44 to 2 — Biden over Trump. I counted yard signs on a 3 mile walk and was stunned what I saw, in the formerly Republican suburb I grew up in 50+ years ago.
CNN’s political analyst Ronald Brownstein has a very insightful article from a couple of days ago, focusing on the slow movement in the Southeast away from Republicans — unwinding in fact a progression (regression?) that occurred a couple of generations earlier. Brownstein says: Like a film spooling backward, Republicans are retreating along the same suburban pathways they had followed to establish their first durable beachheads in the region.
That meant something to me. As a native of Northern Virginia (Fairfax County) who then attended college in North Carolina, I saw first hand the forward spooling of this movie: from 1968 onwards, the Northern Virginia suburbs became a Republican stronghold. The specific subdivision where I grew up (the well known, architecturally significant and famously liberal enclave of Hollin Hills) was a mere blue dot in a sea of red. Virtually all of my childhood friends and their parents from outside Hollin Hills were staunch Republicans by the time I graduated from high school in 1974.
Brownstein’s theme is that the same suburbs that started the movement away from the Democratic dominance of the old South are now marching in reverse. These neighborhoods in the Southeast were “early adopters” then. (It took much longer for the rest of the South to turn red, but eventually we saw the sad outcome.) Now the same suburbs are pacesetters in the other direction.
Virginia was the first Southeastern state to embrace conservative Republicanism. And now it’s the first to be considered solidly blue. Obama carried the state both times, and Clinton won by a similar margin in 2016, even as the Obama coalition splintered elsewhere.
Of course, as a political junkie, I knew all of this — that Fairfax, Arlington and even Loudoun Counties are now reliably Democratic. Diversity, a highly educated electorate and strong women are demographically inexorable forces. But it took a walk on a beautiful fall afternoon to realize how starkly my old neighborhoods have changed. (I now live in the Dallas suburbs, which are also changing rapidly.)
During the pandemic, I’ve been trying to walk 3 to 3.5 miles each day, just to help preserve some sanity, and get fresh air. Despite the risks, I am now visiting my 95 year old mother in Fairfax County, who still lives in the same house I grew up in. Yesterday, I took my first afternoon stroll. To keep my mind occupied, I decided to count yard signs (Biden vs. Trump). My walk took me mostly outside Hollin Hills, through the decidedly middle class Bucknell, once home to house after house of Nixon supporters.
THE RESULTS OF MY SIGN COUNTING WERE ASTOUNDING:
- 44 to 2 — Biden signs vs. Trump — Obviously that’s more than a 20 to 1 ratio
- On a three mile walk, that is one Biden sign every .068 mile
- That’s roughly one sign every 120 yards — or every 144 steps! (Of course they weren’t even spread — some blocks had zero signs and others had a sign seemingly at every house.)
I am not even counting the houses that had more general progressive messages such as: “Vote”, “Black Lives Matter”, “Immigrants Welcome Here”, etc. — there were at least another dozen of those and it’s doubtful those houses held Trump voters.
Upon returning, i reported my findings to my mother. She smirked: “Well that’s Hollin Hills of course”. But I said: “No, actually I walked mostly through Bucknell”. She looked at me like I was crazy. She did not recall seeing any Clinton signs in 2016.
I think I’ll take a different rout on today’s walk, and repeat the experiment!