Bumper-Sticker Politics

Watching the January 6th Committee’s first hearing reinforced a concern I’ve had for some time–a concern that had re-emerged just a few days ago at a fundraising event for our local Indianapolis prosecutor.

American politics has devolved into the battle of the bumper-stickers–an exchange of slogans and sound-bites that ignore the genuine complexities of law and governance–and I am increasingly worried that as a result, we have lost the ability to engage in responsible self-government.

I was reminded of the superficiality of our political discourse by a question and answer at the fundraiser I referenced. It came during a discussion about efforts to combat gun violence. The prosecutor, Ryan Mears (disclosure: I am an enthusiastic supporter) was asked about the efficacy of “Red Flag” laws, and he launched into a detailed explanation of the strengths and significant weaknesses of Indiana’s version–why his office had found that mechanism to be far less useful than we might otherwise think.

Someone then asked him how to deliver that information in a pithy sound-bite.

Of course, it simply isn’t possible to reduce a relatively complicated explanation to a slogan that would fit on a bumper-sticker, but the question perfectly reflected the state of today’s political debate, where vague labels are substituted for information.

That state of affairs is what makes the job of the January 6th Committee so fraught. Give Trump and his extremist (and generally mindless) minions credit for understanding that far too many Americans don’t want to understand the mechanics of governance .(For that matter, it was clear that Trump was profoundly ignorant of–and uninterested in–the work of governing as opposed to the perks of power). Ever since January 6th, with the enthusiastic assistance of propagandists for the Right, they have emulated those zoo monkeys who throw poo at each other, shouting slogans like “Stop the Steal,” despite overwhelming–and easily accessible– evidence that no “steal” had occurred.

Trump is still at it. Thursday, just before the televised hearing,  he tweeted  on his Truth Social platform that “the Jan. 6 Capitol attack “was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again.” Anyone who saw the newly-released footage of the carnage has to be appalled by his enthusiastic support of a vicious mob bent on spreading death and destruction on his behalf.

The challenge for the Committee is thus formidable: how do you present a year’s worth of complicated fact-finding in a comprehensible way to people accustomed to responding to sound-bites and believing paranoid pronouncements? As one of the numerous “day after” stories noted, the committee had to “weave together thousands of hours of testimony, tens of thousands of documents, more than 1,000 different people they interviewed — and make it all coherent, compelling and as concise as Congress can be.”

That’s a high bar. Thursday night, they met it.

The Committee clearly understands America’s limited attention-span, and lack of patience for discussions of legal intricacies and legislative procedures. The initial hearing–effectively, the “opening statements”– marshaled evidence and testimony into a compelling storyline. No one who watched that initial hearing with a mind even partially open could honestly dispute the basic facts: Trump knew he’d lost the election, because his own people had repeatedly told him so. He lied anyway. Worse, he knowingly plotted to overturn the election results, cheered on the violent extremist groups, and would have done nothing to save the life of the Vice-President who had obediently slobbered at his side for four years, but who found committing treason for him a step too far. (I have despised Mike Pence for years, but credit where credit is– surprisingly–due…This time, he was a hero.)

The remaining Committee hearings will not be televised in prime time, so they may be less compelling and less viewed. The crazies and True Believers of the far Right will continue to tune them out. Even with the clear and convincing road map the Committee has provided, some of our fellow-citizens will find the information more complicated than they are used to, or inconsistent with their biases, or both, and will thus dismiss it.

The presentation of this evidence will not only show us whether proof of an attempted coup is enough to wake previously disconnected Americans to the very real danger of becoming an autocracy. It will also test the ability of citizens to understand realities that cannot be conveyed via  bumper-sticker.

Fingers crossed……


  1. My nagging question is WHY did all the Republicans change their tune so quickly after 1-6? They knew the truth. They were ready to do something. THEN….. there were meetings with Trump and something changed. WHAT was that? One theory: The close relationship Trump and Putin share may have produced some dirt that Putin dug up on these folks. Trump shows them this dirt and suddenly they are on team Trump. That is the only explanation that makes any sense. If it is not blackmail, HOW can we understand somewhat rational people buying into Trump and his endless bull shit?

  2. One of the best classes I took on my undergrad program was Political Science. I had the fortune of sitting next to the chief case worker for my congressman. She had helped me with issues regarding my VA benefits and its attempts to deny them. Unfortunately he was the target of one of the first focused attacks by the NRA and became the last Democratic congressman from OK.

