Monday, August 11, 2014

Automotive expression

A peculiar perspective on politics

We've all seen those cars that have been plastered with indicators of the drivers' passions and concerns. Many are the unimpressive tributes to offspring who manage to be “scholar of the week” at a local elementary school. Other people “heart” their dogs (or, less often, cats). My attention is caught, however, by political signs, especially time-worn emblems of campaigns past. Why do people retain these stickers on their cars?

I, for one, kept my Al Gore 2000 sticker on my car for the duration of George W. Bush's first term. When my father smirked and asked if I still hadn't gotten over losing yet, I replied that I hadn't gotten over winning and then being cheated of victory. Dad naturally considered me a sore loser (but seems not to recall this as he continues his hand-wringing over the electoral imposition of a black-power, totalitarian communist government in the 2008 election; apparently only Democrats can be sore losers—Republicans are instead in mourning for America). Later the Gore sticker was replaced with a “Worst President” emblem in which the W was fashioned to match the Bush campaign logo. (More sneering from Dad: “Oh, is that a tribute to Carter?”)

I similarly preserved my “No on 8” bumper sticker until the anti-marriage measure met its judicial demise. In fact, I never removed it. The sticker accompanied my car to its final resting place and my new(er) car has yet to acquire political detritus.

My mind was jogged in this direction when I parked next to a vehicle whose driver was evidently a disappointed Republican. The car sported two battle-torn campaign insignia. One was for McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. I noted that it was the original McCain sticker, not the McCain-Palin sticker that arose after the senator's ill-fated choice of running mate. For some reason, the driver had failed to upgrade her sticker.

But here's what struck me as odd: The second sticker was not a memento of the Romney campaign in 2012. Our unknown Republican driver had not found it in herself to announce her support of the Romney-Ryan ticket. Interesting.

What was the second sticker? A 2006 remnant of California's general election. The driver had supported Chuck Poochigian for state attorney general. The average reader is unlikely to have much recollection of that epic campaign. The incumbent attorney general was Jerry Brown, who blew Poochigian away without even breathing hard (which he is now about to do again with Neel Kashkari, the Republican nominee in the current campaign for California governor).

You can't psychoanalyze someone on the basis of two bumper stickers (unless you're a Fox News pundit, of course). Therefore I can't quite decide what the tale of two stickers implies. She rallied to an attorney general candidate whose fate was all but foredoomed. She then gave her support fairly early to a presidential candidate who had a fighting chance (at least until the economy tanked and Sarah Palin was revealed as a joke candidate; or perhaps our unknown driver came to McCain later but refused the McCain-Palin version of the sticker). She didn't bother to enlist in the effort to prevent Jerry Brown's return to the governor's office in 2010 nor the Republican presidential campaign in 2012. Disheartened? One might think so.

She hasn't given up pining for Poochigian and McCain, though.


Erik said...

My first car was a clunker I bought from a friend who got it as a hand-me-down from his father. It was about 10 years old when I purchased it in the early 90's. At no extra charge, it included a Dukakis-Bentsen sticker on the back window. It was still there when I finally donated it for scrap value to a charity ten years later. I thought the sticker gave the car some character and made it a little easier to find in the sea of cars in a parking lot.

Kathie said...

Zeno, you must've planted an idea in my subconscious that got tossed into a crazy salad of other events of the past couple days. Early this AM I awoke dreaming that Lauren Bacall (RIP) was auctioning off two mint-condition Stevenson bumper stickers that she and Bogie had saved from their support of Adlai's presidential runs in 1952 and 1956. Unfortunately the bids were too high for me, and then I woke up, so I never found out who won the auctions or how much they paid. (Interestingly, neither "dream" bumper sticker contained the name of his VP running mates, Sparkman and Kefauver), just Adlai's last name.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago in Los Alamos, New Mexico, I drove behind a car (American! of course!) with a Reagan bumpersticker firmly attached. The car was the right vintage and driven by what appeared to be the original owner, now gray-haired. Nostalgia, I guess. Shudder...

Bacopa said...

Here in the Houston area European style "ovalo" stickers are quite quite popular since there are a lot of consulates here and Mexico uses a similar system.

So a lot of people started sporting "W" ovalos in 2001. I saw even more ovalos that said "F" in large type, and then said "the president" in very small type.

I am so sorry Texas unleashed W upon the world. The Richards/Bush election of '94 was the last stand of the proud progressive Texas I grew up in. We even almost got a black lesbian with a disability as the VP on the ticket back in '76, but Carter wisely backed off. Why are we not still so awesome anymore?

I blame folks from up north. Y'all move down here from up north and our conservative minority was able to turn you against the New South utopia we were creating.