Thursday, March 17, 2005

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!


At 6:01 PM, March 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How absolutely fascinating.Since I live in a red state , I haven't had the occassion to notice such an interesting phenomenon.

At 6:04 PM, March 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How absolutely fascinating.Since I live in a red state , I haven't had the occassion to notice such an interesting phenomenon.

At 11:48 PM, March 18, 2005, Blogger Papa Ray said...

Nope, it was a midnight raiding party of neocons, armed with their silent scrapers.

Papa Ray
West Texas

P.S. I checked, all our idiots are present and accounted for.

At 2:02 PM, March 19, 2005, Blogger Dymphna said...

We live near the People's Republic of Charlottesville, a blue spot in a red state (Northern VA is considered -- by those who don't have to live there --a piece of geography akin to D.C.). Here, the anti-Bush stickers still flourish. Charlottesville is Berkeley East; I wouldn't show my true color there for fear of retribution. The fury continues unabated.

I'm considering having this bumper sticker made: "Hillary in 2008. She knows what's good for us."

Do you think they'd get it? My hope is that they wouldn't; I love the slyness of it. OTOH, it may be as 'sly' as a brick.

Opinions anyone?

At 4:44 PM, March 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living in the Minneapolis area, I've noticed that the further outside the city one goes, the less one sees any anti-Bush stickers, or Kerry/Edwards one for that matter. Of course, the parking ramp at North Memorial hospital has a few; what's hilarious is seeing a Kerry/Edwards sticker on a Lexus or Beemer. Guess being wealthy is okay for Dems, but not for Reps.

Funniest sticker siting for me was one of those lame green Wellstone! stickers the left in this state cling to, plastered on the bumper of a new Mini Cooper. Puhleeze.

My choice for a new sticker - "I'd Rather Be Crushing Dissent". Of course, the irony of that statement would be completely lost on the left.

At 6:40 PM, March 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in the Blue State California. I still notice anti-Bush or pro-Kerry stickers on occasion, but I mostly see the yellow ribbon "Support Our Troops" stickers.

The election is over. It's time to remove the political stickers. I removed my Bush-Cheney '04 sticker the day after the election.

Although I was proud that Bush won re-election, I am disappointed with his performance on the deficits and illegal immigration. I am not stupid to realize the negatives of Bush; however, I think Kerry is far worse.

It's time to move on beyond the 2004 rhetoric.

At 8:10 PM, March 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got so tired of all the anti-Bush stickers that I put six stickers on my nice and formerly "sticker-less" car.

"Bush Cheney 'O4"
"Viva Bush"
"Don't be a girlie man. Vote for Bush." with Schwarzenegger's face on it
"Condi Rice '08"
and "Except for ending slavery, communism, nazism, and facism, war has never solved anything."

I'm sure I'll take them off eventually, but for now my favorite places to drive are the book store and health food store.

At 9:00 PM, March 20, 2005, Blogger Be said...

Hello neo-neocon from the 'people's republik.' Just wanted to let you know that the anti-Bush stuff is still flourishing up heah. In fact, in addition to all the usual stuff, I saw a couple new ones (one out and out bizarre: "WWWD" - What would Wellstone do? on a new car. One just nasty: "my anarchist kid just beat up your inbred Republican kid) that really stood out on my daily walk to work. It used to really upset me. Now, it just tires me out.

At 11:09 PM, March 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting. i had a kerry sticker on my car although i voted for him rather half-heartedly. after the election, i made a point of replacing it with stickers that supported or opposed ideas instead of people, parties, ideologies, or things like "THE WAR" (really, opposing that is just as meaning less as supporting "OUR TROOPS"). they're still somewhat political, though, and i guess they serve the purpose of identfying me to all the other hippie scum ;-) still proudly sporting them, at any rate.

fwiw, i think just calling Bush a name is pointless and juvenile. if you have a point, make it, if not...

At 11:34 PM, March 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe they just realized they suddenly looked like utter fools.

At 5:29 AM, March 21, 2005, Blogger Judith said...

"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."

