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Posts published in “Richardson”

Idaho needs a McMullin

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As I write this, the filing deadline for elective office in Idaho is fast approaching. No Democrat has yet announced against Sen. Mike Crapo, who is on the ballot this November. Given the dismal track record of Idaho’s Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate that is unsurprising. Moreover, Crapo is sitting on a campaign war chest of over $5 million, and there’s likely more where that came from; Crapo’s top contributors are special interests with very deep pockets – insurance, securities and investment, real estate, and pharmaceuticals.

But Crapo, who brandishes Trump’s endorsement like a badge of honor, badly needs a challenger; and perhaps the strongest challenger to Crapo is not a Democrat, but an independent, ideally a former Republican who is ready to reject Trump and his many lies. We have an example of this in our neighboring state of Utah where Evan McMullin, an American political activist and former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer who ran as an independent during the 2016 United States presidential election, is challenging incumbent Senator Mike Lee.

McMullin, a former Republican, believes that Republicans who care about the survivability of our republic should reject any candidate who aligns with an authoritarian thug. McMullin said of Lee, “I like to believe he went [to Washington, D.C.] as a principled constitutional conservative, but if you aid and abet an effort to overturn the republic, you can no longer claim to be that.”

The same could be said of Crapo.

Crapo, like Lee, enabled Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election process. Both men voted to acquit Trump for his role in the January 6th insurrection and opposed the formation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the riot. Despite the many recent revelations that Trump fostered and facilitated an attempted coup, Crapo has remained complicit in his silence.

Utah, like Idaho, is heavily conservative. In order for McMullin, a former Republican, to beat Lee in the Beehive State he will need to unite Democrats, independents, and Trump-averse Republicans. He has gotten off to a strong start. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger endorsed McMullin, saying “Evan has stood up to extremism in every form [and] to fix politics, we need to do things differently.” Ben McAdams, a former Democratic congressman from Utah has also endorsed McMullin and urged his party to support him. McAdams, who calls McMullin a “patriot, independent of both political parties,” echoes Kinzinger in asking “what have we got to lose by trying something new?”

Perhaps a capable Democratic challenger to Crapo will yet emerge. Perhaps he, or she, will be able to break 40%, something no Democrat running for the Senate from Idaho has accomplished since 1986 when Steve Symms narrowly defeated challenger and then governor John V. Evans. But if no credible Democrat steps up to the plate, Crapo ought not run unopposed; he does not deserve a free ride.

McMullin believes that, in today’s America, ‘the primary dividing line in American politics isn’t Republicans versus Democrats. It’s freedom versus despotism, order versus chaos, truth versus lies, and fear versus love.” It has become painfully clear on which side of the line Crapo stands. He stands with Trump.

In McMullin, Utah has a model of integrity, an individual who has the courage to defend the Constitution, promote civic responsibility and protect American democracy. Here’s hoping Idaho has an Evan McMullin, a principled conservative who will fight for freedom and truth, someone who will challenge Crapo, run as a true independent, and unite those of us – Democrats, unaffiliated, and Republicans – who are committed to the preservation of our Union.
 

Anything but normal

richardson

In 1976, I graduated from the University of Idaho and began a dream job working in Washington, D.C., for a U.S. Senator I deeply admired, Idaho’s own Frank Church. As a newbie in the office, I was stationed in the back room and assigned to read all incoming correspondence and disseminate it to the appropriate senior staffers. I found it fascinating to read these missives, and I learned a great deal about my home state in the process.

In addition to my desk job, I was often asked to give private tours of the U.S. Capitol to folks visiting the Senator’s office from Idaho. I enjoyed giving these tours as it afforded me an opportunity to share my love of our nation’s history, government, art, and architecture with fellow Idahoans.

After introducing myself to my tour group -- typically a family, or a high school class -- I would escort them to the subway that linked the Russell Senate Office Building with the Capitol. From the basement of the Capitol, we would take the elevator to the second floor and begin the tour. Like all tour guides, I worked from a script but, as an avid reader of Capitol lore, would enliven the tour with interesting tidbits I’d picked up along the way. For instance, if you look closely at the statute of Abraham Lincoln in Statuary Hall, you will see he has two left feet. The left-footed lathe was used for both shoes, and the sculptor accurately reflected that fact.

