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Chester County Press

Editorial: The degree of their necessity

10/11/2022 03:14PM ● By Richard Gaw

At the corner of Chandler Mill and Kaolin roads in Kennett Square, there is a triangle-shaped island where four political signs made from corrugated plastic sprout from the ground like advertorial roses deep in bloom. Now there are three.

The very tangible connection between them is that they all promote the candidacies of Republicans: Dr. Mehmet Oz for the U.S. Senate, Leon Spencer for the Pa. House of Representatives and Guy Ciarocchi for Congress. The last sign and by far the largest, is for Doug Mastriano, who is running against Attorney General Josh Shapiro to become the next governor of Pennsylvania.

Recently, those driving along that curved road noticed that the Mastriano sign had been ripped in two, so that it appeared at various angles that the Republican campaigning for governor goes by the name of Dou Mastr. The sign has since been removed.

No matter who did the damage – whether it was an orchestrated hit performed by an overzealous liberal or by a rumble of passers-by caught up in a destructive jag, the act of destroying the signage was a reprehensible one.

And yet, the defacing of political signs – or even their removal -- has become an all-too-familiar practice in southern Chester County, and on the heels of a November election in one month, one that brings their necessity again into question.

While some in the shell game of political strategy consider signage the last lug nuts in the machinery of our electoral system, the truth is that they do create name recognition, and in today’s political climate, to be perceived at all is to be perceived favorably. In areas where there is very little personal contact with the candidate or a limited advertising budget, political signs provide the candidate’s only connection to the potential voter, who also has little time to do the deep-dive of differentiating between one campaign agenda and the next.

It comes down to this: Political signs are the worst of our autumnal crops, but there they are, an invasive roadside species, repetitive in their messaging and without the need for rain to keep them from dying. In order for them to proliferate, they require planting by campaign volunteers armed with tools and exuberance. Their intentions are noble, but the placement of their propaganda feeds on the belief that among the Already Decided floats a straggler or two who has not yet made up his or her mind on a candidate, and that the 400th time he or she sees the same name on a billboard will be fuel enough for that vulnerable sucker to pull a particular lever or smudge in a particular circle in a ballot box.

And yet, in the end, while each state including Pennsylvania has enacted various laws governing their usage, political signs are legal and they are not about to disappear from our landscape. Every fall, we embrace their growing populations, with no end to eradication, but no matter the party affiliation, no matter the candidate, no matter how hard their aesthetic assault may be to our landscapes and no matter the degree of their necessity, every political sign should be treated with respect. Every one of them.