News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Thursday, November 3, 2016

No signs may be a good sign

The drive from Aberdeen to Denver Saturday had little to see.  We drove in drizzle and fog through South Dakota and most of Nebraska,  but there was one aspect of of the scenery that was unusual for this time of an election year.  There is a remarkable absence of campaign signs.  Usually during an election season,  the highways and streets are peppered with campaign signs.   In past years during election season,  the trail has been blazed with signs all along its 750 miles. This year,  there were few.  

 In the towns, there were some signs for candidates for local offices.  But there were very few signs for president, congressional offices, or state offices.  For the whole trip there were only three notable signs for president,  and they were for Trump.  One was a huge billboard put up by the Republican Party.  One was a large homemade sign on a ranch.  And there was a row of small Trump signs along the fence line of one ranch.  

In Denver, there was the same sparsity of campaign signs.  The few noticeable were modest and small, stapled on a yard fence or taped to an apartment balcony.  In terms of the appearance of the geographical landscape,  it would appear that no election is coming up.

The value of campaign signs is always  questioned by campaign experts.  They point out that signs do not inform people of issues or affect their political decisions.  At most,  signs provide some name exposure and remind people that it is time to vote.  Experts also point out that the media, both network and personal, are so laden with politics that they obviate physical signs.  

There is another reason for the lack of signs.  Politics have become so revolting and malicious that people avoid putting up campaign signs in fear that they involve them with the unsavory types that the current mode of politics has encouraged to crawl out from under their rocks.  A further caution is the onus that Trump signs bear.  Trump is so vile a person that his atrociousness reflects back on anyone supporting him.  A rather common response to seeing a Trump sign in someone's yard is,  "I thought they were fairly decent people."

Trump has exacerbated the political divide among Americans to make it a permanent factor of national society,  

The fact that there were hardly any campaign signs along the 750 stretch of middle America may mean that a predominant part of the population is rejecting the kind of politics that has gridlocked the nation.  But trying to find a ray of hope in the current political situation may be looking too hard for something positive.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States