Often, other visitors to the Capitol “attached” themselves to my tours, following along at a respectful distance but close enough to hear every word. I considered that a compliment. Visitors to the Capitol unfailingly expressed a sense of awe for the majesty of the building. They spoke of their pride in this “temple of democracy.” During my time working for Senator Church, I gave dozens of tours and observed hundreds of tourists. I know what a normal tourist day at the Capitol looks like.

So, I was dismayed when I read a statement made by U.S. Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) shortly after the insurrection. He said: “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

No, sir, I would never think that.

A normal tourist visit does not involve a violent mob, brandishing weapons, rushing the building, climbing the walls, and breaking windows. Nor are Capitol security officers beaten and bloodied.

On a normal day, the House and Senate chambers are not overrun by crude thugs hunting for members of Congress, ransacking their desks and offices, and threatening to kill them. On a normal day, one would never see gallows, replete with noose, outside the building.

A normal tourist visit doesn’t terrorize lawmakers, their aides, and others in the building; it doesn’t leave a trail of grief, trauma, and fear in its wake.
And it doesn’t result in suicides. It doesn’t result in death.

It has been many years since I gave Capitol tours, but I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Capitol many times since, and I’ve noted that tours haven’t changed much over the years. The highlights are the same. The sense of awe remains.

But Mr. Clyde and his fellow Republicans would gaslight the nation and tell us that January 6, 2021, was just another day at the Capitol. They would have us believe that what we saw and heard that day was commonplace, par for the course. They ask us to disbelieve what we witnessed and credit their lies instead.

In doing this, Mr. Clyde and his ilk are the most loathsome of political creatures, traitors to the truth who blithely betray their oaths of office and break faith with our country. But make no mistake: January 6th was a hideous aberration, a nightmare we hope to never again experience. It was anything but normal.
 

Two-faced

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Recently I received an email from Senator Jim Risch in which he lambasted President Biden for overseeing a “disastrous exit from Afghanistan.”

He complained, “The tragedy that is unfolding did not have to happen this way. This is a result of naivety and a lack of planning. I asked the Administration for their plans for months and they offered nothing. The American people and our allies deserve better."

Senator, with all due respect, I believe your Idaho constituents deserve better.

Recall that Risch supported President George W. Bush when Bush got the U.S. into an unwinnable war 20 years ago. Consider, too, that Risch’s vague and partisan broadside is quite a contrast to his response to former president Trump when Trump abandoned Syria, evacuated none of our Kurdish allies, and handed over our military bases to Russia.

In an interview reported in the Idaho Press on October 10, 2019, Risch said, “You keep wanting me to say, ‘I support, or I oppose.’ He is the commander in chief,” Risch said. “I support that America has a commander in chief, and he has to make decisions on the battlefield, and that’s how these decisions should be made, is on the battlefield.”

He added, “Once the commander in chief makes a decision, whatever that decision is, America needs to get behind the commander in chief or we got a huge problem.”

It seems Senator Risch has one rule for Republican presidents and another for Democratic presidents.

We did not hear Senator Risch complain about former President Trump’s deal with the Taliban which resulted in the release of 5,000 of the most dangerous Taliban from Pakistani prison where they had been incarcerated. Nor do we have any evidence that Risch asked for Trump’s plans to make good on his commitment that the U.S. would be out of Afghanistan by May 21, 2021.

Likewise, we don’t recall Senator Risch bellyaching when Trump himself drew down the number of troops, nor did Risch express concern about Trump reaching this deal with the Taliban without including the Afghan government in negotiations. In fact, Risch was silent even when Trump talked of inviting the Taliban to Camp David.

Was the Senator aware that the Trump Administration had slowed down the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) review process resulting in the Biden Administration inheriting a significant backlog of more than 17,000 SIV applicants?

