the “brand”. Democrats are identified by the “donkey” brand and Republicans by the “elephant” brand. The yard signs that I've seen in the Quad-cities area for the Senate and House primary, bring up and interesting question. Why wouldn't the candidates put their party's brand or identify their party affiliation on their signs? Most of the Republicans have a red, white and blue elephant on their signs. The only one who doesn't is Martha McSally. It makes one wonder, why, especially in a primary election, McSally wouldn't proudly identify herself as a Republican. The other two Republican Senatorial candidates, Dr. Kelli Ward and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, both have the elephant logo on their larger signs.

It may be that Candidate McSally is assuming that she will win the primary. If that happens she may not want uninformed Independent and Democrat potential voters to associate her with the Republican Party, before any debates or general election political ads are aired. To many on all sides of the political spectrum, this is dishonest and a form of obfuscation. Martha McSally is a “moderate” Republican, who's ratings with the conservative Heritage Foundation, are below that of both John McCain and Jeff Flake. Considering how conservative Arizona Republicans are, McSally can't run on her moderate record and so in her ads she comes off to the right of President Trump. She seems to have patterned her campaign on the John McCain/Jeff Flake template: that is, “run as a staunch conservative, but once elected vote like an independent maverick.”

On the Democrat side, there are two official primary candidates, David Brill and Delina Disanto, and a write-in candidate for Congressional District 4. DiSanto has no signs that I've seen. David Brill, on the other hand, has several in our area but I've only seen one that identifies him as a “Pragmatic Democrat”, in small letters in the lower right hand corner. None of the other Brill signs have either the donkey brand or other identifier. Congressional District 4 is gerrymandered monstrosity that starts in the northwest corner of the state, continues to the southwest corner and takes a big hunk out of the central part of Arizona. It leans heavily Republican, so it is at least understandable that a Democrat wouldn't want to let the voters know his or her party affiliation. It is disingenuous, though. Most voters appreciate transparency. They want candidates to honestly express their views, philosophy and why they vote the way they do.

Arizona voters in particular, with their western values, want candidates and office holders to ride proudly for the brand. If not, they want these politicians to gallop off into the sunset and leave them alone.