We spent a few days in Bethesda, visiting our son and his lovely wife for an extended weekend, taking advantage of the early Columbus Day official holiday. (No wonder no one takes Columbus seriously, since his day of memorial wanders around the month like a boulevardier on a stroll.) What is always striking in the DC area is the prosperity of it. The nation’s capitol wants for nothing. For the past three years or so, when we go it’s like visiting Boomtown, USA.. The area looks as if the country tipped east, folded, with a crease running into DC and whatever of the nation’s money that could be shook loose rolled right in. Of course, people chased the money there, and there are plenty of prosperous people or people who serve prosperous people and do fairly well out of it. Those folks are from all over the country and even from all over the world. Other areas of the country may be drained of capital, but THE capitol is awash with it.
We left Bethesda on Sunday afternoon and drove north to find the Lincoln Highway for a leisurely westward drive home through the fall foliage. The trees did not disappoint. The other thing we noticed on the drive west was the waning of Obama political yard signs and the waxing of Romney political yard signs. In the cities of Maryland where our trip began, were a mix of signs with pro-Obama signs more prevalent. Once well into the Pennsylvania countryside, the name of Obama disappears, except for on the occasional billboard. Romney/Ryan signs are everywhere. From overheard conversations in restaurants during our journey (and people seemed to be talking about the election everywhere outside of the DC area) at least some people, middle-class people who go to Ed’s Steakhouse or Shakespeare’s Coffee Shop, are convinced that Obama’s reelection would unleash all the worst implications of the proposed policies of the last four years.
The next day, in Pittsburgh, we saw one yard sign for Obama and there were many signs referencing Obama, but those said vote for coal, vote against Obama. Even in the corner of West Virginia that the Lincoln Highway crosses and in southern Ohio, Romney/Ryan yard signs prevailed. That was a surprise, as the area usually votes Democratic, but it is coal country, too. There were many billboards in PA that ask, “Obama supports abortion and gay marriage … do you?” Those were frequent in southern Ohio, as well. I wondered who paid for those.
Turning north, eventually the yard sign mix shifted again, with Obama/Biden signs prevailing in frequency in the Mahoning Valley, near Youngstown, but not in any overwhelming way. The balance went swinging back again in the countryside. Much of this political variation from countryside to city is as expected, but the yard signs in the Pittsburgh and southern Ohio area around East Liverpool were interesting and unexpected in their conservatism. Even the argument over fracking in Ohio’s oil shale region plays to Romney, although the Obama administration has made only the subtlest moves against oil shale fracking. Apparently, judging from signage, energy politics and social issues are heavy concerns along the Lincoln Highway and in rural Ohio.
I know that inductive reasoning is the worst. Driving across a few states and noting yard signs, billboards and local conversations may not be the best gauge of national politics. Yet, that drive and what I noticed of politics on the Lincoln Highway left me in good cheer about the election. (The Biden/Ryan debate and the upcoming presidential foreign policy debate ought to be very interesting, especially in light of the morning news.) I’ll go read what you gloomy guys have written while I was gone now. You’ve had me quite depressed about the election over the last several weeks.