Did he have a crystal ball allowing him to foresee that, after the U.S. had committed billions of dollars in training and equipping Afghan troops these past twenty years, the Afghan forces would simply crumple and disband at the Taliban’s advance? Did he expect the leaders of the Afghan government to flee the country and abandon their countrymen as the Taliban approached Kabul? If so, why didn’t he speak up?

Yes, it is important to understand how the initial stage of the exit could have been better executed, but the fact remains that the U.S. has successfully evacuated more than 110,000 people from Afghanistan in two weeks’ time. We have prioritized American citizens and Afghanis who helped our personnel. Our government and our military are doing yeoman’s work.

It seems that “different strokes for different folks,” is the name of the game for Senator Risch. Instead of carping about President Biden while the U.S. is in the middle of a dangerous overseas mission, perhaps Risch should consider his own words: “Once the commander in chief makes a decision, whatever that decision is, America needs to get behind the commander in chief or we got a huge problem.”
 

Will Trump primary Crapo?

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Idaho’s senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, is up for re-election in 2022 and, as recently as March 5, 2021, the twice-impeached Former Guy declared that Crapo had his “complete and total support.” But after recent developments, I wonder if that support will hold.

Although Crapo wasn’t a member of the bipartisan group that negotiated the deal, he joined 16 of his fellow Republicans in voting to allow the infrastructure bill to proceed. That came as a welcome surprise to many of Crapo’s constituents, including yours truly, but Trump is likely not impressed.

Shortly before the procedural vote, the Florida man fussed, “any compromise with Democrats is poor optics for Republicans.” He argued it makes them “look weak, foolish, and dumb.” He also blustered, “If the deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way.”

Of the twenty Republican Senators whose seats are up in 2022, five have announced that they will retire when their term expires. Of the remaining fifteen, ten voted in opposition to allowing the infrastructure bill to proceed and are presumably safe, at least for now, from the Former Guy’s wrath.

That leaves only five Republican senators on the ballot in 2022 who voted to allow the bipartisan infrastructure bill to proceed. In addition to Crapo, these include Senators Grassley, Hoeven, Murkowski and Young. The Former Guy has already announced that he will work to defeat Alaska’s Murkowski, who had the audacity to vote to impeach him.

In light of these developments, I have a few questions:

Will Crapo be cowed by Trump’s threat and vote against the bill when it comes to the floor?

If Crapo votes for the bill, will The Former Guy pull his endorsement of Crapo?

Will Crapo then be among those Republicans facing a primary challenger recruited, and supported by, Trump?

And, if that happens, who will The Former Guy anoint? I shudder to think.

Idaho boasts such a long list of Trumpian wackadoodles. Unfortunately, theirs is a very, very deep bench.
 

Dear Senator Manchin

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An open letter.

I am writing to respectfully ask you to vote to substantially reform, end, or suspend the filibuster.

I understand your impetus to work with Republicans and to do everything possible to achieve bipartisan consensus. At other times in our nation’s history, that laudable goal might have been achievable. Today it is not only illusive, but unattainable.

I believe you are honorably motivated, but there are times when, despite one’s personal good intentions, one must confront the reality that others are not similarly motivated. The sad truth is that, in today’s GOP, there are not ten senators who are willing to join with Democrats in voting for any significant piece of legislation – no matter how critical that legislation might be to the survival of our republic. For proof of that certainty, we need look no further than the vote on the legislation to create a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6, 2021 assault on the capitol building and on Congress itself.

Prior to the vote on the bipartisan independent commission legislation, you said, “I’m not ready to destroy our government. I think a bill will come together. You have to have faith.” To our sorrow, we learned that all the optimism in the world will not move those who are not acting in good faith. Not for the first time Mitch McConnell failed to act in good faith and there is no reason to expect that he ever will.

