Drivers share opinions via bumper banter

Monday, November 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:34 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

“Somewhere in Texas a village is missing an idiot,” one boasts in bright-red letters.

“You can’t be both Catholic and pro-abortion,” another boldly retorts in white letters as clear as the opinion on a black background.

“Congress passed a huge tax break and all I got was this lousy bumper sticker,” another states, and the parking lot conversation is over — at least until the next car arrives.

From foreign policy to flip-flopping, Columbia drivers are adopting personal spins on the campaign season’s political debates.

“Support our President, Support our Troops,” one car urges amid a spattering of W’s and U.S. flags. The driver stops to say she has a similar sticker on the front, too — “so the liberals can see me coming.”

The first bumper stickers came out before World War II and didn’t stick at all. They were attached to the bumper with metal wire and were used solely for political campaigns, according to Kansas City resident Forest P. Gill is known as the “King of Bumper Stickers,” a distinction he earned as the first to put an adhesive on the back.

Gill started his business, Gill-Line, in his basement 70 years ago. By 1968, that homespun effort had evolved into a 13-acre industrial park.

Bumper stickers are the most popular campaign trinket the Missouri Republican Party gives out, said Paul Sloca, a party spokesman.

“If people see a lot of support for George Bush, then it might make them vote for him,” he said. “Hopefully, the stickers will get the undecideds to think twice.”

While the state GOP only hands out stickers that feature the Bush/Cheney logo, Sloca said political bumper stickers with a message are also important components of campaigns.

“People can take a humorous approach to attract attention to their opinion,” Sloca said, “as long as they get the candidate’s name out there.”

Though drivers might be laughing, few think people are influenced.

“I am pretty set in my beliefs,” said Columbia resident Jerilyn McGuire, who sports the “You can’t be both Catholic and pro-abortion” sticker on her Plymouth Voyager. “I just want to get my message out and hope others are influenced.”

Yet for those who aren’t already affected, her bumper sticker might be falling on deaf ears — or averted eyes.

“I don’t think most people are influenced by bumper stickers,” said Columbia resident Wanda Slaughter, 67, who plans to vote for Bush for a second time. She chose not to display the Bush/Cheney sticker she got when the president visited town for fear people would steal it or damage her car. Instead, it sits in the front window of her home.

“People have their opinions and aren’t going to be swayed by a bumper sticker,” she said.

Peggy Horner of Columbia said she saw a car with a “Flush the Johns” sticker two vehicles ahead of one displaying the message “Defoliate Bush.” Neither influenced her vote.

“They’re entertaining, but like the signs in people’s yards, they don’t indicate who had more support or who is right or wrong,” she said.

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