Assaulting Campaign Materials: An American Political Tradition

My colleague Hans Bader wrote earlier about the rash yard sign vandalism and theft that seems to have hit some Republican campaigns around the country. While Republicans will likely face the brunt of this uncivil behavior this year (thanks to “sore loser syndrome”), theft and vandalism of laminated campaign materials has long been a stupid tradition in American electoral politics. It’s also completely bipartisan.

Yesterday it was reported that Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R) of McCook was arrested for vandalizing campaign signs of his opponent. From the Chicago Tribune:

Wolfe said that about 11:15 p.m. Saturday, an officer spotted a white van leaving the home of an 83-year-old woman, who doesn’t drive, in the 8400 block of Joliet Road. When the driver failed to use a turn signal, the van was stopped, he said.

Another officer noticed a Tobolski sign at the woman’s home had been destroyed, and Peraica was a passenger in the vehicle, Wolfe said. While the officer talked to Peraica, the owner of a building about a block away said someone had similarly vandalized a sign on his property, the site of a restaurant, the chief said.

One of the building owner’s tenants then told police he saw Peraica get out of the van and vandalize the sign at the restaurant, Wolfe said. Peraica was arrested, charged with criminal damage to property and released early Sunday pending a Nov. 22 court date.

Here’s a report of another politico getting arrested for attacking paper signs with words written on them. A quick Google News search for “sign theft” yields dozens of results. And those are only from the last month.

Campaign yard sign vandalism and theft occurs in every election cycle and in most non-trivial races. Here’s news coverage from 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, and 2000. Again, this sort of behavior is not new, as much as campaign strategists pretend it is through their manufactured-outrage machines. But when lazy political beat reporters are trying to make deadlines, reporting on these inanities fills copy and shocks the same people shocked by this sort of thing every two years.