Recently, 100 scholars of democracy signed a public statement making clear that nothing less that the future of democracy is at stake. Their crucial point is this: our democracy’s long-term viability depends on whether Democrats do what is necessary in order to pass national voting and election administration standards set forth in the For the People Act, which has passed the House and is now before the Senate. Significantly, the scholars note that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore some protections removed by the Supreme Court, would not be sufficient to protect our democracy.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that the For the People Act will be voted on this month. If the filibuster remains in place, the GOP will kill the bill. In so doing, it is they who will destroy our government. You can stop this. You can be a profile in courage, and stand up to the obstruction and destruction.

I urge you as strongly as I possibly can to vote to end, or substantially reform, the filibuster, or – at a minimum – suspend it for this singular vote on the For the People Act. Please do not continue to maintain unwarranted faith in Republicans who opt to do personal favors for Mitch McConnell at the expense of our republic. If you vote to end, substantially reform, or suspend the filibuster, you will not destroy our government. You will save it.
 

A cautionary tale

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After four cringeworthy years as Trump’s most obvious and pitiful sycophant, Mike Pence finds himself not only kicked to the curb, but thrown to the wolves. Make no mistake. The gallows and noose, so speedily erected by the bleating mob, were intended for one purpose – to “hang Mike Pence,” a man they called “a traitor.”

Back in 2016, Trump chose Pence as his Veep solely to ingratiate himself with right-wing evangelicals, whose support was ebbing after release of the infamous Access Hollywood Tape. And Pence took to the role like a puppy training for the Westminster Dog Show, all but genuflecting in Trump’s presence and endlessly lavishing Trump with “Dear Leader” praise. Indeed, Pence routinely gazed at Trump with a look of such adoration that some wondered if “mother” should be worried.

At the end of the day, though, this supreme flunkey couldn’t bring himself to blatantly violate the Constitution in what Pence surely knew would be a futile attempt to keep Trump in office. The minute Pence announced that the Electoral College had elected Joe Biden president, Trump put a huge bullseye on his Veep’s back. Trump knew his rioting swarm was out for blood, and he served up his Veep on a platter tweeting, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution . . . USA demands the truth!”

All the fawning and bowing and scraping of the last four years was for naught. Now Pence, who so dearly wanted to inherit the support of Trump’s minions, finds himself, instead, hated by those acolytes. Whether or not Pence knows it yet, he is a man without a political future. He should have seen it coming.

Incredibly, all the Republican Senators who will vote to acquit Trump seem unable to see themselves in Pence’s shoes. They’re convinced that Trump will reward their fealty, that they are special, somehow exempt from Trump’s wrath. They should dream on.

It will be interesting to watch Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Ron Paul, Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz, all of whom see in themselves a future president, jockey to be Trump’s favorite. That, of course, is a fool’s errand. Trump’s favorite candidate is, and always has been, Trump. And, if it’s not Donald himself, it will be someone named Trump – Donny Jr., Ivanka, or, yes, even the hapless Eric.

As for those GOP senators not running for president in ‘24, they are – with precious few exceptions – a group for whom the power and perks of being a senator mean more than their sworn oaths to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. They fear that, if they cross Trump, he will recruit, and support, a primary opponent to run against them. They surely can’t risk that so they remain his supplicants at the steep, sorry price of selling out our country.

The Mike Pence saga is a cautionary tale, one that Republican senators ignore at their peril.
 

Idaho women bullish on Biden

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Three and a half months ago, Kassie Cerami* and I created a new Facebook group titled Idaho Women for Biden. We each invited several of our closest women friends and, in just 48 hours, the group had grown to 400 members. In a week, we had reached 1,000 members, all without spending a penny in promotion. The growth was completely organic; women invited other women.

We quickly came to understand that many women had been reluctant to join because the group was public. They feared retribution by neighbors and worried that their kids would be ostracized at school. Nevertheless, they put their fears aside and joined because they couldn’t stand the thought of four more years of a Donald Trump presidency. They were more than ready to consider Joe Biden.

After a couple weeks, we decided to make the group private and, after Joe Biden named his running mate, we changed its name to Idaho Women for Biden-Harris.
Now, three and a half months after our first post, Idaho Women for Biden-Harris boasts 10,500 members. Our members cover a wide range of the political spectrum.

