Signs of the Times

A.V. Walters

It’s almost over, thank god. I can hardly wait for the end of this election season. My inbox is overflowing with solicitations for money, for support, or just for the opportunity to wallow in righteous indignation.

I admit it, I’m a wonk. I research the various races and candidates on the ballot. I spend the time on the internet checking the records and policies of all the candidates. It isn’t a straight party ticket for me; I don’t vote tribal. My choices will be on principle and on the issues. I don’t reward bad behavior.

Though it’s no substitute for research, I confess I enjoy the rough and tumble world of yard-signs. We’re relatively new to the community and nothing is as revealing as what folks post on their front lawns. I chuckle when the lawn signs advocate for inconsistent candidates—is it marital schism, ignorance or some more primal form of loyalty dictating those screaming confessionals?

For the first time in my life I have posted a yard sign. It’s for a minor local position. I like this woman, I like her policies and she’s the wife of the family that owns the local hardware. I get a lot of my local information from the characters who hang out at the hardware. Like many candidates in the area, she boasts roots in the area that go back generations. I see that as a warning to uppity folks, like me, who’d consider a run for office on principle. Around here, who “your people are” matters a lot more than your positions. Local is tribe, too. As a newbie, if I ran for office, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

This has been a particularly hard fought election year. The local paper reports that there’s been a serious spate of yard-sign shenanigans. People are stealing yard-signs. People are posting yard signs in yards, other than their own. I’m not sure which is more offensive, silencing free speech or trying to pawn off support where there is none. I see it all as a form of dastardly contagion, direct from the top down. It’s been an ugly contest season, in which the two-party system has failed us. The major candidates at the top of the ticket have failed to behave, failed to follow the conventional rules of decorum.

Call me old fashioned, but I like civil discourse, honesty and issues-based debate. It goes to my deep belief in deliberation through the marketplace of ideas. It ought not be about personalities, but about weighing the value of the candidates’ ideas and records. Indeed, it’s clear that both of the Presidential contenders have done their utmost to conceal just who they are from the voters. This is not a good way to start a relationship.

This kerfuffle of a contest has brought out the brute in everyone. Further down the food chain, that same childish ugliness plays out, stealing signs and undermining democracy. What’s missing in all this is that on the morning of November 9th, we’re going to have to get up, get back to business, and figure out a way to move forward in the world—or are we doomed to this new fashion of obstruction for its own sake?

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