Political gardens

Something British visitors to the United States in these pre-election months immediately notice is the yard signs. Outside an increasing proportion of homes (including ours) are small signs on metal legs proclaiming the residents’ candidate of choice. It’s something new to me; it’s encouraging as it shows a high level of involvement in the political process; it’s scary as there are far too many Bush/Cheney signs; and it’s the surest sign yet that this is a country divided.

Through July and August it was easy for those of us who want to see Bush out of the White House to become complacent. Yards across Grand Rapids were filled with Kerry/Edwards signs, and there wasn’t a single Bush sign to be seen. We knew they were coming (his campaign were holding back until after the convention) but didn’t want to believe that they could compete with the sheer numbers our side had already made manifest.

We were wrong. They’re now out in force. The larger houses in East Grand Rapids displaying up to four, and the parties are jostling for prominence on many a street. The Bush campaign has made their vision clear in the typography they’ve chosen: it’s big, bold and forces itself upon even the most casual passer-by. Kerry’s, by contrast, display a leaner font, ever so slightly more pleasant but requiring a little more attention. Not that I would ever suggest that such basic aesthetics would be a reason to decide on voting habits.

And yet neither candidate is really offering a better reason to make that decision. The simple sloganeering of these signs increasingly seems on a par with the general tone of political discourse. Neither candidate is a strong speech maker, but Bush clearly has the better writing staff. Neither candidate is managing to bring the discussion around to any radical or even constructive issues. Whichever wins will do so on the back of the other’s failings, and while the world might win a respite it will not win a victory.

I had hoped that Kerry would gain strength following his first Grand Rapids rally, but the hints of promise have remained buried in poor speech writing and a reactionary campaign. I had hoped that the increasing number of mobilising groups would raise the quality of discourse, but they have settled into sniping and reacting. Maybe yard sign discourse is all we can hope for. Maybe Thursday will tell….

In the meantime, I’m tired of seeing “A Stronger America” projected from the sign outside my house. ‘Democratic’ and ‘Tolerant’ don’t quite do it for me as alternatives to ‘Stronger’. Any suggestions for a re-wording?


  1. Good to see you back in the blogsaddle again!

    I think I need to get me a Kerry sign…of course…I’m not in East GR so I wouldn’t be that abnormal.