The garden center that Tom McMeekin owns is packed with pumpkins and crimson-petaled mums this time of year. Generations of neighbors have depended on its greenhouse, located along a winding road north of Pittsburgh, for petunias, tomato seedlings, bags of compost, and clay pots for their patios. My mother bought two rose-of-Sharon bushes there that outlived her and bloom still in my sister’s backyard. I always made a detour to Quality Gardens whenever I drove from Washington, D.C., to visit my parents.
A few weeks ago, McMeekin—a level-eyed businessman who at various times has been registered as a Republican and as a Democrat, a Presbyterian elder who preaches to a tiny congregation every Sunday, a local boy who earned both economics and engineering degrees from Carnegie Mellon University—had the idea that he wanted to encourage voting in a state that could determine the presidential race.
He thought he was doing something clever. He planned eye-catching Biden and Trump signs on opposite ends of his property in Valencia, Pennsylvania, with a huge Vote placard in the middle. He reached out to county party representatives, Republicans and Democrats, to donate signs, and, he told me, they thought it was a fine idea. The Biden sign arrived first, and McMeekin posted it. He was expecting the Trump sign the next day. Then the local Republicans couldn’t find an equally big sign. He insisted that was part of the deal. They agreed to find one by the weekend.