Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Interpreting the campaign incongruities

For decades, Labor Day weekend has heralded the final push of the election campaign season. Vacations are over, children are back at school and the evenings are cooling. So it’s time to consider who should become the leader of the free world (and also run our state and local governments).

This has been one of the strangest elections in decades. Therefore, as a public service to voters, we provide a primer to help you interpret campaign incongruities.

Helpful election hints:

— Candidates who talk about their pioneer heritage and church positions are most likely Democrats not-so-subtly telegraphing to voters that they are Mormons. But they can also be extreme right-wing Republicans trying to convince voters that they’re reasonable folks.

— If you encounter a slew of lawn signs on empty fields, utility poles and abandoned properties, you can assume these candidates are either too lazy or too unpopular to secure support from home and business owners to display the signs.

— Can't find a party logo on a sign, brochure or billboard? Or mention of party affiliation in a radio or TV ad? Chances are that candidate is a Republican in Salt Lake City or a Democrat anywhere else. Even some GOP contenders in swing districts have abandoned the beloved elephant. This tells you something about the lack of affection for political parties among many voters.

Try not to be confused:

— If Rip Van Winkle were to awaken today, he would think a guy name “Nominee" was the Republican presidential candidate. That's because all you ever hear from many GOP candidates is, "I support the nominee." They go to great effort to avoid mentioning the "T" word. If you want real fun, when GOP candidates come to your door or neighborhood events, ask why they are supporting Donald Trump. The anguish is real and entertaining to watch.

— Democrats don't have it any easier. When you come across one of the minority party’s candidates, challenge him/her to explain their support for Hillary Clintonafter all the misrepresentations regarding the email/Clinton Foundation scandals and flip-flops to woo Bernie Sanders supporters. Throw in for good measure the fact that just not being Donald Trump is not good enough. Again, the anguish is real and entertaining to watch.

— You know the election is upside down when a handful of important Utah Republican elected officials try to come to the rescue of their presidential candidate — instead of the other way around. Usually, local candidates seek the endorsement of their presidential standard-bearer to demonstrate they are legitimate candidates. In Utah, top Republicans issued a letter to create legitimacy for their presidential candidate.

What does that mean?

— Many candidates boldly brag that they refuse to take money from PACs, special-interest groups and lobbyists. What that really means is that PACs, special interest groups and lobbyists aren’t interested in donating to them. So the candidates have nothing to lose by bad mouthing them.

— Likewise, many candidates slam the “1 percent” or the “crony capitalists,” but are more than happy to take money from the wealthy industrialists, the dot-com billionaires, the movie stars and entertainers, the millionaire athletes, and others among the super rich.

— Typical slogan: "Fighting the [insert one of the following: special-interest groups, bureaucrats, elitist insiders, etc.] in [choose one of the following: Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, Town Hall] to protect our [insert one of the following or combination thereof: family values, rural values, traditional values, states rights, local government rights, children, those who can't speak for themselves, the impoverished, etc.]. Don’t worry, it has all been message-tested to ensure that you will not be offended.

Huh?

— It’s expected that candidates of both parties will complain about the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., and blame the other. This is similar to Coke and Pepsi complaining about tooth decay and obesity.

— Some politicians try to change the behavior of the masses — like expecting them them to reduce use of fossil fuels, take public transit and lower their carbon footprint. Meanwhile, the politicians themselves keep flying their private jets and traveling in convoys of large, fuel-guzzling SUVs.

— If you're on Amazon or another online shopping site, and ads for the Libertarian or Green party candidates keep popping up, you are spending too much time looking for hemp products or solar panels. Yep, all the politicians are tracking you and your preferences and serving up ads customized for you.