To the Editor:
Friday morning I was at the Democratic Town Committee headquarters, when a prominent Old Lyme Republican pulled into the parking lot with a stack of Democratic lawn signs. She dumped them at the corner of our building and tried to scurry off unnoticed. Given all the recent issues with sign vandalism and theft, I went outside to confront her.
I asked her how she came to have our signs. Her response was, for lack of a better word, incredible. This person apparently lives on Lyme Street – the main thoroughfare of our town and a prime location for campaigning. Indeed, earlier that morning the Republican Party was out on Lyme Street waving signs for this very reason.
When it comes to other parties’ signs, however, this individual is far less enthused. Which is understandable. Part of democracy is that we sometimes disagree. But we confront speech we don’t like not with suppression, but with more speech. That was not this person’s strategy. And that brings us back to how she came to have our signs.
The person in question wandered over to the home of a new family on Lyme Street who had some lawn signs supporting Democratic candidates. She knocked on the door and, implying she was with the Democratic Party, stated, “Hi, I’m here to take your signs back to DTC Headquarters for you!” The homeowner, new in town and unfamiliar with local personalities, reported that he assumed the DTC needed them for other purposes. After all, why would anyone else offer to take his signs back to the DTC headquarters? So he agreed. The local Republican then collected his signs and drove off. When we called the homeowner to ask about the incident he was both dumbfounded and insulted. He could not believe that someone would stoop so low as to try and trick him into removing perfectly legal political signs. He asked us to please bring them back.
To call this unethical misrepresentation egregious is an understatement. It is a subversion of the democratic process. As I have said time and time again, we can disagree on policy. We can and should debate those disagreements in the public forum. But this is too much.
One would think that, caught in the act, the perpetrator would feel shame and chalk this up to an error in judgment. One would also assume that the Republican Party would distance themselves from an incident so inextricably intertwined with the censorship they continuously claim they are against. Unfortunately that was not the case. Instead, they “doubled down.” Once the signs were back in place, they marshalled their team to find another way of hiding the signs – by parking one of their pickup trucks with their own large garish sign in front the house so as to block the view of the Democratic signs.
If this the Republican path to victory, then so be it. Democracy is always a fight. But for my money, this individual, and the Republican Party for whom she pulled this stunt, should apologize to her neighbor, to the town, and to anyone who believes in free speech.