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Watering your lawn is similar to running a political campaign

Thanks to a hot dry summer here in Western New York, I have had a great deal of time to contemplate the best way to water my lawn in order to keep it healthy and green.

I have two functioning, oscillating sprinklers, and both seem to do an effective job. I used to have one of those “impulse” sprinklers that looks and sounds like a machine gun but somehow I broke it. Now it reaches only half the swath it should while making that chattering, suburban sound of summer.

It occurs to me that watering one’s lawn is very similar to running a large-scale political campaign. Consider your front lawn, one of the primary elements of your home’s curb appeal. Politicians’ lawns are their nation, district, town or village.

You will likely water – or irrigate – the driest areas first. Brown spots on your lawn get immediate attention because they are the areas in the most danger of drying up and becoming an eyesore. Likewise, political operatives pinpoint areas where they can pick up new support while not ignoring the lush areas they know are securely on their side.

To irrigate comes from the Latin irrigāre, meaning to make moist or vital. No matter what the weather forecast is between now and Nov. 6, there should be plenty of irrigating going on. How the watering is done is mission critical.

Back in the day, our grandfathers stood on the sidewalk and splattered water out of a cone-shaped nozzle not unlike a firefighter would do. But the pattern was irregular, casting a great deal of uncertainty over the results.

Enter the rotary sprinkler. The one I remember had three arms set at an angle. When you turned on the water, they began spinning like a windmill on Red Bull. Yet despite the furious action, there was little control over the distribution.

At about the same time that the oscillating sprinkler came along, someone created the soaker hose. Wide and flat, it was punctuated with perforations that sprouted water straight up in the air. It was most effective in small, defined areas, such as the narrow path between rows of corn. It was worthless in covering an entire lawn.

Someone with an agricultural inclination invented a rotary sprinkler that looked like a farm tractor. It somehow used the hose as a track and slowly followed the route back to the faucet.

If you have chosen the appropriate device by which to water your lawn, you can stand back as dusk falls and watch water nurture your investment. You can enjoy a feeling of satisfaction with the results as the green, healthy display proves you have done well.

Political operatives are uncoiling hoses from Maine to California, as well as from Akron to East Aurora. They will choose their delivery devices carefully during the next four months, hoping to saturate their target audience with print advertising, direct mail, television, radio and Web-based spots.

Candidates in the most local races should not select the rotary-style approach, as a significant portion of the message they send out will be wasted, falling harmlessly outside their turf. They might be wise to opt for a nozzle with varying patterns of spray so that they are on-target and direct. They will be close enough to see each drop of water play off the individual blades of grass.

That’s where our politicians need to be.

They need to get back to that idea that a one-on-one relationship with voters is better than drowning them in glossy rhetoric, like an ant trapped under a soaker hose.

Granted, today’s mass marketing approaches are more effective because of the number of constituents at hand. But there’s something enjoyable of being caught in the spray as you fine-tune your sprinkler to hit that one area needing special attention.

When the sun goes down on the 2012 political races, those who splashed in the most puddles and got the most water down their backs will be the victors.

(David F. Sherman a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of approximately 75,000 homes. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at


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