THE REGULAR schedule of American elections helps mark the change of seasons: we go off Daylight Saving Time, we celebrate Halloween, and, in even-numbered years, we -- or at least many of us -- vote. Television ads, which also mark the season for more of us than care to admit it, also change. In September and October, we are barraged with promotions for the season's new television shows and with advertisements for political candidates. Come November, these ads suddenly vanish. For many, that is a welcome development. But for some of us, the return of "ring around the collar" and Mr. Whipple is cause for wistfulness. For political junkies, it's cold turkey.
Never again will your radio alarm wake you up with a commercial attacking or defending Paul Trible's congressional voting record. Not for two years -- maybe never again -- will your drive home or your evening's entertainment be interrupted by disquisitions on whether Stan Parris or Herb Harris is more devoted to the interests of federal employees. You won't see again that little girl climbing on the school bus in the National Conservative Politi- cal Action Committee ad attacking Paul Sarbanes. 2 And that's only in this area. New Yorkers are not going to see Lew Lehrman's red suspenders several times a night any more. Montanans won't see the talking cows who attacked outsiders campaigning against Sen. John Melcher for stepping in what they were trying to sell. Californians will never again see Candice Bergen saying, "I want to go on doing it," in the Jerry Brown ad attacking Pete Wilson for opposing the nuclear freeze proposal.
The issues that aroused all this advertising will remain. But the ads stop, abruptly. In the golden days of oratory, political junkies could go around the country and sit entranced as the likes of William Jennings Bryan orated for three or four hours on the issues of the day. Today, the political junkie needs a videotape player and cassettes of 30- and 60-second and five-minute spots. Most of you, we know, will miss this season's spots no more than you miss all those ads you saw two years ago about Jay Rockefeller's accomplishments as governor of West Virginia. But some of us are at least a little sad to have to say goodbye to all that.