I routinely drive from Chicago, down through the heavily industrial Gary/Hammond area known locally as "The Region," and from there, deep into Indiana farm country. It's pretty much a drive through the spectrum of American politics. I start out in staunchly Democratic Chicago, and less than four hours later, by the time I pass the second shrine "in memory of aborted children," I'm deep in rural Republican territory.
But this election cycle is a bit different. All along the route, there are political yard signs for all sorts of candidates, township assessor and the like. Interestingly, very few of the signs declare party affiliations either way. For the first time, I'm actually noticing more signs for the Democratic presidential ticket than for the GOP's side. Yes, amazingly, even while passing those farmsteads surrounded by corn, you're more likely to see an Obama sign than a McCain sign.
There might be slightly more Democratic signs this year, but it's absolutely the case that there are fewer signs for the GOP ticket than there were in 2004 or 2000. There are rows of signs for candidates in local races, but they are almost never accompanied by signs for McCain. For example, Don Lehe is a popular Republican candidate for Indiana's state legislature (as measured by the large number of yard signs supporting Lehe). I don't know whether it's official policy from the Lehe campaign or the choice of the homeowners, but not one single time in several hours of driving did I see a Lehe sign accompanied by a McCain sign. Apparently, affiliation with Lehe can be proudly proclaimed, but not in combination with McCain/Palin.
On my return, I was closing in on Cook County, and I tried to think about whether my own bias could be faking me out. I'm an Obama supporter - is it possible I was just seeing what I wanted to see? I tried to think carefully about 2004, and whether things were really different then. And that's when it struck me - bumper stickers. In six hours of driving, I never saw a single McCain/Palin bumper sticker. Remember how George W. Bush had those oval stickers that said "W '04"? They were everywhere throughout the Region in 2004. You couldn't get away from those stickers in 2004.
It's not like you can't buy McCain bumper stickers. They have about twenty designs here. I'm half tempted to buy a couple just for the novelty of it, because these are going to be rare collectibles.
I just spent six hours deep in rural Indiana, among hunters in camo, carrying shotguns and compound bows (it's hunting season, Chicagoans). I was stuck behind their red pickup trucks driving 45 mph from one cornfield to another, doing the final rounds of harvesting and cleanup. And not once! Not one single time, not one single truck - I didn't see a single McCain bumper sticker on any of them. Not one.
My friends, this season is different.
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