  3. I hate to say it but Sheila is caught in the sound bytes of superficial political rhetoric if she thinks the 1/6 Commission met its obligation. They failed to enlighten the American people who funded the insurrection and who had the motive to execute an insurrection if Trump got his way.

    Why is the Committee refusing to subpoena and/or charge Charles Koch and the other deep-monied connections to the right-wing oligarchs hell-bent on taking down the US government?

    Until they do, what you watch on the TV is a circus show. Entertainment purposes only.

  4. Whatever the outcome of these hearings the American Public will never be able to say that they didn’t know.

  5. For once I agree with Todd about subpoenaing those real criminals: Koch, Dimon, Musk, Bezos, et. al. As mentioned before, most of the politicians getting raked over the coals are part of the mindless dupes crowd that merely do the bidding of their paymasters. It is clearly a criminal enterprise when those bastards sponsor an overthrow of our government. Gosh! They must have gotten tired of waiting for the kleptocratic takeover.

    As far as bumper stickers go… The Republicans – beginning, I think, with Reagan’s time – captured the essence of the narrative. The bumper-sticker class used to vote Democrat until the Republican wordsmiths like Rick Wilson (Now a convert) exploited that limited view group and boiled it down to what got them to vote for Republicans. One look at the Republican bench of politicians – at every level – tells thinking people how “successful” that philosophy was.

    Now, Wilson and people like Steve Schmidt have seen the error of their ways and the monster they helped create by forming “I’m sorry” groups like The Lincoln Project. Let’s hope there’s enough time to save our republic and the Constitution from the vagaries of our bumper-sticker purveyors.

  6. Pat has an excellent view of why the GOP officials did 180s. It’s Putin & what he holds on them. trump is Putin’s lap dog/errand boy.

  7. I admit I fell asleep and didn’t watch the January 6th hearing past the beginning of the Proud Boys documentarian’s testimony but followed MSNBC follow up yesterday. I couldn’t believe what appeared, by newscasters and guest speakers, to be surprise that Trump has been behind the insurrection since the beginning and the Big Lie is the reason. I have seen nothing else but Trump and his Big Lie since the insurrection. Why were so many of those attending the January 6th hearing surprised to “learn” Trump actually said that Pence should be hanged for not overturning the election? I can’t believe they didn’t know that fact; many of them being among the victims of the insurrection and returning to their inside jobs in government on January 7th. Why was there a warning of profanity before the video with Barr’s use of the word “bullshit” in his deposition? There were dead people and other’s injured and disabled on January 6th; as well as the appalling view from our living rooms of what actually happened and we are supposed to be appalled about the word “bullshit” which was changed to “bs” in news reports.

    From what I saw originally Thursday night and the follow up films yesterday; the January 6th Insurrection Committee did an incredible job of investigating and condensing the beginning the public notification of results of their investigation. Will following hearings become like results of the Mueller Report, which this nation still has not seen in full, and be watered down because of the fact finding of sedition and treason headed by then president Trump and his extremists? Too many of our elected officials appear to be mindless weaklings; refusing to do battle with our home grown domestic terrorists…including those among the elected officials. Whatever information the follow up hearings release to the nation; Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney put their lives on the line to investigate and report; that won’t end when the hearings end. The November 8, 2022 mid-term elections and our democracy also remain in peril and the outcome will decide the 2024 presidency before the campaigning begins.

  8. Here is a Bumper Sticker Slogan: US President Convicted of Sedition. Gets Life in Prison.
    What are we waiting For??

  9. As one who has been calling for the Democrats to get pithy, I have to applaud Thursday’s effort. For years, the Dems have put out ponderous policy pronouncements, which were only read by people like me. When even the stupid people are allowed to vote (thanks, Larry David), and when they outnumber people like me, they can’t be bothered to research any candidate. They demand a good sound bite and that’s what Republicans have given them for years. You have to play the game by the same rules that your opponent uses.

  10. Politics as “performative art” didn’t begin with Trump; it began with Ronald Reagan. We have allowed politicians to use their acting skills to entertain us and tell us what what we want to hear. Rather than learn the issues and seek answers, we have allowed entertainers to tell us what we want to hear. Rather than learn and study the issues, we judge politicians by how well they entertain us.

  11. Alison….I’ll buy a CRATE full of your bumper stickers and pass ’em out FREE! (Although–you could probably make a small fortune, selling them!)

  12. DERSHOWITZ: “You can’t present part of the tape and deliberately omit the rest of the tape in order to mislead the audience, especially when the other side has no opportunity to cross examine, no opportunity to present its own evidence.”

