Larry Osterman's WebLog

Confessions of an Old Fogey
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Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage

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As I mentioned last week, I spent last weekend in upstate New York.  As a part of that, I drove from western Massachusetts to NYC down the Taconic Parkway (possibly the most beautiful piece of highway in the northeast).  I had an opportunity to drive around the town I grew up in (Briarcliff Manor) and generally enjoyed myself.  The fall foliage was almost in full color, and as I drove, I was reminded just how beautiful it is.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are too many evergreen trees to make our fall foliage display nearly as spectacular as it was in the Northeast, but we DO have our own brand of fall foliage that shows up every year.

You see, here in the Northwest, we have our own fall foliage season.  It starts about mid-August, and continues until it's harvest time on November Third (although some of the foliage isn't harvested until the following year).

The Northwest fall foliage appears mostly on the median strip on just about every road in the Seattle area, although it often appears peoples yards and other visible spaces.  In more densely trafficked areas, it's more obvious, but as the season progresses, it's pretty much everywhere.

Of course, I'm talking about political yard signs.

There's a long history of politicians (and their supporters) trying to see which campaign can put out the most beautiful yard signs display in a particular median.  Sometimes you find eight or nine signs for the same candidate in a single median strip (sort-of like planting perennials).  It's also fascinating watching the "competition" for space that goes on - supporters of one candidate seem to always manage to put their signs directly in front of the signs of their opponent.

It's also fascinating looking what groups put the yard signs out.

For some reason, Republicans seem to put out orders of magnitude more yard signs than Democrats.  I'm assuming that the Democrats don't believe that they're effective, while the Republicans do.  I don't know if this is because my area of the state tends to vote Democratic and thus the Republicans feel they need to increase their visibility, or what, but it's a clear trend.

I've also had an interesting time looking closely at the signs, especially when I'm stopped at a traffic light.  If you look at a yard sign closely, you can often see a "union bug" in the margin.  A union print shop will usually add this relatively unobtrusive mark to the sign that indicates that it was printed by a union shop.  I first noticed the bug when I tried to figure out what the blotch in the white border of a sign I saw in a median, now I look for it every time I see a sign.  If you go here you can see the union bug in some of the signs, for example, it's the little white blotch at the bottom right of the "Re-Elect Jack Markell" sign.

For some reason, Democratic signs tend to have union bugs present, while Republican signs don't.  This isn't a reliable metric, many Republican signs do have union bugs, and many Democratic signs don't, but again, the trend is pretty clear.  It's not also clear that all signs produced by a union shop have union bugs on them - none of these signs seem to have bugs on them, but the company that produces them is a union shop.

This year, there's been an unfortunate trend of yard sign vandalism, there are four or five huge yard signs on I-405 Southbound just north of Canyon Park here that were totally trashed (the vandals trashed both the Democratic and the Republican signs there).  I personally find this deplorable - just because you disagree with someone's politics doesn't mean you have the right to destroy their property - and those big signs are EXPENSIVE.

Btw, for aspiring candidates, while I was writing this up, I ran across this primer on how to use yard signs to their greatest effect :).

 

  • "For some reason, Republicans seem to put out orders of magnitude more yard signs than Democrats. I'm assuming that the Democrats don't believe that they're effective, while the Republicans do. I don't know if this is because my area of the state tends to vote Democratic and thus the Republicans feel they need to increase their visibility, or what, but it's a clear trend."

    In Philly (very Democratic), almost all the yard signs I see are Democratic.
  • "the most beautiful yard sign display in a particular median"???

    I hope you're being facetious, because these things are an eyesore. I'm all for raising voter awareness, but things have gone over the edge about a thousand signs ago.
  • I used to live 3/4 of a mile off of the Taconic in the northern part of Dutchess County. It was a wonderful place to live. The fall colors are definitely incredible there, but now I'm a little jaded having lived in Vermont for the past 5 years.
  • Yeah, I'm being facetious tms :)
  • We do have some nice fall colors here in the Northwest, you just have to get high in the mountains to see them:

    http://wta.org/~wta/cgi-bin/wtaweb.pl?4+pg+dp+2003/oct12.jpg
  • I don't understand the point of signs. It's not like I'll be driving along one day and think "Man, the election is coming up soon and I still can't make up my mind... Hey, wait, there's a cardboard sign for J. Smith. And another! And that car has a bumper sticker! Wow, he must be a great guy, I'm gonna vote for him!"
  • Actually check out the "how to use yard signs" link - it's all about name recognition.

    When you go into the booth, you see two (or three or four) names. It's possible (especially for lower profile races) that you'll vote for the one whose name seems "familiar".

    Most everybody has an opinion on Bush vs. Kerry. Not as many people have an opinion of Bergeson vs. Billings.
  • Oh, cool... another otherwise interesting blog talking about politics in the US. I'm glad, honestly.
  • "Most everybody has an opinion on Bush vs. Kerry. Not as many people have an opinion of Bergeson vs. Billings."

    Well, doesn't that mean something? Maybe there is no difference that would matter...
  • Actually in the Bergeson vs Billings race, there ARE a significant set of differences, and they'll affect the future of education in Washington state.

    But it's an example of a statewide election that not many people pay attention to.

    That's why there are RELATIVELY few yard signs for major elections, but hundreds of yard signs for the smaller races.
  • "Maybe there is no difference that would matter..."

    Do you believe that most candidates are fundamentally different? IMO, the best politicians are the people who aren't politicians. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to go into politics without becoming a politician. :p
  • http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/10/15/1097784013044.html

    also

    The Australian war criminals were reelected last weekend so it's looking good for their americian and british co-conspiritors.
    http://smh.com.au/specials/election2004/2004/10/10/index.html
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