Tea Leaves & Bumper Stickers

I think I just took a poll.


It wasn’t scientific—in fact, it could more aptly be characterized as a series of anecdotes. But interesting, for what it may be worth, and what it may suggest about changing political passions in these polarized times.


As most of my friends and acquaintences know, I have a bumper sticker on my car that reads simply “Ex Republican.” It is the only message on my car, and something of a departure from my usual disinclination to use my transportation as a billboard for my politics, my religion or my philosophy. I put it there three years ago, and I tend to forget it’s there, but the last couple of weeks have provided me with pretty constant reminders.


For one week every summer for a number of years, my husband and I have taken assorted kids—and more recently, grandkids—to a beach in South Carolina. This year, he and I took an extra week and drove down the

Blue Ridge Parkway

. (For those who have never done so, I commend the experience; the National Park Service has done a magnificent job maintaining this spectacular route through the mountains. It would be nice if more of our federal budget went to such endeavors, and less to blowing people up in Iraq—but I digress.)


On a country road in Virginia, a woman driving a pickup truck honked at us and motioned for my husband to roll down his window. Mystified, he did so. She gave us a “thumbs up,” and when we still looked puzzled, yelled “I love your bumper sticker! Me too!”


When we stopped at a hotel, the bellman smiled broadly and told us he loved our bumper sticker. When we pulled over at one of the scenic overlooks along the

Blue Ridge Parkway

, a man driving out of the same overlook in a car with a faded Bush/Cheney sticker leaned out his window and told us he sure did agree with our bumper sticker. The most enthusiastic response came from the owner of an Inn in Blowing Rock, North Carolina; he took one look, started to laugh, and said “That bumper sticker just earned you a discount on your room!” He was as good as his word—we got 30% off the listed rate!


I must admit to being floored by these and a number of similar reactions. We were driving through the south, after all—through very red states. And we undoubtedly passed plenty of people who muttered uncomplimentary things under their breath, or at least disagreed with the sentiment plastered on our car. But I also don’t think these reactions were meaningless, or that they should be discounted. I think they reflect a growing national mood, made up of equal parts disgust with Congressional corruption, and the belated realization that a President who understands the importance of national parks and global realities (among other things) might be a better choice than one we’d like to have a beer with.