Today is my attempt to answer the question: do yard signs really matter? The audio above is included with the hopes of making this piece accessible/want to hear the raw emotion of the moment.
I just had a profound moment with a stranger and wanted to share this in an effort to capture the emotion of today, November 10th, 2020. I was standing in my front yard on a delightfully still fall morning, taking my weekly call with my business partner Giles in the UK. A young Black man was running by. Slowing, he indicated he wanted my attention as he gestured down towards my Biden/Harris signs. He was giving me the thumbs up and I thought he might do as many do, which is to wave a peace sign or throw up a fist. I’m one of the few in the neighborhood with political signs, of any variety.
I covered 3,500 miles of the Western U.S. this summer hiking through our National Parks. Across all of them, I saw only one Biden sign – compared with literally thousands of Trump signs. I drove home in August gravely concerned that we were underestimating the Trump Train, and began sounding the alarm on my channels. Unmoved, my fellow liberals blamed long yard sign wait times and “the imminent blue wave” on their lack of lawn decor – but I wasn’t buying it. Fired up, I spent the better part of a workday painting signs to calm my nerves. I had to do something! Even if the results were worse than the signage for an 4th grade bake sale.
For every Trump-lover who screams vile things at these cardboard creations (they never talk to me when I’m in the yard, even though I’m the voter, they just scream at the signs…) there have been an equal number of positive battle cries from my progressive peers. I suspected this gentleman today was about to do the same. I smiled and gave him a little “woo!” He then looked me in the eye, and said “thank you.” But he said it in a way with his face that his words could never. He was nodding his head, quietly, as our fists intuitively rose in solidarity. I could tell there was more that he wanted to say. “We did it!” I hollered back. Radiating joy, we were both getting unexpectedly choked up as he said, “I’m so happy. I’m so relieved.” Grin massive, he turned to keep running.
He paused again, just as he was crossing the street, and squared up, “I’ve been wanting to tell you for so long… I’ve been wanting to tell the person who lives in this house, whoever you were, how much these signs have meant…” He trailed off, both of us quietly acknowledging how tough the last few months have been. “It’s… me,” I barely mumbled out. He continued, “I just can’t thank you enough. I see them every day. It always makes me smile… it makes me feel great. Thank you.” Again, he was saying more with his body.
View this post on Instagram
A mother-daughter duo that live in the neighborhood came by my yard moments after the announcement this morning to give me this sticker, and thank me for working the polls. Grassroots efforts matter. Signs matter. Community matters. Today is a new day. #presidentelectjoebiden #presidentelectjoe #bidenharris2020 #ivoted #civicengagement #yardsigns #handpainted #diydemocracy #equality
Giles was still in my ears – I’d nearly forgotten. “Tell him we’re with you in the UK!” I smiled, as the young man trotted out of earshot, and this sign-powered sense of community now crept across the Globe. With a catch in my throat, all I could get out was “Signs matter.. they fucking matter.”
When I got off the road from my trip through Montana after seeing all the Trump signs, I became a broken record repeating that we needed to have the same grassroots gusto. I made my signs when they weren’t shipping fast enough (wtf Dems) because I know from experience (hello, Obama) and in my heart that they fucking matter.
Yes it’s small and yes, maybe one doesn’t convert a million votes with a yard sign or three, but what they do is it let a community know they’re not alone. That *here* a safe place for them. That in this yard you are welcome; that this house welcomes everyone. These signs mattered to the cute lesbian couple whom immediately walked their dogs over Saturday morning so we could celebrate socially distanced around them, and to the mother-daughter combo who deliberately came by to give me the sticker below a few moments later as a thank you for working the polls. And these signs mattered to this young man. He knew he was both safe and welcome here in my yard. And in 2020 that means something, damnit.
So, the next time someone balks in the liberal community about putting a yard sign up or about how it’s going to mess up the aesthetic or whatever the fuck prevented all of the other liberals from putting signs in their yard, I want them to listen to this or read this or whatever this becomes, because that man has felt less alone in one of the worst fucking years, and in one of the most racially tense climates, ever. because of a sign that I (poorly) painted in my yard. That’s powerful.
Yard signs matter. *Long exhale.*