Signs, revisited

Back in September I wrote a post about the political signs in my neighborhood. In the last paragraph, I suggested something that I intended as a joke:

On the bright side, maybe we can beat each other over the head with our signs when it’s finally over.

I imagine you’ve seen multiple videos of the mob attacking police officers during the insurrection, using flagpoles, fire extinguishers, pretty much whatever was on hand… including their protest signs. I won’t link them here, they’re easy to find on YouTube if you’ve somehow missed them.

It’s gut-wrenching to think that we have that many people who were willing to commit felonies in plain sight for a single individual. And that they chose to make it so easy to identify them, because they wouldn’t wear masks because their hero had made that politically toxic. Watching the videos, it’s easy to think we’re split right down the middle and that endless conflict, whether it reappears as physical confrontations or not, is inevitable.

I don’t think it is. And I’m going to use my completely unscientific observations of my neighborhood as the basis of this postulate. My counts are based on a regular cycling route I use through Marine City and East China Township, and includes lower-middle-class to middle-class homes. This is generally a working-class area.

As I noted in September, my neighbors had a lot of signs, flags, and other displays (some bordering on shrines to Donald Trump) in their yards. About every fourth or fifth house had a sign or flag or both. Most were for Trump, but a sizable percentage – let’s say 30 percent – were for Biden. After the election, most of them were taken down within a week. Some of them – maybe a third – stayed up through last week, especially the more elaborate displays of Trump signs mixed with American flags.

After 1/6, you can count the Trump flags and signs on one hand. I think that’s significant. St. Clair County is a very red county in Michigan. Almost every elected official from township to federal offices are Republicans. Even when the office is supposed to be non-partisan, everyone knows which candidates are GOPers and which are Democrats. So if you were looking for continued protests on behalf of the president, this is one place you’d expect to see it.

I think the events of last week were too much for many Trump voters. Notice that I said “voters,” not “supporters.” My feeling – and hope – is that many of the 74 million plus Americans who voted for Trump are as appalled by the insurrection – even if they can’t bring themselves to call it that – as the rest of us are. And they’ve decided enough is enough, they can’t be associated with that, and the signs have disappeared.

You can see some of that in the national polls as well. Today’s FiveThirtyEight composite polling chart shows Trump’s approval rating at 40.0%, while 55.8% disapprove. That’s down nearly five percentage points from right after the election in November, and most of the drop is in the last week.

Yesterday we kept hearing from Republicans in the U.S. House (with the exception of the ten who voted for impeachment, including Michigan’s Fred Upton and Peter Meijer) about how 74 million Americans still stand behind the president and that impeaching him would just incite more violence. I don’t believe we’re going to see 74 million people in the streets today or on January 20. Almost all of them are disappointed, perhaps even still angry, that their candidate lost. But in the end, most of us – regardless of our opinion on whether Trump has done a good job or not – want to get on with our lives. We want our families to thrive. We want the pandemic to go away. And we want to be left in peace.

I’m hopeful that last paragraph will also turn out to be true. No joking here, not this time. After all, it’s in the signs.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

There are quite a few yard signs in my neighborhood, not unusual, really, for a presidential election year. The “Trump” signs, flags, and banners were out first, but there are a significant number of “Biden” signs (not nearly as many flags and banners, however) on display now. But most homes don’t have any signs at all.

I imagine it would be uncomfortable to live next door to someone who is supporting the candidate you don’t like. There are two houses a few blocks away where a”Trump” sign isn’t more than three feet from the neighbor’s “Biden” sign. I’ve never put yard signs out for any election; living on a side street in a small town it’s doubtful it would influence much (I have my doubts about them even on main roads), and while I have a pretty good idea about my neighbors’ political views (and they probably have a good idea about mine), I’d prefer to have friendly conversations with them, and about anything but politics. Besides, all they have to do is Google me and they can read everything I’ve written on Twitter and on my blog over the years and their suspicions about me will be confirmed.

The signs I really don’t understand are the “We support our police” variety. I know why that’s an issue, of course, but it’s unfortunate that we’re so binary about it. I support my local police because I certainly would like them to stop by if I have someone breaking into my house, but that’s not a blanket approval of anything they want to do. There’s plenty of documentation of police malpractice around the country, particularly aimed at persons of color. But we seem to have divided the issue in such a way that you’re either fully supportive of police (who are therefore above any criticism) or you want them completely de-funded and disbanded (and you’re probably a communist, too, come to think of it). Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rational discussion about how to fix civil rights violations committed by police officers while also acknowledging that “no police at all” isn’t a reasonable position?

But that’s not where we are, less than two months from one of the most consequential elections in American history. On the bright side, maybe we can beat each other over the head with our signs when it’s finally over.