11 Do's and Don'ts of Political Sign Waving

Campaign sign-waving may not be unique to Hawaii, but—arguably—we do it the best. We chatted up local politicos, campaign veterans and even a homegrown etiquette expert about what sign wavers should—and shouldn’t—do when they’re out on the streets.

Do smile and focus on the chance to connect. If you have to take a call or text, step off to the side, then jump back in when you’re ready to engage with drivers passing by.

Don’t look bored, says local etiquette expert Pam Chambers. “Be as enthusiastic as you can for the amount of energy you have,” she says. The worst is when you look like Auntie forced you to be there.

Don’t be too enthusiastic.  Screaming from the curb looks more like road rage than cheering and crosses that line to obnoxious. “Outright screaming and hooting—it’s just not dignified,” Chambers says.

Don’t sign wave alone, unless you’re state Rep. Chris Lee (D-Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo). In general, sign waving alone can be construed as lacking the requisite level of grassroots support. Unless, of course, you’re the charismatic Windward Oahu state representative known for pulling solo acts (complete with skeleton stand-in at Halloween).  In which case, carry on.

Do dab a little Vaseline or other slippery substance on your teeth so your lips don’t adhere to your teeth, advises one road warrior. Otherwise, you risk both a creepy frozen grin and chapped lips.

Do wear the proper attire. “It should be clear that you’re a part of the team,” Chambers says. A uniform-looking group can help a lei-adorned candidate stand out in the crowd. Anything else looks sloppy.

Do suck it up. Literally. One veteran sign-waver provided some hard-truth insider information on the condition of anonymity. Campaigning in the great outdoors has its hazards. While waving and smiling roadside, you will encounter insects.  And, if a fly does get into your mouth, “swallow it, just do it, because there’s no better way to handle it at that point.” What else could you do? Spit? (Well, the politics team at HONOLULU suggests Kleenex in the pocket combined with a fake cough motion.)

Do leave pets at home. Yes, your dog is adorable. But drivers just feel sorry for the poor pup, standing on a busy street corner for hours, while his owner ignores him to wave at oncoming cars.

Do acknowledge honks. A quick shaka or “Aloha” goes a long way.

Don’t lean your body or sign into traffic. Safety first. Try not to be intrusive by pushing your sign in front of someone’s windshield.

And the big don’t from that veteran insider? Don’t get suckered into sign-waving in the first place. (Ouch!)