We live in a very Republican subdivision in a very Republican county. Prominent in the local political folklore is the fact that, in 1964, in the midst of the Johnson landslide, ours was the only Ohio county that went for Goldwater by a double-digit margin. (I assume it is a fact, but I have never confirmed it. It could be one of those assertions that is repeated so often that it becomes “fact.”) When we moved here for my job, I noticed immediately that, in many elections, the Democrats don’t even field candidates.
In 2008, we and our next-door neighbors (a happy coincidence) were the only Democrats for blocks–or at least the only Democrats willing to announce themselves as such by putting Obama-Biden signs on their front yards.
But in the space of a single week, we each had three Obama-Biden signs stolen from our lawns–until the neighbor, a pie-fitter, put some sort of welding grease along the edge of each sign. He was wearing disposable gloves when he applied the grease. For when this grease gets on anything–skin, fabric, car upholstery–it smears rather than rubs off. In fact, it seems to spread in a kind of infernal way—so that one little dab of the stuff can soil a seemingly impossibly large area.
That was the end of the signs being stolen. The next morning, I saw that one side of our sign had been pulled somewhat out of the ground, but it was still there.
Unfortunately, the coda to this anecdote is much less satisfying, at least from my point of view. When my wife complained about the sign’s still being in the front yard under the Christmas lights, I myself forgot about the grease, and I simply grabbed hold of it with my bare hands and yanked it out of the ground. I had large gray stains across my palms and fingers for almost a month afterwards–until the stuff finally eroded away, or until I simply sloughed off or rubbed off the skin to which it had attached itself.
This anecdote might seem more incidental than symptomatic—except for the widespread voter-suppression efforts initiated over this past year by the Far Right at the state level, across many of the states in which they control the legislatures. The sign thieves might just as well have said, “We are all for democratic expression, as long as you support our candidate. Because everyone knows that the other candidate is a threat to our democracy.”