Mister State Trooper Please Dontcha Stop Me: The lowly bumpersticker is one of the simplest tools in the political kit. And now in Missouri, law enforcement is looking on them as tools as well, in a bit of political profiling that could get you pulled over for Driving While Right.
A February state report titled “The Modern Militia Movement” (.pdf) includes the following criteria for identifying the next Timothy McVeigh:
That's not entirely a right-wing list but that's not the point either, as sources from the Libertarian-leaning Ballot Access News to antiwar.com are uniting on this one. And in Kansas City:
Tim Neal, a military veteran and delegate to last year's state GOP convention, was shocked by the report's contents.
"I was going down the list and thinking, 'Check, that's me,'" he said. "I'm a Ron Paul supporter, check. I talk about the North American union, check. I've got the 'America: Freedom to Fascism' video loaned out to somebody right now. So that means I'm a domestic terrorist? Because I've got a video about the Federal Reserve?"
Neal, who has a Ron Paul bumper sticker on his car, said the next time he is pulled over by a police officer, he won't know whether it's because he was speeding or because of his political views.
"If a police officer is pulling me over with my family in the car and he sees a bumper sticker on my vehicle that has been specifically identified as one that an extremist would have in their vehicle, the guy is probably going to be pretty apprehensive and not thinking in a rational manner," Neal said. "And this guy's walking up to my vehicle with a gun."
The Deethmobile has a noisy slate card on the back (all winners since I covered Denise O'Brien up with Harkin) and also advertises my tastes in music and football. My views aren't all that controversial here in the 70% Obama People's Republic, but I drive through Missouri a lot to see my in-laws, and I'd think twice about taking my car through Oklahoma (or parking it at Soldier Field). I did get a McCain sticker stuck on it when I covered the rally in Davenport last October, but I just had a good laugh over that. Easier to laugh when you aren't being asked for license and registration.
(I think my bumper stickers got me out of a ticket once during the 1992 campaign, but that just makes up for the one my long hair cost me in 1988.)
And you never know how the local will translate across state lines. One of the Warning Signs for a Missouri state trooper might be the "Don't Tread On Me" flag. Around here, that became the logo for opponents of the Newport Road plan and supporters of successful county board candidate Larry Meyers. Larry incorporated the flag into his flyers and bumper stickers, but most of the road opponents didn't bother with extra explanations. In the local debate, the flag spoke for itself.
So drive that car with the unexplained "militia flag" from a three year old campaign down to Missouri for the weekend, and you may find yourself with some `splainin' to do.