Signs of politics

My parents were politically active. We lived in a small town and all of our neighbors knew the political preferences of my parents. They didn’t always agree with each other and we were used to passionate arguments about various candidates for office. We also grew up with candidates for office doing to our home when they were campaigning and got to know some people who served in political offices. As November approached in election years we often had a few signs in our yards and the family car often sported bumper stickers. There was, however, an important rule that I don’t think was breached. There were no bumper stickers on company vehicles and no signs on business property. I wouldn’t say that our father kept all politics out of his business. He would talk politics with his customers and they knew his viewpoint. But the official position of the company was that it sought all people, regardless of their political points of view as customers. And customers need to be treated with respect. I learned quite a bit about how to greet visitors and guests in church from the way that all customers were treated when they came into my parents’ place of business.

Driving around Rapid City these days, I have noticed that not all business owners and operators follow the same set of guidelines when it comes to politics and business. Political yard signs appear on in front of places of business. There is a prominent down town business with a political banner posted right on the side of the building. There are several lots in town that boats a lot of yard signs that belong to businesses. It is not at all rare to see a company vehicle that sports a variety of political signs and slogans.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that businesses that are overtly political don’t suffer much of a loss of business from those who hold opposing points of view, but it is possible that a few customers make different choices based on the political signs that they see. I know that there are a couple of businesses with whom I choose not to do business because of overt political campaigning or public views of the owners. I don’t organize public boycotts but I might quietly avoid shopping in a particular store.

I’ve seven seen political signs in church yards and on church buildings. I know that wouldn’t work for our congregation because on any given political issue, we have members who are supporters of both candidates and who support both sides of different political issues. In fact, I have a member of my church who has taken several photographs of cars parked next to each other in the church parking lot with opposing bumper stickers. I think it is part of our corporate identity that we are a church with many different points of view. Whatever political positions one holds, that person is welcome in our church. We currently have members who are candidates from for public office, one running as a Democrat, another running as a Republican. It isn’t the first election where that has been the case.

I pay attention to politics. I read the news. Increasingly I use the computer as my primary source of news, but I try to stay informed and to be aware of the important political issues in our community and country. I vote in every election. But I haven’t been as overtly political as some of my siblings. Two of my bothers have earned party nominations to run for political office. And, as a display of our family’s love of politics, they weren’t nominated by the same party. Actually their political views were pretty different from one another. We are still capable of political arguments in our family, though they are somewhat mutes because we put some effort into avoiding the intensity and loud arguments that marked our young adult years. We’d rather have time with each other than try to convince each other to change our minds these days.

There is a part of me that laments the increasing corporate influence in politics. There are many large corporations who fund virtually all political campaigns so that they have access to the office holder regardless of who wins the election. Corporate money plays a huge part in politics. A candidate for statewide office in our state is likely to have added to their campaign finances a lot of corporate donations. The amount of money in politics is way beyond the point where an individual donor feels as if he or she has contributed significantly to the campaign process. That leads to a sense that individuals aren’t important in the process.

I wish we could return to a more grass roots style of political campaigning where neighbors talked with each other about how they intended to vote and candidates spoke directly to everyday people. I’d love to think that the candidate with the most money wasn’t always the winner in political races and that hard work and grass roots organization make a difference. There is still some evidence that this might be the case.

Of course lamenting change isn’t a very viable political position. There have always been politicians who are influenced by the presence of money and power in politics. There have long been those who favor rich donors over everyday people. Still, I wish the public had more access to information about where the money comes from in various political campaigns. Perhaps it is good for us to see signs in businesses and on company vehicles as an indication of who is investing in various campaigns. It is an imprecise art, to be sure, but it is good to know a little bit about the role of money in political campaigns and in political leadership.

But for now, I’m not inclined to be overtly political. I don’t have any yard signs. I don’t have any bumper stickers. I try to keep my political viewpoints to my self or to conversations with close friends.

And I like belonging to a church where no matter what political cause you support with bumper stickers on your car, you are welcome to come inside and worship.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!