2020 tensions give age-old political yard sign shenanigans a sharper edge

Democratic congressional hopeful Ike McCorkle woke up one morning last week to find 15 of his political yard signs touting Democratic candidates stolen and another half dozen dumped into the street outside his Parker home.

The retired Marine called the incident an act of “attempted intimidation,” one that laid bare for him just how divisive and noxious this year’s campaign season has become, as the Nov. 3 election looms less than four weeks away.

“This is something that is a reflection of something that is happening in our homes and in our society,” said McCorkle, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Ken Buck in the solidly red 4th Congressional District. “No one should be invading someone else’s property and taking someone’s property and destroying it.”

While yard sign shenanigans during election season are nothing new, this fall’s particularly tense and polarized political atmosphere is giving the theft and vandalism of placards and signs a sharper and nastier edge.

Last month, a 12-year-old boy riding on his bike while holding a Trump sign in Boulder was attacked by a woman riding past on a moped, according to police. A few weeks later, a teenager holding a pro-Biden sign in Denver said a man in a Range Rover pointed a gun at him.

Media outlets have reported other acts of political sign destruction in Jefferson County, Colorado Springs and Castle Rock in the last few weeks.

“There’s a lot of anger (and other emotion) in the public right now — it’s been a tumultuous year and it’s a scary time,” University of Colorado at Boulder political science professor Anand Sokhey wrote in an email. “Identity is being triggered (constantly) by our politics, which when combined with the pandemic and economic pressures is certainly a recipe for people taking actions that are linked to how they see themselves.”

In Denver’s Lowry neighborhood last month, the homeowner association was caught in a political maelstrom when its policy disallowing signs of any kind was challenged by residents wanting to post Black Lives Matter placards on their lawns.

Sokhey, who for years has studied the campaign yard sign phenomenon in the United States, said it’s too soon to say whether 2020 is a bigger year for lawn politics than was the case four years ago.

In 2016, his research found that 12% of the American public reported displaying visible support — including bumper stickers — for a candidate, which was higher than what had been seen during election cycles in the 1980s and 1990s. But, Sokhey said, the 2004 election had 20% of people displaying visible support for a candidate.

“What we have seen continue to accelerate over the past four years is trends in affective polarization — we’re in a moment of deep-seated identity politics in this country,” he said. “Signs are important to people, in part, because they are expressions of identity. The parties’ bases are very, very fired up, so I’m not surprised to see a lot of politics on display.”

A political science professor at Colorado State University, Kyle Saunders, …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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