After a year’s absence, I returned to the States this weekend. Almost everything is the same as I remember it. Almost.
One thing I hadn’t been looking forward to was the the return to the omnipresent political assault one is continuously exposed to in Middle Tennessee. Just two weeks ago I told some friends in Stuttgart that I was dreading the return of bumper stickers. In Germany they’re almost unheard of. In Nashville, political stickers are stuck everywhere. Until this year.
Over the last two days I’ve been twice to Hillsboro Village, which is both reliably and vocally liberal. I spied not one Obama bumper sticker. Not even the owner of the late-model Prius sporting six stickers proclaiming the owner’s progressivism, could be persuaded to make room for a seventh supporting the President.
The dearth of presidential bumper stickers was bipartisan. Belle Meade is a small city so Republican that even I won a majority of the vote there against a popular 40-year incumbent Democratic state senator in 2006, a horrible year for the GOP. And yet, running down Belle Meade Boulevard twice in the last two days, I spied not one car voicing support for Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum. As for Ron Paul, his only sticker was not on a bumper, but plastered on a traffic sign on Belmont Boulevard.
Even the busy Green Hills Mall, where left and right meet to shop, was absent of bumper stickers.
Not all political races are so empty of enthusiasm. A half dozen lawns hold signs supporting various candidates for a judicial race held the same day as the presidential primary, just five weeks from tomorrow.
In a lot of parts of the United States, the lack of political bumper stickers might not be so surprising. I remember, for example, that when I was stationed in Hawaii I saw that they were almost non-existent. But that’s not been the case here in Middle Tennessee. Not only do Volunteers sport their support proudly, they do so long after the event. This time four years ago it was still common to see “Kerry-Edwards” on the backs of cars, or even the occasional ”Gore-Lieberman.” Old stickers are gone now too. There are no “McCain-Palins,” Obama-Bidens,” “W-the President,” or”M-the Moron” stickers. All of them, gone.
There was only one exception. Only one bumper sticker all weekend. But it was the exception that proved the rule that there is little enthusiasm in Middle Tennessee for the 2012 presidential offerings. That bumper sticker said, “Obama-Clinton 2012.”