    “This is a kangaroo court; this is a fixed jury,” liberal Democrat and Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz said Thursday, commenting on Democrats’ nationally-televised Jan. 6 Select Committee hearing.”

  13. No surprises here, and I thought that the committee did a fine job of summarizing it’s findings in this introduction
    to their work.
    Trump has succeeded, if that’s what it can be called, in banking (no pun intended) on the laziness and stupidity, of
    the populace, esp. the “uneducated” that he loves.

  14. Becky; whether you are talking about Barr or Trump, it was their own side asking the questions or repeating what “their guy” stated. The other side was the Democratic minority party at the time who were not allowed to question any of the “mindless extremists”.

    Dershowitz was the “other side” in both the Von Buelo and OJ murder trials and we all know how both cases turned out; setting murderers free. He is a very clever attorney who knows all of the loop holes and the verbiage to scramble or cover facts; he is NOT an American legal hero except for the guilty. Dershowitz is projecting his personal views regarding the January 6th hearing; he could have been Trump’s “Roy Cohn” but probably refused the job knowing Trump doesn’t pay his lawyers or any other bills.

  15. Anyone who has read “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman is aware that the problem is that we are amusing ourselves to death by the fact that all of our screens, big and little, are not meant to inform in any classical way but simply to entertain our senses while our mind wanders here and there. We live immersed in a soup of bumper stickers all of the time. Our culture has become dementia because we don’t have to think anymore and so we don’t, we simply don’t.

  16. The crux is simple – the “crime” to be taken to the Justice Department is conspiring to interfere with the Constitutional transfer of power – not inciting the Capital “protest”, not failing to responding to the “protest”. If the Committee does not laser focus on this and have this as their “output”, our democracy is on the way out.

  17. Here’s the latest “bumper sicker” making its way across the internet that’s going to stick like glue, coming this November.

    “I’ll never forget January 6, 2021.
    Gas was only $2.15 a gallon “

    That’s a hard one to dispute,

  18. our democracy gave you free speech,dont allow your free speech distroy your,democracy.
    but then again,can they read past t.r.u.m.p?

    im lookin for a graphic artist/shop that can produce a side by side picture of joe goebbels and tucker
    propaganda minister,carlson onto a bumper sticker..
    any help here,,i prefer a small independant owned buisness.
    words on that wouldnt matter……..

  19. Jack,

    Take your time and energy and use it to get servant leaders elected…

    You are becoming part of the “show” that passes for American society/values.

  20. Lester:
    as i have read in a few news journals,interviewing some law professors, they claim,until you
    convict and sentence one person for insurrection,then you can send the rest to the DOJ.
    this was from three law professors in three articles..
    would the same be for the exercise of transfer of powers?

  21. Lester:
    i was a Bernie before reagan took office..thanks..
    i may be short on poise,but ya gotta talk in the gutter to make trumpers believe you..

  22. Yes, it was a show but let’s not get overly influenced by pretty pictures. This hearing was not supposed to bring out ALL the evidence and make a conclusion. It’s only the beginning with more hearings to follow. As the chairman said, they are willing to accept evidence from all sides. Sometimes there isn’t “another side”. I can’t imagine how anyone could counter the evidence already presented. If you have evidence and can provide clarity, bring it on.
    As to reference to Koch, Musk and Bezos: while they have been major contributors to the downfall of the Republican party and loss of representative government, as far as I know, they played no role in the actions that took place on January 6. (We don’t need more “What-about-ism”). This isn’t about Hilary Clinton, Hunter Biden’s laptop, the price of gas or even abortion. It is possible to have have more than one thought in our heads or walk an chew gum at the same time. This is about an attempted coup and takeover of the government , what lead up to it and who was responsible during and after it.
    While I’m on a rant, I’d like to clarify something about the term “American Exceptionalism”. It isn’t about those “other” people who speak with funny accents. At its core “American Exceptionalism” is defined by REPRESENTATIVE government, where “We the people” hold the reins of government. It’s a concept that has been envied and adopted by much of the civilized world and, with some evolution, has stood the test of time for over 200 years (quite an accomplishment considering previous world history).
    Let’s get to the bottom of this banana republic coup so my grandchildren can experience what good representative government is all about.

  23. Todd, you are missing the point. For this group and this investigation, the key is Trump. This must all come back to him so that he cannot take office again. To dismiss the work of the group because they haven’t gone down a path (at least yet, or that you know about) that you prefer is just wrong.

