Running in Lewiston: Political Signs are more than just Decorations

I have my routine down pat: first, I run past 280, then through the intersection of College St. and Russell St., beyond Pettingill Park, and it’s then that I enter the flat suburban stretches of Lewiston. To the casual observer, this generic suburb is no different than any other. There are neat rows of houses with basketball hoops in the driveways and Halloween-themed wreaths on the front doors. However, in my mind, there is underlying tension here. This tension comes from the opposing red, white, and blue signs that adorn people’s lawns. These signs bear the names and slogans of presidential candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.

In my experience, political lawn signs are nothing new. They appear before every election on my local highways and the front lawns of my opinionated neighbors. Before this election, I discarded them as innocuous, but, in 2020, these signs are bold, polarizing statements. It is alarming to see a red brick house with a pretty front door that has an “All Lives Matter” sign posted in the grass. 

As I run through the back roads of Lewiston, I remember the elections of my childhood. Voting was a private matter. The adults around me would gossip about their neighbors’ political leanings. Now, these leanings are openly displayed for the whole world to see. My neighbors announce that they align with a candidate who is complicit in the perpetuation of racism, homophobia, and more — before we even walk onto their properties. These signs almost serve as “welcome or not welcome” indicators. 

The thought of my Lewiston neighbors aligning themselves with a president who so blatantly lacks competence and empathy is disconcerting enough. Something even more troublesome enters my mind. Perhaps the most frightening part of all of this is that there seems to be an even number of signs that endorse Biden and Trump here in Lewiston. 

In recent decades, my home state of New Jersey has voted blue in the presidential election. When these signs appear every four years, I can safely say that most will endorse the blue candidate. Here in Maine, that is not the case. Just by looking at the signs in Lewiston, it is not clear who has the advantage. As early voting begins, I am not confident that Joe Biden will be the winner of the 2020 presidential election. I am troubled by the thought of what could become of four more years of Donald Trump. 

As I end my run, I cross back into the primarily blue bubble that is the Bates Campus. Over the past few years, I’ve been routinely reminded of how important it is to vote. This is not a problem that we are far removed from. This political split exists mere feet from our dorms and classrooms. It is a place where Bates students can make a difference.

I know that this is not the first time you have been asked to register to vote in Maine. I hope that this will be the last time that you have to be asked to register to vote. As insignificant as they may seem, the political signs that cover the lawns in suburban Lewiston are not merely decorations. Next time you run, walk, or drive through the outskirts of Lewiston, take notice of these signs. They tell the story of just how divided our country is at the moment.