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.
“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.”
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 that 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 with 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 tra….