Here in the Detroit suburbs — where people wear their hearts on their lawns — the front yards are only now starting to blossom with signs.
Full disclosure, after spending most of my adult life in New York City apartments, I am not fully attuned to lawn sign culture. For all I know, what I’m seeing is typical of other suburbs, or completely anomalous. But my perception is that there aren’t nearly as many signs as there were, even in 2018, a mid-term year.
So what gives? I can ride my bike several blocks without seeing a single lawn sign. Will they proliferate as the election gets closer? Or is this an election where people are reluctant to declare their intentions? Michigan is an open carry state, after all.
There are certainly fewer Trump/Pence signs than I thought there would be, but I’m guessing it’s getting hard for people to come out as Trump voters. Not that they won’t vote for him, just that they don’t want to advertise it.
Some of these people instead put out John James signs, which doesn’t fool anyone. James is running for the Senate — he ran for governor in 2018 and lost handily to Gretchen Whitmer. He’s a tall, handsome Black Republican — a walking oxymoron — and he’s every bit as creepy as every other Republican in public life. But he makes Trump voters feel better about their racism.
I don’t mean to imply that there are no Trump signs. There is indeed a smattering, but there are far more Biden/Harris signs. Not that you can read much into that, either — this is Oakland County, reliably blue.
If I were to drive half an hour east to Macomb County — which famously went for Trump after going twice for Obama — the signage, I suspect, would be quite different.
An hour north, I’d be in Saginaw County — the heart of militia country — where Trump held a mask-free rally just last week. We’re all looking forward to the Covid spike.
But around here, the dominant lawn sign is “Black Lives Matter” — both surprising and gratifying for an area that’s mostly white — and these signs are often seen alone, with no presidential choice accompanying them.
Another well-distributed sign reads “We Love and Respect Our Police,” which appears, at first, to be some sort of half-assed backlash to BLM, but it’s not that simple. While I’ve seen it alongside the occasional Trump signs, I’ve also seen it with Biden signs, and even with BLM signs. Let’s just pause to acknowledge that solidarity with both the local police and people of color need not be mutually exclusive.
There are other signs that are more eccentric. One says “Anyone But Trump 2020.” Another says “Any Functioning Adult in 2020.” Then there’s the one lawn that sports, among its Trump and James signs, the words “My governor is a MORON,” an echo of Trump’s “Half-Whitmer” knee-slapper. This is not a natural Biden voter.
So the mix is interesting. I guess the very variety is what makes Michigan a “battleground” state. But the battle of the lawns is, so far, inconclusive.
One sign, however, took my breath away. It was well printed — not handwritten — which made me wonder if there were multiple copies somewhere, though I’ve not seen it anywhere else. It read:
This is not an election about politics.
We are on the verge of losing this country.
We are in a culture war with
those who want to destroy this country.
I know many of you dislike or hate Donald Trump.
But he is the only one standing between us
and the groups that want to take down
our constitutional republic.
This guy — and I’m quite sure it’s a guy, not that brainwashed ignoramuses can’t be female — has formulated a worldview that is from a dark and dismal place. A proud product of Fox News propaganda, his brain has been conditioned to intercept and reject all fact-based information.
I picture him as a hulking skinhead, profusely tattooed in swastika chic, but I’m guessing that’s not the case. More likely, he’s just an old white guy with a paunch, a Weber grill, and a wife who doesn’t like him much. I could be wrong.
In my mind, I have debates with this guy, in which I patiently skewer all his Fox-addled arguments, one by one. But even in these imaginary fights, I inevitably lose. Because no matter how deft my rhetoric, how on-point my insights, how rapier-like my wit, this guy is impervious to reason. There is simply no way I can penetrate the mind of a guy who thinks Donald Trump and the Constitution belong in the same sentence.
Which makes me both angry and sad, because Trump voters of this kind — and there are shockingly many — must, by necessity, lack the intellectual bandwidth to see how Trump is fucking them over. How he mesmerizes them with shiny objects in one hand, while fleecing them with the other. How their own interests are the exact opposite of his.
These are not the fat cats, who see Trump as their ticket to a corrupt payday. Nor are they the true believers, pining for a police state with His and Her concentration camps. Mostly they’re just plain people, cynically manipulated and misguided.
If only they weren’t so mindlessly complicit in destroying my country, I might sympathize. But they are, so I don’t.