Some would prefer that Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic nomination; others wish they could vote for Mitt Romney. All are supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Many tell us they are voting for a Democrat for the first time.

Group members reside in all 44 Idaho counties, and come from every nook and cranny in the state. Most hail from Idaho’s larger cities: Boise, Meridian, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, Moscow, Pocatello, Lewiston, Nampa, Twin Falls, Eagle, and Caldwell. But many others come from Idaho’s smallest towns, places like Greencreek and Rockcreek, Moyie Springs and Soda Springs, to name a few.
Members include educators and entrepreneurs, health care providers and homemakers, retail workers and realtors, lawyers and librarians, models and mechanics. Some are Idaho natives; others are transplants. All adhere to the group’s norms of civility, kindness and respect.

It's always tricky to rely on anecdotes to get a sense of the mood of the electorate, but the membership of Idaho Women for Biden has provided a number of insights; it has become something of a 10,000-member focus group.

Thanks to Facebook’s analytics, we know that, in the last 28 days, our page has had 450,000 posts, comments and reactions. By any measure, that’s impressive member engagement. We’ve heard story after story of women in their 50s, 60s and 70s voting for the first time. Others, who had not voted in years, returned to the polls. Many women tell us they’ve convinced their Republican husbands to vote for Biden, persuading them that their daughters’ futures deserve nothing less. We’ve been deeply moved by accounts from women from rural towns who thought they were alone and isolated in their political beliefs only to discover that some of their neighbors are also group members.

We know from national polls there is a sizeable gender gap in the presidential campaign: Biden receives much stronger support from women than does the current occupant of the White House. Based on our experience with Idaho Women for Biden-Harris, it would appear Idaho women are no exception. Each of our members has her own life story and her own reasons for joining the Biden-Harris campaign. In this brief video, four members share their thinking.

If 10,500 Idaho women are this bullish on Biden, that bodes well for Tuesday’s general election.

*Kassie Cerami is the state lead for Idaho for Biden and served as the Idaho state director for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

The joy of voting

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My Mom, Angeline Hansen, was a 5’2” dynamo. The daughter of Czechoslovakian and Croatian immigrants, she was born shortly after her parents arrived on our shores. When Mom was just five years old, her mother died in the Pandemic of 1918.

The oldest girl in a family of six small children, Mom did her best to help her father with the younger children. Because the family was very poor and she was needed at home, Mom dropped out of school after 8th grade. She was married at 16 and had her first baby at 17. 23 years later, the last of her four children was born. That was me.

Mom’s life had been hard; yet she persevered. And because she had wanted for much, she was determined that her children would have the education and opportunity she did not have.

Mom was a role model of good citizenship, volunteering in my classroom and at our church, and helping out in the community anytime there was a need. Long before “pay it forward” had been coined, Mom often mentioned the caring neighbors who helped feed and clothe her and her siblings during tough times. As a wife, mom, and grandma, Angeline Hansen definitely “paid it forward.”

At the age of 87, Mom faced declining health, and was growing deaf. My family moved her from her long-time home in Lewiston to a wonderful care center in Boise. Getting acclimated to her new home, Mom had just a few requests. She asked that we decorate her room with an American flag, photos of all her children and grandchildren, and a tapestry of Jesus. She also asked me to help her register to vote in her new precinct.

Voting had always been a big deal in our family. Mom, a homemaker, and Dad, a mill worker, would always get dressed up to vote, and they would bring home sample ballots for my sister and me.

As election day approached that fall, I asked Mom if she wanted to vote absentee. The answer was a firm, “No.” She wanted to go to the polls and cast her vote in person.

Early in the morning on election day, we walked slowly into the polling place, my arm linked in hers. Mom turned to me, smiling but with tears in her eyes, and said, “I just love it when they say, ‘Angeline Hansen has voted.’ It makes me feel like I’ve done my duty.” I gave her a hug.

