One of my favorite things about living on this Rock has been how un-littered our highways and byways are with the annoying billboards and advertising you see when visiting America. You can still drive the length of our island and see mostly trees and shining sea. Except, of course, in election years like this one, when political clutter overtakes us, and right now it seems much worse than ever.
We are in the midst of a political Yard Sign War to see which candidate can put up more signs in more places. And in 2020, the signs have become bigger with more capital letters and exclamation marks, blaring at us just like bullhorns in the recent protest marches. The message we’re being sent seems to be the bigger the sign, the stronger the candidate.
These days, a two-foot by four-foot sign is considered “medium-sized.” Six-feet by eight feet is considered “more noticeable on the highway.” Those little one-foot by two-foot signs on wimpish metal stakes, which were the industry norm until now, simply twist and bend in the wind – and what does that say about the candidate?
If the election were decided by signs instead of ballots, it would already be over.
It’s gotten so bad that I have seen signs for Democrats in Oak Harbor and signs for Republicans in Langley. Who’s kidding whom? There is even an entire yard set up as a sign-infested shrine to Trump/Pence 2020 on the highway south of Greenbank.
Clusters of yard signs seem to multiply quickly, just like rabbits. Today, it’s only one candidate’s sign on the lawn. Tomorrow, a second appears. Then comes a third, a fourth, a fifth. I have even seen clusters of signs for candidates from different parties. I’m not sure what that implies, but maybe it’s actually a good sign!
My political sources, who shall remain nameless for fear of retribution, claim that money is “pouring in from outside Whidbey” to make and put up bigger signs for candidates in some races that are expected to be very competitive. I don’t know how true that really is, but I do wish I had made a big investment in a sign-making company a few months ago. Sign makers seem to be the only businesses that are booming during this pandemic lockdown. They don’t appear to need federal Payroll Protection Plan grants.
My politicos tell me that today’s sign epidemic is an outgrowth of the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump’s campaign seemed to have many more yard signs in key swing states than did Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That is now interpreted to mean that polls are not always accurate but yard signs may be. If people are interested enough to clutter their property with political signs, so the reasoning goes, they must be really motivated to get out and vote.
And therefore, the reasoning goes on, since less politically motivated people are just like sheep, the candidate with more and bigger yard signs will sway their vote. “If that candidate has that many people supporting them and they have the money to put up those big signs, they must be a winner,” so it goes. “And I want to support a winner.”
The primary election is Tuesday Aug. 4. All the losers will then have a week to take down all their signs. The general election is Tuesday Nov. 3. All candidates will then have a week to take down all their signs. The county dump will quickly fill up with election detritus.
And all of us will then become the real winners and go back to seeing mostly trees and shining sea along the highway.
• Harry Anderson is a former Los Angeles Times reporter and current reside of Central Whidbey.