I've thought that for some time. I saw a lot of those ribbons on cars on the Jersey Turnpike.

At 10:42 AM, March 21, 2005, Blogger Nick said...

I've seen this sort of post pop up from time to time... and people I think do have a short memory on these things. I remember seeing a lot of anti-Clinton bumper stickers when he was elected. These two come to mind immediately...

"Inhale to the Chief"
"Don't Blame Me. I Voted for Bush"

I'm not sure whether the Clinton ones ever became quite as popular... or whether they were as ferocious as some of the current Bush ones, but lets not forget about them. Both sides have played this game.

At 4:02 PM, March 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one likes deficits, but too many Demos act as if surpluses are sacrosanct and only Bill Clinton can bring them back.

Though the absolute level of the deficits are at record levels, as a percent of GDP, they're about average. And when one takes into account that GWB inherited a bubble economy headed into recession exacerbated by 9/11, his combination of Keynsian deficit spending and supply-side tax cuts helped this country (and the world) avoid a deflationary spiral that could have led to a deep recession for much of this decade. Yes, we all want deficits to end, but get real about what we just went through and thank your lucky stars it was a Republican in office, otherwise either those deficits or the economy would be much worse.

At 4:06 PM, March 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking Monkey--I can pretty much promise you that I will never support a policy of Bush's (or any other candidate) out of mere loyalty. I admire certain policies of Bush; I disagree with others. My political affiliation now is independent, and I don't plan to ever affiliate with another party in my lifetime.

Perhaps you are correct, and Democrats have moved through denial and rage and all that other stuff to acceptance. My question, though, is why did it take so long, and why now, very suddenly, have the stickers disappeared?

Also, some of the anti-Bush stickers were fun (like the "Fermez la Bush" one I mentioned). Most weren't fun at all, if you think about it for a moment. Bush=Hitler? Bush's first term as a "regime" needing "changing," as in a two-bit dictatorship in need of a revolution? Both stickers are, to me, a sign that polite discourse and rationality have broken down in this country in the political arena. Not that politics ever was so very polite or so very rational, but things have gotten much worse recently, as I express in this post.

At 10:33 PM, March 21, 2005, Blogger AGR said...

I live in DC, and I haven't noticed a decrease in the number of anti-Bush or Kerry stickers--this is, after all, a town that voted 90 percent for Kerry.

But I have noticed this: Before the election, I hardly ever saw a Bush sticker. Now, I see them all the time, even on cars with DC plates.

At 11:22 AM, March 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Led here by Ms. Althouse, I have to say I'm grateful. This is a great site you have.

On the matter at hand, how do we get these mysterious sticker-scrapers out here to Los Angeles? This town's living in the past, apparently thinking the election's just around the corner, and that Kerry-Edwards are running a lead.

At 12:21 PM, March 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Dogtown, I'm puzzled. I always thought Los Angeles was on the cutting edge :-).

At 5:43 PM, March 22, 2005, Blogger KCFleming said...

I am from Rochester, Minnesota, where, despite the Mayo Clinic (full of doctors) and IBM (full of seemingly rational software types), Kerryland dominates.

The only bumper stickers I saw before November were for Kerry. Alas, most are still around. I was afraid to put a Bush sticker on my car due to reports of keying.

Instead, I painted a four-foot "W" on my garage facing a main street, (and hopefully visible from Bush's bus when he drove by in October).

At 4:31 PM, March 23, 2005, Blogger Johnny C. said...

Great Post. I live in Atlanta and I'm still seeing the anti-Bush stickers. When I leave the city it does tend to die down. Granted, Bush did win this state.

I don't think Atlanta should be considered GA though. The city folk are pretty much the opposite of those who live in the more rural area's.

At 12:12 AM, March 24, 2005, Blogger valjean said...


How about...

Hillary 2008: Just lie back and think of France!

Even more obscure, I know. But perhaps more appropriate.

Thanks for all the great posts -- and great site, neo. I hope AA keeps linking to you.

