Anti-Bush bumper stickers: changing with the times?
I live in a liberal Democrat "blue" town in a "blue" state. Back when I was blue myself, I wasn't even aware of this; it was like background music. But this fact of blueness, or the characteristics that went with it, must somehow have been part of its attraction: good theater, open-minded people, great food, funky little clothing shops, tolerance, all that jazz.
In the build-up to the 2004 election, anti-Bush bumper stickers proliferated on cars like mushrooms on the lawns after a week of rain. My neighbors' car sported, not just a Kerry bumper sticker, but a "Regime Change Begins at Home" bumper sticker. Almost overnight, before I even knew what it signified, the cars around me sprouted different versions of that "W" sticker with the black slash across it (for the first few days, I actually thought it was some sort of new municipal parking sticker). A good friend of mine, a lovely and ordinarily gentle woman, had one that read "Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot." The only anti-Bush bumper sticker I saw that seemed to display any sort of wit was the one that read "Fermez la Bush."
Pro-Bush stickers were few and far between, although sometimes I wondered whether those yellow-ribbon "Support the Troops" stickers were a coded way of supporting Bush, like a secret handshake. But I always imagined, without even thinking much about it, that after the election the stickers and signs would come down pretty quickly, no matter who had won.
Months later and I still couldn't go for a drive without seeing them everywhere: a few bumper stickers for Kerry; but, far far more commonly, bumper stickers ridiculing and demonizing Bush. I couldn't remember anything even remotely like this after previous elections. The closest I could recall were the bumper stickers I used to see when I lived in Boston right after Watergate: "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts." But that was after the fall of a president, not the election of one.
It couldn't be that these people thought Bush would magically go away and that Kerry would somehow still become president. No, something else must have been going on. It occurred to me that these stickers must be acting as a signaling device, sort of like the displays of birds in mating season, or the sonorous cries of humpback whales calling out to others of their ilk . The stickers said something about the driver, not about the election. They said, "I am good, I am wise, I am smart, I am sophisticated." In particular, they said, "I am not fooled by the simpleminded simplicity of the simpleton Bush." But, most of all, they said, "I am like you; I am not like them. Are you like me, too?"
They were a form of both communication and of fashion, like having a trendy haircut or cutting-edge clothes (or, for that matter, long hair, no makeup, and Birkenstocks). As such they worked very well, helping people to recognize each other from afar, and to feel comforted that, even though Bush had become President, they themselves had managed to live in a community of like-minded individuals who saw right through him.
But a couple of days ago I was parking at the local health food supermarket, usually a treasure-trove of cars sporting Bush-hating stickers, and I noticed something odd. The cars were bare, stripped of their messages.
What had happened? Had there been a recent special on sticker-scrapers? Or was it something else? Did everyone get the signal all at once--like when the leaves turn colors and drop from the trees because the days are getting shorter and the nights colder--that the time had come? Did it have something to do with the wave of demonstrations for democracy hitting the Arab world? Is there some sort of realization dawning, slowly but surely, that perhaps, perhaps, Bush isn't so very awful after all?
UPDATE: Welcome, Ann Althouse readers!