Mom’s polling place was in a gymnasium, and the voting booths were busy. When a booth was available, Mom voted. Then taking my arm, she slowly returned to the table to give the poll workers her ballot. “My name is Angeline Hansen, and here is my ballot,” she declared.

The young man at the table took her ballot and quietly said, “Angeline Hansen has voted.” I could tell Mom hadn’t heard him and asked him to please repeat what he had said a little louder. The young man willingly obliged, saying in a more audible voice, “Angeline Hansen has voted.” I looked over at Mom and could tell that she still hadn’t heard him.

Knowing that this would be the last time Mom voted, I asked the young man, “Could you please just belt it out?” The young man was a bit taken aback by my request but looked up with kindness at Mom who was waiting with anticipation. Then – bless him – he stood up, and in a booming voice declared, “Angeline Hansen has voted!” Everyone in the gymnasium turned to look. But Mom just beamed and loudly whooped, “Woo-hoo!”

Like Mom, I typically enjoy voting in person. But this election, because of the pandemic, I’ll be voting absentee. When I drop the ballot in the mail box, I’ll be thinking of Mom. I’ll remember the joy and pride she took in voting, and I too will exclaim, “Woo-hoo!”
 

The flowers of democracy

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When the late Bill Hall was editorial page editor of the Lewiston Tribune, he once called political yard signs "the flowers of democracy.” Someone had complained to Bill that yard signs were a nuisance and “cluttered up the landscape,” In response, Bill penned an opinion piece reminding folks that yard signs represent the right of every citizen to advocate for the candidate of their choice, and – like conventions, debates, rallies and parades – are a venerable part of our civic dialog.

As an impressionable high school student reading the “Trib,” Bill’s colorful phrase “the flowers of democracy,” stayed with me.

This year, in an incredibly tense political environment, many are asking if they dare show their support for Biden-Harris by displaying a yard sign. Some are fearful of vandalism or social ostracization, especially in some rural parts of my state. Several people are even anxious about displaying a bumper sticker on their car.

The fear is understandable. No one wants to have their property damaged, or be the object of road rage. No one wants their children shunned at school because their family does not conform to some perceived prevailing point of view.

The Washington Post recently ran an article about the heightened concerns over yard signs and noted that for many Biden-Harris supporters “ the easiest option . . . is to put the sign inside a window or bring it in at night – or order a flag or banner that can be mounted high off the ground.”

The Post observed, “Others have invested in a motion-activated camera or have placed signs within sight of doorbell cameras. One woman stapled her sign to a porch railing, and another positioned hers in a poison ivy patch.” While I’m not recommending the poison ivy, I admit to finding some wisdom – if not humor – in that approach.

But poison ivy aside, it is a travesty it has come to this; and we must find a way to address the insanity. We must find a way for people to safely exercise their right to political speech without fear of retribution.

There are many views on the wisdom of displaying yard signs and bumper stickers, and I respect each individual’s choice in this matter. People know their own communities, neighborhoods, and personal circumstances, and there are times when taking one’s political views to the ballot box will have to suffice.

But I believe there is strength in numbers. As a Biden-Harris supporter in a red state, I understand that many like-minded people are hesitant to step forward and display a yard sign to show their support for a ticket unlikely to win Idaho’s 4 electoral votes. But Trumpian bullies will be less likely to attack if they know we are not solitary souls, but many.

To its credit, the 2020 session of the Idaho State Legislature enacted a new law that forbids homeowner’s associations from prohibiting the display of political signs. While a homeowners’ association may adopt reasonable rules regarding the time, size, place, number, and manner of display of political signs, it may not forbid them altogether. See Idaho Code Section 55-115(5)(a)-(e).

I’m looking forward to planting my “flowers of democracy” this year. My precinct leans Republicans so some neighbors will no doubt disapprove. But others, who share my views, might see my signs and decide that they, too, will display a Biden-Harris sign. At a minimum, they will know they are not alone.

And the day after the election, I’ll take my signs down. As Bill Hall noted, once the election is over the “flowers of democracy” turn into crabgrass.