The outpouring of pro-Trump signs across the nation could mean trouble for Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.Reuters; Getty Images (2)
When Drew and Marlene Proctor left their Jersey Shore, Pa., home to take their three-week trip across the back roads of the country for their honeymoon, they relished different sightings all along their journey.
But one thing remained constant no matter what state, city, town or village they passed through, Drew said, “and that was the amount of Trump signs we saw everywhere.”
“And I mean everywhere,” he added for emphasis. “They were in wealthy suburban neighborhoods, blue-collar middle-class towns. You would see them in farm fields and painted on the sides of businesses. Most of them were either large flags, although plenty of them were hand-painted homemade signs too.”
In total, the couple traveled through 12 states and logged more than 5,000 miles on their sojourn. I spoke with both Proctors last month as they sat outside a diner, enjoying a burger near Mt. Rushmore in Keystone, SD. As if on cue, a motorcyclist drove by with a Trump flag billowing out the back.
Drew, 47, said people who didn’t vote for Trump and regularly fly over these states might be surprised or even shocked by the show of support for the former president who lost to Joe Biden last fall.
Worse, he said, they might mistake the display as cultish.
“Those assumptions would be wrong,” said Drew, who is a service manager for a European industrial machining company. Drew and Marlene Proctor on their honeymoon trip in South Dakota.Shannon Venditti for NY Post
“The 2016 presidential election was not about Donald Trump. If people took the time to listen, it was about the dissatisfaction with the establishments of both parties, and I will tell you that was brewing long before he stepped on that escalator in 2015.”
Marlene, a 43-year-old ER clinician supervisor, nodded.
“Trump was the consequence of people’s sentiments, he was not the cause.”
Strategists and reporters often dismiss political signs as an unreliable way to gauge enthusiasm for a candidate. Back in 2016, as Trump signs abounded across America, experts insisted that polls predicting a Hillary Clinton victory were a better indicator of the result. And yet the Democrat lost to the unconventional Republican in a massive upset.
“Putting those signs up was their way of saying this is the new resistance,” said Youngstown State University political scientist Paul Sracic. “We saw them in places that historically supported Democrats, like here in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, two of the bluest counties in Ohio, as well as blue counties in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.” Trump signs in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania (left) and Ohio (right) show the working-class switch from Democrat to Republican is “permanent,” one expert said.Shannon Venditti for NY Post; Reuters
That the signs are popping up again in these same places today “shows the transition from blue to red is permanent,” Sracic said.
In 2020, Trump signs were even more dominant across the US than they were in 2016. And though he lost his bid for re-election, polls that predicted a drubbing were wrong again. Instead, Trump suffered a narrow defeat in a squeaker election.
One year later, voters are still showing their support by the only means they have at their disposal — Trump signs that declare they aren’t going anywhere and their passion remains intense.
“A Trump sign symbolizes a rejection of the status quo. It is also aspirational, a reminder that we were all part of something bigger than ourselves, bigger than one man, and we are still here,” said Drew, adding that both he and Marlene voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.
The Proctors’ observations mirror my own. After traveling thousands of miles from my home in western Pennsylvania to Montana and all parts in between this summer, I saw Trump signs everywhere. A country store in Maine is still brandishing Trump signs in 2021.Corbis via Getty Images
Whether I was on a gravel road just outside Hannibal, Mo., a dirt track in West Yellowstone, Mont., or on a neatly paved tree-lined neighborhood in suburban St. Louis, there was an abundance of signs and flags supporting the ex-president.
When I asked people why they were still putting their pro-Trump feelings on display, they all echoed the Proctors’ sentiments: It wasn’t about him, it was about them. It wasn’t about being unable to let go of his loss or their refusal to accept Biden as their president. It wasn’t about being “left” or “right,” either. Rather, it was about insiders versus outsiders — with Trump supporters most definitely feeling like the outsiders.
And, with the midterm elections coming up next year, the Democratic Party should be concerned.
Because, even after Trump’s shocking win in 2016, the insiders on the coasts, who dominate the nation’s culture and media, still don’t understand the people who voted for him.
“And that is OK, I guess,” Drew said. “They will, I suppose, understand when the next election happens. There is a pretty good chance they may end up being surprised by the results.”