With November -- and Election Day -- on the horizon, political lawn signs are sprouting all over the Minnesota. They're a time-honored tradition -- literally signs of party unity. But according to essayist Peter Smith, these days you can read them as signs of division too.
Smith: Is it just me or are election year lawn signs contributing to political polarization more than they used to?
The wording hasn't changed. It's still just the candidate's name... and maybe a slogan... and the party affiliation. But after all these years of talk radio, Internet politics, and angry cable TV pundits, we seem to have changed. The signs seem just a little more, "In your face" somehow.
Especially signs for candidates we don't like.
A simple walk around the block seems to trigger a bout of smoldering, muttering, Minnesota-nice resentment-resentment not just of the candidate-but of the neighbor who put in lawn sign in the first place.
Darned myopic so-and-so. Sure he lent you his snow shovel last March. Sure the shovel is still in your garage. But if he's going to vote that way, you just might keep the shovel. You're going to need it to dig out from under all the problems his candidate is going to aggravate instead of fix.
...If his candidate is elected, that is. Surely a plurality of Minnesotans could not possibly share that point of view.
Which brings us back to lawn signs. Minnesota human nature is such that we tend to use these signs as political barometers.
Never mind the polls. The more lopsided the neighborhood sign count, the more heartened or disheartened we become about our candidate's chances in November. This time of year, any Democrat living in a Republican neighborhood-or any Republican living in a neighborhood that skews Democratic-is sure to be mired in a lawn sign funk that's going to last through election day. The first holiday lights will be twinkling before the last neighborhood election year lawn signs disappear.
And it's that funk-fostered in no small part by those lawn signs-that's turning our politics so blue-and so blah.
One of these nights after supper, the phone is going to ring. I'll pick it up and some precinct level volunteer will ask if they can come over and put in a lawn sign.
"Nah," I'll say. "We're going to pass this year.
"See you on Election Day, but no signs. Not this year. Nope. No thanks."