Paul A. Ibbetson
Political bumper stickers: be kind to your vehicle's backside
By Paul A. Ibbetson
July 8, 2011

Bumper stickers — we see them every day in almost every form. Sit for a few minutes at a stoplight and you literally see almost every form of human expression slapped across the chrome, and more often plastic bumpers of the vehicles of this nation. The political season is without a doubt a bumper sticker bonanza for the dealers of these sticky examples of free speech. There is almost an endless variety of quips, jabs and simply political low blows that can be affixed conveniently to the backside of your conveyance for other drivers to view in the wake of daily travels. With such awesome sticker possibilities, the question is whether or not we should reflect on the responsibility that comes with politicizing our street-bound chariots.

Like the division between the tattooed and the non-tattooed, car owners have customarily broken up into separate camps of those that believe that their car's body should remain wholly "clean" and those that have the inclination towards "illustration." Common aversions to bumper stickers range from concerns over loss of paint during removal to the notion that stickers simply take away from the vehicle's original beauty. Despite these arguments, many of the most loyal non-bumper-sticker advocates will break their own non-bumper-sticker pledges during this political season and add support for their personal candidate by way of the rump of their righteous ride. I would speak to all those across this spectrum with a few political protocol suggestions for the 2012 presidential race in the name of bumper sticker sanity.

First, remove all past Election Day stickers. Nothing says "denial" more than an old, crinkled, half-biodegraded "John Kerry 2004" bumper sticker. We have all seen the equivalent before, even on the most beautiful of vehicles, and we have all done the same thing: grunt with displeasure, shake our heads in sadness and die a little inside. Remember, you may be in a wreck while on the road, and removing an ancient, long-dead political sticker might help you avoid unnecessary dementia testing while at the hospital. The potential upsides are just too many to ignore.

Second, one political sticker on your car states your case; twenty stickers says you're imbalanced. Also, the nature of your sticker says more about you, the vehicle owner, than your political affiliation. As a former police officer who made hundreds of car stops, I've seen that bumper stickers often say a lot about the character of the individual behind the wheel. Just like bumper stickers that say, "I love weed," and "Got Magic Mushrooms?" might not enhance the quality of an interaction with the police, overly vulgar, aggressive and stupid political stickers say something about you. Remember, your mom might have to borrow that car.

Lastly, political bumper stickers have a lifespan that ends on election night: win, lose or draw. This can be hard to swallow for those that have a bumper sticker of a winning candidate now being displayed in all its post-election glory. Trust me, that sticker and your candidate will never look better than it did in that single moment in time. Take a picture, and start applying soap and water. The validity of this thinking is seen every day in the tattered Obama '08 stickers still adorned among the declining faithful of the liberal political motorcade. It's sad to see and makes many wonder, which has fallen apart worse, the Obama bumper stickers or the Obama presidency?

If a person's home is their castle then their vehicle is not far removed. Show it some respect this political season. Just as importantly, show some respect to all of humanity in your review mirror, be responsible for yourself and be kind to your vehicle's backside.

© Paul A. Ibbetson


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Paul A. Ibbetson

Dr. Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of several books and is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association's 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 award winning, Conscience of Kansas airing across the state. Visit his website at For interviews or questions, please contact


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