At 10:01 PM, April 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of our president. It's about time someone got rid of social security and the filibuster. Perhaps Cheney can line up all the congressional democrats against the viet nam wall and have them shot. A. Hitler

At 5:25 PM, May 03, 2005, Blogger SteveR said...

More serious than leftover bumper stickers are websites with leftover overtaken-by-events statements.

For example, I just checked the website of Mothers Opposing Bush ("Join the MOB!" was their rallying cry,) which was founded by a very intelligent and lovely woman who is a member of the synagogue I belong to. I have to ask her about this howler that remains on her MOB website: "We deserve a president who protects us with vision and through intelligent strategies aimed directly at combating terrorism, rather than through a misguided war that has caused America to lose respect and support around the world."

I guess she and the other MOBsters missed recent events in the Arab world since 1/30/05, and statements such as this one from Walid Jumblatt, certainly no friend of George W. Bush, or for that matter, of the United States:

""It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

At 2:12 PM, July 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Republican faculty member in a predictably very liberal town in a very RED state. I have noted that the liberal bumperstickers have come off lately, but have no idea why.

I have a related entry on my blog:

I'm also shamelessly publicizing my new blog--check it out and link to me, thanks! Any conservative educators are most welcome--it's hard not to feel like some kind of alien from another galaxy.

At 9:51 PM, July 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that 'war solves everything' bumper sticker is why this nation is still mired in a sea of big-government.

War kept all those things intact, and was the reason slavery, communism, fascism and nazism were able to flourish.

War is the health of the State, nothing more.

At 5:16 AM, February 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason you see fewer and fewer Kerry stickers as you leave the big cities behind and head in to the backwater you see where I'm going with this? I love the nut that painted a W on her garage. You people are truly mad sheep.

At 9:14 PM, March 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8:49 PM, April 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's one Iv'e always loved: "God is not a Republican". !!!

HILLARY '08!!!!!

At 12:41 AM, April 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Bush is that should be abundantly obvious to everyone you can support an idiot like that is beyond me...........

At 7:15 PM, June 24, 2006, Blogger Unknown said...

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.

Don't fall for right-wing pundits that conflate supporting the troops with supporting Bush.

If that were a safe assumption, I would not be seeing ribbons and bumper stickers with slogans like "Support the Troops: Bring Them Home" or "Support the Troops, Not The War".

It makes me wonder when impeachment became the preferred remedy for dealing with a Presidency one doesn't like.

Impeachment is the preferred remedy of dealing with a president who commits criminal acts. It was the preferred remedy of the Nixon era, and it's back in vogue now that Bush's even higher crimes are going unchecked.

Of course, impeachment won't happen as long as corrupt Republicans are in charge of all three branches of government.

The cars were bare, stripped of their messages.

Had there been a recent special on sticker-scrapers? Or was it something else?

You saw a bunch of cars in the same parking lot with scraped-off bumper stickers? I wouldn't rule out vandalism.

Is there some sort of realization dawning, slowly but surely, that perhaps, perhaps, Bush isn't so very awful after all?

If Bush's high unpopularity ratings are reliable, quite the opposite.

At 8:05 PM, April 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in the People's Republic of Charlottesville. I ,unlike most of the foaming at the mouth leftists in C'ville, was born here.

It is positively Orwellian living here.

I have been collecting pictures of the bumper sticker clad cars in the area. I have found a direct correlation between the number of bumper stickers and the hatefulness of the driver. For example, I stepped into the crosswalk on 2nd Street a year ago when a little red car whipped off of Water Street onto 2nd. I had to jump back onto the curb to keep my feet from being run over. Among the thirty or so bumper stickers on the car was a "Mean People Suck" bumper sticker. Wow, she must have sucked big time.

The other thing I have noticed is that the Birkenstock crowd rarely has a logical reason for their viewpoint. It is generally pure emotion and venom. I can count on one hand the number of intellectually honest leftists I have had conversations with in C'ville. I've even had someone tell me, a native, that if I didn't like it here, I should leave. So much for the left and their love of diversity. I guess it is only a certain type of diversity that is acceptable.


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