Guest Commentary

Will all those Obama bumper stickers one day become a source of embarrassment?

I have always been fascinated by bumper stickers. They are sort of a pre-electronic Twitter (which I also find fascinating). Bumper stickers are more provocative, because you don't choose to "follow" them: They are in your face.

My wife often chides me when I squint through the windshield to read a sticker, or pause in the parking lot of a restaurant to study one of those cars with stickers plastered all over the back—a sort of self-inflicted graffiti.

While I am fascinated by them, bumper stickers offend my sense of propriety. My parents believed it undignified to "advertise" stuff with your car or clothing. My grandfather on my mother's side would chisel off the nameplates of appliances he bought. "It's not Frigidaire's refrigerator; I paid for it, and I'm not going to advertise for them!" he would say. My parents never had a bumper sticker on a car, nor did they own any garments with more than a discreet logo. This aversion was passed on to me.

It was in the 1990s when I first put a bumper sticker on my old Honda sedan. I forget what the sticker said, but the capital "C" in "Clinton" was a hammer and sickle. I continue to go back and forth, putting them on and then taking them off. Right now, I am sticker-free—mostly because I don't want my late-model vehicle to get vandalized.

In the early days, bumper stickers were used to advertise businesses from the low end of the tourism industry. Older residents will recall the green-on-yellow, "The THING? Mystery of the Desert" sticker that seemed to be everywhere in Southern Arizona. Decades ago, when the city of Tucson wanted to straighten River Road and make it an east-west highway, nearby residents campaigned against the plan and sported bumper stickers that said, "Keep It Kinky." This was the local bellwether of the bumper-sticker shift from business to politics.

Politics now seem to dominate bumper-sticker messages. Stands on every imaginable issue, from abortion to medicine to taxes, are thrust upon the unsuspecting driver. There is always an uptick in an election year, but the last cycle blossomed with a plethora of Barack Obama promotional images and slogans—including the "O" logo, which was the best, most adaptable logo since the Sumerians started poking clay with sticks.

There are far more Democrats than Republicans in Pima County, so Obama stickers were everywhere. After the election, the stickers remained and even seemed to grow in number—or maybe I just found them more irritating.

I have a friend who came to town for the Gem and Mineral Show last February and was shocked to see Obama bumper stickers on Arizona cars. He, being from New Jersey, assumed all of Arizona was John McCain country. I explained that Pima County was "Commie Central" in Arizona, and was actually carried by Obama.

And now, here it is, the dead of summer, and the virulent plague of "O" stickers persists. I even saw a new mutation: "Yes We Did!"

Speaking of McCain, he was Howard Dean's choice for the Republicans. According to Fox News, the head of the Democratic National Committee said he "feared" facing Romney in the general election, and thought McCain was a "weak candidate." Certainly, lawyer/law professor Obama could not hold a candle to businessman, governor and Salt Lake Olympic savior Romney regarding business and the economy. This explains why McCain, held in generally low esteem by the Republican base, won the nomination: He was selected by Democrats and "independents." That's why some states have "open primaries." Open primaries allow, in this case, Democrats to affect the outcome of Republican primaries.

I should probably save this for the next Get Out of Town! issue, but I am really tired of Obama bumper stickers being worn like some kind of badge. It has always been considered poor taste for the winner to strut around, rubbing everyone's nose in his victory. Most parents teach their children this at an early age. My parents were no different. Remember, "Pride goeth before a fall."

On second thought, keep it up. The way things are going, those stickers may become a source of embarrassment. In fact, the Republicans may recycle the theme of an old '70s Democrat sticker: "Don't Blame Me; I Voted for McCain."

About The Author

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman moved to Tucson from Connecticut in 1977 and never looked back. He attended the UA, ran for City Council Ward III in 2001, and made regular contributions to the Guest Commentary section of the Tucson Weekly for over five years. He helped launch the Southern Arizona News Examiner. He is a former...
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