    The funding is a big factor and definitely should be investigated. But it’s a secondary thing in this instance. And even if they are investigating that aspect, I wouldn’t have included it in the first primetime broadcast, either. Mostly, the public wouldn’t care; and it would distract from the critical message that must go out about Trump.

    The key message must be: This was a coup attempt, the perpetrators knew it was a coup attempt, and Trump led it all.

    Any information extraneous to that message should be avoided in these public hearings, at least the early ones. Once the key message has been established beyond a reasonable doubt, then they could explore related aspects in later hearings.

  24. “I’ll never forget January 6, 2021.
    Gas was only $2.15 a gallon”

    Yes. And that’s about as relevant as “On January 6, 2021, I had pork chops for dinner.”

  25. Just read David Brooks who nailed it for THE most important outcome – strong, comprehensive recommendations for legislation to ENSURE that the ’24 and beyond results cannot be manipulated/overturned. Perhaps, if you have to choose, a better outcome than charging The Former. Even if he went to jail, many MAGAs await…

  26. Lester – The bank robber who hits the teller in the face with his/her gun is committing at least two crimes and his or her prosecution thereafterwards may be primarily about the robbery but we cannot fail to energetically prosecute him/her for assault and battery as well. Thus homicide at some level is involved in Trump’s 1/6 maladventure and I would hope that the DOJ will go after the defendants who killed and/or injured capitol policemen and women with equal fervor as that guiding them to prosecute the seditionists who in some cases may be the same as the killers. Those chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and those chanting “Stop the steal” may have had differing rationales for their presence there that day, and the evidence will have to be presented with that in mind should the DOJ decide to exercise its prosecutorial discretion in favor of prosecuting.

    There exists considerable overlap both factually and legally with the intent to prevent the transfer of power from an administration that lost the election to the one winning it and the means employed to secure such power, and I expect the evidence offered at trial (if any) to reflect that. For instance, “Hang Mike Pence” reflects an intent to carry out the plot to retain power while also lynching Pence, an admixture of sedition and murder.

    Yes, the trial(s) to be (if the DOJ so decides) will focus on Trump’s motivation to prevent the constitutional transfer of power from his administration to that of Biden, but the confluence of both fact and law as the evidence is presented will necessarily contain proof of multiple felonies by all factions there that day, and I think our democracy is on the way out if we do not energetically prosecute all those involved, from those who planned it to and through those who attempted to execute or in any way abetted such attempt to destroy our democracy and trash our Constitution so that, helped down the road by legislation, this never happens again.

  27. John H,

    Donald Trump is Nothing but a street thug Who inherited his money from his father.

    He’s a poor businessman that lost most of his businesses over the years.

    Does anyone believe that he actually Had the stones to do what he did? Those who were behind the curtain controlled The talking head!

    Trump just got caught drinking his own Kool-Aid! A guy who can directly contradict a statement he made just minutes before Can’t really be an intellectual dynamo.

    Those who were Hoping to pick up the pieces after an insurrection , those are the ones that have to be exposed. Trump would have been expendable at that time, If he didn’t walk the chalk line, he would disappear!

    The current group of Iconiclasts are no different than the robber barons during the first part of the last century. If Trump would have been around instead of Roosevelt, This conversation wouldn’t even be happening! Actually, most of us wouldn’t even be here! The timeline and events would be completely different therefore most of our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents, would never have met. I wonder, is that a good thing? Or a bad thing?

  28. one item missing,, what if the riot didnt happen,would congress in its state of mind then,would cast ballots to stall,question,stop,the transfer of power.. did the rioters screw the screws of goverment?

  29. John S,
    thug, yea, maybe,but on the streets of Newark,N.J. where im from, hes just something you scrape off your show after walking ur dog…
    thug is for mafia types, hes just a lowlife asshole..

    great time today,excellent subject and participation..

  30. I watched the whole presentation of the first section of the investigation into the Januar 6 events in our capitol. It was well presented, organized and thoughtful. It was made very clear that this was only the first of several presentations. The videos of the chaos were exceptionally telling. I do not know how anyone could see that and then claim that it was only the exuberant action of tourists who wanted to see the capitol. How stupid are we supposed to be??

