I hate the fact that our politics resorts to lawn and road signs to convince voters to vote for candidates. In an ideal democracy, name recognition would not need to be created for uninformed voters, because all citizens would be mature enough to not only know the candidates, but also what issues face the community and how the candidates propose to deal with them.
But our democracy is such a low priority for most citizens that candidates have to play the sign game. This is especially true when the other side plays the game with more and more and bigger and bigger signs. It is an unsightly waste of time and money, yet studies show that signs make a difference, especially in close elections. So the nonsense continues.
I am a Democrat who wants Democratic candidates to win because they reflect many of my values and they offer solutions to real problems that would, in my opinion, make our country better for all citizens. And I am sure there are Republicans who feel the same about their candidates. So we both play the sign game.
This year the shenanigans in Bucks County reached new heights. A record number of our signs have been stolen, defaced, mutilated or thrown to the side of the road. Some were sandwiched between two opponent signs rendering them invisible. We installed large signs at great expense and time only to see the other side plant signs an inch in front of ours.
When I saw a huge Oz sign defaced with a profanity, it made me angry, not only because someone might think I had done this act of vandalism, but because I felt such sign violence is yet another attack on our democracy. Democracy requires a free and robust exchange of ideas from many political parties and even at this rudimentary level, both sides should support that exchange by acting civilly in this arena by not stealing, defacing or blocking an opponent’s signs.
So let me share a story from the roads of Bucks County that I hope will inspire all parties to respect one another and our shared democracy.
I was planting a set of Democratic political signs near my polling place at Goodnoe School in Newtown. As I returned to my car, a pickup truck drove behind it and two men jumped out. One started screaming at me, “Why are you guys always stealing our signs?” I started screaming back at him, “Look who’s talking! We have lost so many of our signs from your side’s stealing.” (It flashed in my mind that perhaps he didn’t know that Republicans may have removed his signs from the roads to put signs at the polling places).
I was very angry, but then I said, “Look, I am on your side. We both don’t want our signs stolen.” I told him, “I never touch your signs, and I expect the same. I plant signs for my side and you plant signs for your side and that is how democracy should work.”
I said, “Can you see we are brothers? We are both Americans doing democracy together.” And I swore to him that I would never steal his signs and assured him that I was not giving him a line of bull.
He backed down and said he understood, but he was as frustrated as I was. I said, “We both are trying to improve our country with our political perspectives, so let’s just continue to advertise what we believe.” I then told him, “I left some space for your signs down the road.”
Two days later, down the same road, as I was retrieving my signs after the election, another pickup truck pulled up to me. The driver said, “I stacked your signs in a nice pile on Linton Hill Road.” I smiled, thanked him and thought what a wonderful display of civility that was. “Do you get paid for this?” I asked. He said, “I’m a retired Republican committee person.” I told him, “Yeah, the pay is great for all this work we do.”
The next day I went to Linton Hill, and sure enough, our signs were neatly stacked and even sorted. I wished that this kind of civility would spread throughout our nation’s democracy because we all know that a nation, as divided as we have become, cannot stand for long.
Steve Cickay lives in Newtown.