Bumper Sticker Politics

A good friend of long standing favored us with a ticket to the Wichita State University Wheatshockers’ basketball contest with the University of Tulsa’s Hurricanes last night, and he threw in a ride as well. It made for a fine fall night of sports spectating, but the experience was marred when we found ourselves stopped en route behind a car with bumper stickers shouting that “‘Koch’ and ‘Bain’ are Four Letter Words” and “Corporations Are Not People.”
Noting the heftiness of our friend’s vehicle we urged him to ram into the offending bumper, but he told us that he had already considered the option and decided against it. We immediately forgave our friend’s soft-heartedness, yet that random motorist’s loudly proclaimed political opinions annoyed us throughout the night.
The “Koch” on the first bumper sticker referred to the Koch brothers, the billionaire oil-refining magnates who have become the bogeymen of the left because of their unapologetic advocacy for capitalism, and the “Bain” referred to the venture capital firm that rescued a number of important American businesses from bankruptcy, which is also reviled by the left because it was run for several years by failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Despite the left’s fondness for four-letter words, we took the sticker to mean that the motorist found something foul about the names. Both are indeed four letter words in the literal sense, and we credit the bumper sticker’s author with being able to count that far, but we doubt that random motorist could have given a coherent explanation of why either should be considered obscene.
An aspersion on the Kochs seemed especially ridiculous on a car here in Wichita, where Koch Industries is a mainstay of the local economy and a generous benefactor to many local charities. Indeed, we were headed at the time to Charles Koch Arena, the venerable old “roundhouse” that has been nicely refurbished through the generosity of its eponym, and it’s difficult e for the more high-minded citizens of this city to visit any of our local cultural institutions without finding similar evidence of the family’s philanthropy. The Kochs also fund a few free market think-tanks and activist groups, so perhaps such exercise of freedom of speech is what the motorist found so objectionable, but even so it doesn’t seem something worth bothering other drivers and their passengers about.
President Obama’s recent re-election campaign spent many millions of dollars publicizing the evils of the Bain Capital Group, accusing it of everything from massive lay-off and off-shoring of jobs to causing on employee’s wife to get cancer, so it might have been that relentless onslaught of propaganda that provoked the motorist’s indignation. The Bain group prevented a lot more lay-offs and off-shoring than it ever caused, and the wife-killing charge was dismissed by even the most reliably Democratic media, but some people seemed to desire a villain to vilify. The other bumper sticker suggested it was a more general anti-corporate sentiment, though, which the motorist would also be hard-pressed to coherently explain.
Aside from the incongruous fact that the bumper sticker was affixed to an automobile manufactured by a large corporation, and the motorist had therefore chosen not to transport himself in something made by a hippie commune or lesbian co-op, we were offended by the sticker’s implication that there is something sub-human about corporations. Corporations are not people, not if you want to get so strictly and snottily literal about it again, but they are comprised of actual people who deserve their constitutionally enumerated rights. Labor unions, universities, non-profit charities, and similarly fashionable entities are not people, either, and there is no reason why people should be able to organize themselves into any sort of collective other than corporations without sacrificing their rights.
Our encounter with that opinionated automobile wouldn’t have been so galling if its bumper sticker sentiments hadn’t become the governing philosophy of our nation. The same simplistic aversion to commerce now underlies the government’s approach to tax policy, regulation, and spending, and permeates the broader culture as well. Liberals take pride that the war on business seems to be going so well, yet wonder why the economy continues to suffer. Envy is also a four-letter word, as our friend our remarked, but it seems to be the driving rationale for our politics.
On the brighter side, the ‘Shockers easily won the game against their erstwhile arch-rivals and improved their season to record to an unblemished 7-and-0, a surprising result for a team thought to be in a rebuilding year. Should the team become any more successful, we’ll probably soon be seeing bumper stickers grousing that “Shockers Aren’t People.”

— Bud Norman

Brown Shirts are Back in Fashion

Modern liberalism constantly extols the virtue of tolerance, even to the point of insisting that the intolerable be tolerated, yet liberals nowadays seem a rather intolerant bunch.

It’s not just a liberal administration imprisoning a filmmaker for a low-budget video they found offensive, or a liberal reporter for a liberal network cheering them on, or a liberal professor imposing her political preferences on students, or a liberal protest group menacing a public figure into canceling a speech, or any of the numerous other incidents that have been documented by a reluctant press. More commonplace occurrences also abound, mostly unreported but not unnoticed.

Join in any friendly chat with a group of conservatives, for instance, and you’ll eventually confess their reluctance to post a Republican yard sign in front of their homes or slap a Republican bumper sticker on their cars for fear of vandalism. Their anecdotes are dismissed as right-wing paranoia by our liberal acquaintances, who insist that none of their kind could ever be capable of such rudeness and then tell us to shut the hell up, but we’ve long suspected that the stories are far too common and from too reliable sources for all of them to be false. Now the eagle-eyed folks at the invaluable twitchy.com web site, which scours the Twitter sites for “tweets” of interest, have helpfully documented that our friends aren’t so crazy after all.

The web site has noting found several messages from Mitt Romney supporters attesting that their cars and homes have indeed been vandalized, with one unhappy motorist offering photographic evidence, but also a disturbing number of “tweets” from people boasting of the Republican yard signs they have stolen and the Republican-stickered cars they have damaged. Someone going by name of “Mr.So Different” warns, with typical Twitter literacy, that “IF I C A MITT ROMNEY SIGN IN UR YARD PPL BUSINESSES I AM TEARING THEM DWN N STEALLING THEM.” Another fellow calling himself “ASAP LoLo” wrote that “Jade ripped this bumper sticker off this random car lmaooo,” then adds a typically profane postscript that does not bear repeating here. A Jeremy Cross boast “We steal Romney signs,” adds the same vulgarity, and post a message of himself and a friend proudly posing with proof of his thievery. Not to be outdone, a Brad Kreitzer posted a picture of himself urinating on a Romney. Similar messages run on for pages, most of them similarly foul, and there are more from people promising they will also commit the same petty offenses against anyone who expresses an opinion different from their own. Others merely wish a painful death on their political opponents.

What’s most disturbing about these messages is the brazen pride they express in their Brownshirt activities. A thorough search of the country might turn up an example of a car with an Obama sticker being vandalized, but whoever did it will not be boasting about it publicly in the expectation of applause from conservatives. All of these liberals publicizing their crimes are surely known to most of the friends and acquaintances they send these messages to, many don’t even bother to hide behind some internet alias, and none seem at all concerned that they will be scorned for such boorish and intolerant behavior. Indeed, they expect to be admired by their friends for harming a fellow citizen who expressed a dissenting opinion. In places such as Atlanta, they certainly needn’t fear the police, where a Romney bumper sticker earns a ticket.

In a saner time these people would be severely chastised by the more respectable voices of liberalism and vilified by the press, but not these days. Now our betters are too busy fretting about the unhinged radicalism of those contemptible people with the Mitt Romney bumper stickers on their cars.

— Bud Norman