Commentary: Sign, Sign, No Longer Everywhere A Sign
By John Krull
CLEVELAND, Ohio—The signs are fewer in number than they once were.
But they’re still there.
As I drove through the open farm country of northern Ohio on my way to Cleveland—the city of my birth—I saw the familiar Trump signs on walls, roofs and hanging from trees.
The ones that tout “Trump 2020” now look faded and forlorn. Time and the harsh vagaries of weather have taken the shine off them. Given more months and years, more snow and rain, they will be reduced to rags.
A small handful of other banners call for “Trump 2024.” They’re brighter than their 2020 counterparts, but fewer in number. Perhaps that’s fitting for a leader and followers who always have preferred to look backward rather than forward.
And then there is one sign, crudely handmade, that screams for “Trump 2028.” It’s hard to know whether that sign is, a serious appeal or a sly send-up of the unyielding and unreasoning devotion of Donald Trump’s followers.
Five years ago, when I drove through this same country with my son on our way to catch baseball games at Progressive Field, Trump signs and banners were nearly as plentiful as the soybeans in the fields. At times, they almost overwhelmed the landscape.
After the 2016 election, I chided myself for missing something important. I’ve been wandering through middle America during election years for more than 40 years—and I’d never seen crops of campaign signs like that.
They were signals not just that Trump’s base was broader than most polls indicated, but that his support was more fervent than that of the average politician. People who haven’t ever been political before in their lives who put huge signs and banners in their yards and fields and on their homes and farms are trying to tell the rest of us something, something that is important to them.
Now, five years later, it’s clear there aren’t as many people trying to send that signal—make the rest of us pay attention—as there once were. The signs, the banners and the flags are fewer in number than they were just a few short years ago.
But the determination of those who continue to carry the flag for the former president is every bit as fervent as it was when he first emerged as their spokesman. The fact that there still are banners, flags and signs out nearly nine months after an election says something.
Normally, few things have a shorter shelf life than the campaign paraphernalia of a failed candidate. It didn’t take long for the Kerry-Edwards, McCain-Palin, Romney-Ryan and Clinton-Kaine signs to disappear.
Most often, they were in storage or tossed in the trash before the election year’s first snow fell.
Not so with Trump.
The why of that is one of the central questions of our time. There’s no indication that Donald Trump is going to go away. He is a force—a complicating force—in our national discussions.
That much is evident in the nascent campaign for one of Ohio’s U.S. Senate seats.
J.D. Vance, author of the bestselling “Hillbilly Elegy,” is a candidate for the Republican nomination. He issued critical Tweets regarding Trump in 2016. He’s now trying to walk back that criticism without looking like either a hypocrite or a bootlicker—no easy task.
While I’m running the car radio up and down the dial looking for a broadcast of the Indians game, I run across some small-market talk radio host railing about how Vance is a “RINO”—Republican In Name Only—for daring to criticize Trump in the first place. Vance was a Republican long before Trump was.
I wasn’t as enamored of Vance’s book as many were. My mother’s people come from the same part of the demographic landscape Vance’s did. I have no doubt they would have been offended by some of his characterizations.
That said, he’s a thoughtful guy with a voice that belongs in public life. He’s trying to craft a meaningful conservative response to pressing problems, but his efforts have been overwhelmed by the political need to explain away or apologize for his decision to speak truth in 2016.
Like me, he didn’t read the signs right then.
Now, he’s paying for it.
Because, even though there aren’t as many now, the signs are still there.
FOOTNOTE: John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
The City County ty Observer posted this article without bias or editing.