  31. Becky – In light of your earlier commentaries and your today’s comment on the price of gas I here offer you a thumbnail (if public) lecture based on my personal history. I’m old. I remember in the Great Depression that during gas wars we could buy 35 gallons of gasoline for a dollar. Yes, that is not a misprint. This was long before OPEC but in the midst of a hair-raising depression. If you think inflation is bad, try deflation; from too much money chasing goods and services to too little money chasing goods and services. Imagine what deflation with its disastrous effect on employment and supply and demand in the marketplace did to workers and businesses when I was a kid, where bankruptcy and suicide were the order of the day. Wall Street, for instance, was dangerous to traverse then due to occasional falling bodies from the buildings lining that street by those who jumped because they felt they “had lost everything.”

    As with what we have seen in other countries our country during those days teetered on failure. A movie ticket cost 10 cents (11 cents after FDR added a 10 percent “luxury tax”) and we were treated by MovieTone newsreels at the theater when we could scrape 11 cents together to see Nazis and Communists marching in New York City in full regalia, including swatiskas and hammers and sickles. We were on the verge of “failed state” status, broke and despairing, and American idealism as a noble experiment in democracy was a hard sell to the broke and hungry.

    We very nearly lost our democracy to authoritarianism in those days, but I will be eternally grateful that we elected FDR, whose New Deal not only brought us out of that prolonged deflationary spiral but gave us 50 years of prosperity afterwards – till Reagan, who ended it.

    Becky, if we descend into fascism, which is where Trump wants to take us, the cost of gas will not be among the least of our problems. Our chief problem will be how to survive under the whim of a dictator and his (not her) gestapo. Trust me – you wouldn’t like it, and I spent some time in the South Pacific in WW II trying to put an end to the authoritarianism of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo so that such dictatorship would never be a political choice for either of America’s political parties. I seem to have succeeded, until lately, as you must know.

    I don’t know how you got to where you seem to be from your responses to Sheila’s offerings, but would you reconconsider such position(s)? What, after all, is a position? As I tell anyone who will listen, I was an American long before I was a Democrat – and we need all hands on deck these days to keep America afloat – including yours.

  32. Gerald; thank you, your comments are always enlightening but today you have outdone yourself. Thank you for your service to this country, thank you for your first hand information about our history, the dark chapters as well as our successes and the times between. Your comments above are inspiring at this time of fear and lost hope for America to survive the four years of Trump when our allies of many years were beginning to turn away from us; we haven’t survived the loss of trust and faith by them or by so many Americans who had no knowledge of the days you spoke of at 2:29 p.m.

    My earliest, but still totally clear, memory of WWII was that Sunday, December 7, 1941, I was not yet 5 years old. Dad’s friend Sparks was in the Army and home on leave, he had just brought me a puppy and he and Mom and I were in front of the radio when President Roosevelt made that infamous announcement. I had no way to understand what it meant but I was fear-struck by the silence and the look that passed between Sparks and Mom. He had to leave immediately of course to report for duty and Mom was crying as she hugged him goodbye; Dad was at work so she was alone with me and my new baby brother. Those who still today curse FDR’s New Deal have no understanding that it was our salvation; FDR’s FOUR presidential elections are meaningless to them. Thank you again, Gerald; your words have provided hope that we can come back AGAIN from near destruction by those in this country who continue to support the wannabe dictator and his seditious words which led to the January 6th Insurrection and continuing near treasonous acts today. Thank you!

  33. Two quick points, some made by others

    First, we know – Democrats stink at sound bite/bumper sticker politics
    BTW – bumper sticker should be 3-4 words max or it can’t be read – When Dems try, they paste a paragraph on it – pithy, people, pithy
    Sorry we have descended here, Sheila, but I am not certain that most Americans ever understood, or cared about subtleties – before bumper stickers it was newspaper headlines

    Second – I wish we would stop talking about “trying to overturn the election” and call it what it was – “trying to overthrow the government of the United States” or at least “trying to overthrow the Constitution” – I’ll also accept attempted coup.

    We always water things down – just as Watergate wasn’t about a burglary or a cover up – Nixon was trying to rig the election – too bad (or maybe not) he didn’t realize how incompetent McGovern was as a candidate – He and his cronies could have spent their time in Key Biscayne or San Clemente.

    Oh – the third thing my naturalized citizen wife was amazed the even police and the President aren’t about the law, but with our “if we prosecute, it will seem political” attitude, the President is above the law – let’s see if that changes

  34. Hey Jack,

    Thanks, and you made some very appropriate points.

    You know, the Trump name used to be spelled with an F at the end, Trumpf…..

    So, how about “Trumpf, Pffffft”


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