Editor’s Note: Call Me Cranky (or Whatever You Prefer)

I’ve been distracted by something I’ve not seen before while driving around the county this fall season, dodging squirrels. (I have a zero kill rate so far, which is astonishing given how busy they are this year.)

I notice some campaign signs for individuals, but they’re clustered always to represent a group, and they’re now edged by bigger signs for parties as a whole. Vote for Democrats, They Vote for Us. Vote for Republicans, Fight for Freedom. 

This is the first election season I recall seeing signs for parties, and I interpret these signs as a kind of concession. They seem to admit that the parties don’t have strong candidates, but that “undecideds” can feel safe in the fold of these non-individualized entities. Simply vote for this platform, these beliefs, and everything will be OK.

Perhaps this always happens in practice, that candidates largely toe the party line once elected. Certainly that has happened more than ever over the past decade. This is not lost on young voters who’ve never known anything different. To them – as they told me during a conversation in the office about elections and what inspires them to vote – the “who” doesn’t matter in their voting, and they grow apathetic about elections.

These slogans printed on party signs and stuck in the earth along busy roads make this worse. These signs tell us that party loyalty is primary. Individuals must now resist at their own peril being swallowed by these mobs. You’re either for us or against us. 

This only widens the deep chasm splitting this country where, standing on either side, groups of people are yelling at each other across the crevice. I experience this every single week when I’m pulling the letters to the editor – and these signs don’t help.

Promoting party over person seems to be a dangerous and wrong-headed way to put people in office for a representative democracy. We are a republic, and we’re supposed to elect individuals to make decisions for us. If only the party matters, who are the leaders? Who’s representing us?

Be careful out there. Watch out for squirrels.