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By now I am sure your neighborhood is awash in political yard signs. I am equally sure that for many of the folks that have them there, they are not so much put there to encourage others to support the candidates you like but rather to signal to others what team you are on. I suppose that is fine. But does it bother anyone out there that there rarely is an instance where you’ll see a combination of yard signs supporting candidates from different parties? Seriously, do you know of a yard sign in New York that has a Louise Slaughter for Congress and Mitt Romney for President both on it?

Of course, if someone did have such an anomalous presentation maybe that too is a signal to others of your erudition or even your quirkiness. But on this day, I am going with the religious theory. Most folks don’t have a clue why they are really voting for particular candidates other than they like the way it feels to vote for a person with a particular letter after their name.

6 Responses to “Sunday Morning Observation”

  1. Alan says:

    During elections here in Canada I accept all requests from all parties to post lawn signs. What I have noticed is that once one is up, other parties have a tendency to misread the signal (I just want to help the candidates get their names known) and not ask to have their candidate’s sign join in.
    In one of the very odd elections where I had the farthest right and left parties represented on my lawn, one woman passing by speculated on how different my wife and I must be (she is a non-citizen so cannot vote anyway).

  2. Tom Davis says:

    It bothers me greatly. I first became aware of this paradigm while reading Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” where a character points out that humans use ideas as badges of friendship or enmity. That humans support particular ideas in order to show friendship with other people who support that idea and reject other ideas in order to show enmity with that ideas supporters.

    To me, the most disturbing thing about belief-as-signal is that when one presents evidence of real actions or results (as opposed to promised actions or intentions) people are seldom willing to acknowledge the evidence as factual, rather they accept the promise or intention as reality and the evidence as ethereal — very nearly fabrication on the presenters part.

    Consequently, in my experience, people who do actually undertake to make rational determinations of belief do not advertise their results so as not to erroneously signal some affiliation, and so it is the thinkers who keep quiet.

  3. Harry says:

    I put signs in my yard of people I support for a reason, and, because there is less space, a bumper sticker or two on my car.

    Whether or not they do any good, I leave to political experts to decide. Nowadays some experts think targeted TV advertising is better.

    I have had signs stolen, and my car has been keyed; so far no one has done worse.

    I would never put up a sign just because the person had an R or a D or even an I label. Indeed, I have been engaged enough never to have put a Specter sign in my yard or a Specter sticker on my bumper. (For foreign readers, Arlen Specter was a senator from Pennsylvania.)

    I do think yard signs have some good effect; they are better than the ones planted at stop signs, in the commons.

  4. Harry says:

    One sign I have in my yard is a Tom Smith for Senate sign. He is no Arlen Specter, but he is a former Democrat. Yes, I ask that every Pennsylvania reader of TUW vote for him, but not twice.

  5. chuck martel says:

    When I see an individual with an election sign, bumper sticker, T-shirt, I often attempt to engage them in a discussion and an effort to discover the source of their affinity. In Minnesota there will be a vote on a constitutional amendment limiting legal marriage to one man and one woman. The other day I collared a fellow loading his car with signs recommending a no vote on the issue and asked him why he was advocating that particular position, did he, indeed wish to marry a man or more than one man or what? His response was that while he was married to a woman, he felt that same sex couples should have the same legal benefits as hetero pairs. My response was that I had a hard time understanding what business it was of the government who I married. He didn’t seem to understand.

  6. RIT_Rich says:

    I see what you’re saying, but I don’t see how this is derived from the observation of lawn signs. Why would anyone, especially in today’s political age, place a Mitt Romney and a Slaughter sign on their lawn, simultaneously? What could they possibly have in common? Why would someone that holds political beliefs that are favorable towards Romney, place a sign for Slaughter, an unhinged lunatic leftist? Ie, how is it “vetoing for the letter after the person’s name”, simply by not advertising candidates that you certainly can’t have any compatibility with?

    I’m afraid that I don’t prescribe to the “libertarian” idea that somehow one can be non-partisan and can “support” candidates from both sides simply by mixing and matching different opinions of candidates. There’s no such thing in the real world. I’m sure that somewhere in Slaughter’s brain she may have an opinion that I may agree with, but that doesn’t mean that she therefore becomes a viable candidate.

    People seem to be voting on “ideology” (for lack of a better word) more and more, and that’s a good thing, because it shows that they are not looking for compromise, but for conviction.

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