Rockin’ A Hard Place | Yard sign war: Bullhorn politics on our quiet rock

  • Tuesday, July 14, 2020 2:24pm
  • Life

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.

More in Life

Members of the public and Whidbey Island Rocks are encouraged to paint and hide stones with Garry oak designs or other local flora and fauna this week in preparation for a hunt Saturday. Photo by Jane Geddes
Island rock hunt celebrates Oak Harbor ‘Year of the Oak’

Whidbey Island Rocks is encouraging people to paint stones with Garry oaks before a hunt Saturday.

Photo provided
The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron, also known as America’s Boating Club of Deception Pass, hosts jamborees and other social events, along with boater safety and education classes.
Whidbey boaters promote safety, education

The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron hosts education and safety classes, and social events.

Michael Nichols, owner of Whidbey Green Goods, stands in his hoop house, also known as “The Hovel.” Customers visit the Clinton farm to pick up their own produce and plant starts. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group)
One-man Whidbey Island farm gears up for spring

The pandemic has brought a longtime farmer out of retirement.

Master Gardener Don Krafft gathers some broccoli in his garden plot at South Whidbey Tilth. He grows several things that are available for purchase at the Island County Master Gardener online plant sale. (Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record)
Master Gardeners kick off plant sale, continue clincs

Green thumbs who have had a taste of spring sunshine and want to begin planting can do so with the help of the Island County Master Gardeners.

Photo provided
Stella Rowan, left, Savannah Mounce and Luna Grove, right, get together for swims and photoshoots like this one at Deception Pass State Park. The trio of two mermaids and a self-described “heavy metal selkie” call themselves the Whidbey Island Sirens.
Whidbey Island Sirens making quite a splash

The trio will be at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor this Saturday.

Frances Schultz, holding a picture of her younger self, recently turned 100 years old. Her daughter, Connie Van Dyke, right, said her mother’s photo looks like one of actress Barbara Stanwyck. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
At 100, Oak Harbor woman reflects on busy life

Frances Schultz turned 100 years old on March 30.

Joel Atienza’s uniform’s USAF/USSF patches prior to transfer. Photo provided
Oak Harbor 2010 grad selected for U.S. Space Force

Joel Atienza’s advice to Space Force hopefuls? “Remember, ‘The sky is not the limit.’”

The Oystercatcher’s owner and chef, Tyler Hansen, prepares a dozen 3 Sisters beef bolognese lasagnas to go on the shelves at 3 Sisters Market. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Chef liaises with other business owners

A Coupeville chef has expanded his partnership with local business owners to… Continue reading

Joe Gunn holding a freshly backed rhubarb pie. (Photo by Harry Anderson)
How a pie on the Rock became a brand and legend

Whidbey Pies is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

Color Guard Capt. Mike Hutchins, at left, and John Kraft present the Sons of the American Revolution Bronze Good Citizenship Medal to Bobbi Lornson, center. (Photo by Teresa Addison)
Oak Harbor woman awarded ‘Good Citizenship’ medal

Bobbi Lornson, past president of the Oak Harbor Lions Club president and volunteer, was recently recognized for her contributions to the community.

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop in Langley, hangs a purple neon star he made on the wall of his arcade. Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group
Neon art show colorizes Machine Shop’s reopening

A cacophony of happy buzzers and bells and a riot of glowing… Continue reading

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Third grader Laszlo McDowell gets up close and personal with a gray whale skull.
Students learn about being ‘whale-wise’

South Whidbey Elementary School students got a taste of what it would be like to live as gray whales.