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Tis the Season

Yard-SignsWith the elections nearly upon us, some neighbors have decorated their yards with political signs showing their support for one candidate or another. One neighbor has nearly a dozen different signs encircling her yard. Some people consider them ugly distractions. Others don’t notice they exist. But in my mind, it raises the question: “What is the purpose of putting political signs in your yard?

How many citizens select their candidates on Election Day on the basis of the number of yard signs they’ve seen in the neighborhood? My knee jerk answer is “zero”. If this is how democracy works, maybe there’s a better system.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to believe they do have an impact.

In some arenas, it is said that any publicity is good publicity. When I went to work for Chevron forty years ago, I was told that if I wanted to move up, I needed to get my name in front of the big guns. They’d soon forget how they got to know my name, but they’d remember my name. I discovered there was more than an element of truth to the saying. I have to wonder how many people are ready to mark their ballots and amidst the flood of names and issues rolling over in their minds, they’re confused about which candidate has most earned their favor. The subconscious mind takes over, remembers the yard sign and inadvertently checks that box. Mission accomplished.

I suspect yard signs are effective in another way, but maybe not the way the neighbor hopes. When I am only marginally familiar with a candidate, I confess I will take note of the signs in a couple of my neighbor’s yards. I will then make absolutely certain that I vote against those candidates. I know the neighbor’s a raging jerk, a political imbecile and I know that if she uses her “logic” to pick a candidate, it must be someone that should not be in a position of power. In the upcoming election, I have eight candidates on a list, all of whom have their signs displayed in one nitwit’s yard. They will definitely not be getting my vote. Syllogistically speaking – Mary is a short sighted, self-indulged, intellectually challenged, buffoon. Mary supports Sheriff Joe. Therefore, Sheriff Joe is a short-sighted, self-indulged, intellectually challenged buffoon. Thanks Mary – you saved me some research time.

What if we don’t know the neighbor’s a bigoted fool, but there are yard signs in front of the house? Simply put, the neighbor becomes a bigoted fool – at least to half the nearby neighbors. In this day and age with sophisticated polling techniques and statistical tools, most elections are settled by a relatively small margin. It goes without saying that your political views are going to be opposed by approximately half of your neighbors. Put a sign in your yard and you’ve symbolically given the “Mr. Digit finger puppet” to half the hood. You may have been liked before, but you’ve now lost a few friends or at least lost the unwavering respect of a lot of your friends and neighbors. And what have you accomplished? Have you made them change their vote? It’s highly unlikely. But you may have just lost your invite to the next neighborhood shindig.


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