The process was easy enough, but I was thrown by the fact that I had to declare my political preference in order to be officially registered. Why on earth does that matter? I mean, I do know why it matters, because here in the US we like to measure "registered" this, that and the other, but it bothered me, because although I do have opinions on issues, they are opinions on issues, rather than political parties. In fact, I actually read the entire pamphlet that came in the mail, (have you ever done that?) which describes the various political parties' Statements Of Purpose. This is honestly fascinating. The party choices are, in the order they appear in this pamphlet:
- Green Party
- American Independent Party
- Peace and Freedom Party
- Libertarian Party
- Americans Elect Party (which had no Statement Of Purpose at all)
- Republican Party
- Democratic Party
If you read carefully, you'll find yourself agreeing with some of every party's philosophy, which is why it's so interesting that you have to self-declare up front when registering to vote. This doesn't happen in Europe. Political preferences are between you and the ballot box.
I guess this probably explains the popularity of bumper stickers. Once you've declared your political party in order to vote, it's out there, so why not put a bumper sticker on it too? We love to proclaim our preferences in public through stickers on cars - not just political, but anything else we love (or hate) can gain prime real estate space. Stick figure families, honor roll students, radio stations, TV stations, marathon runs, vacation spots, universities, religions, countries... you name it and you'll be able to find a sticker for it. In some cases, you can be behind a vehicle and figure out the entire lives and loves of its occupants.
Again, this rarely happens in Europe. Has anyone ever seen an "I HEART Angela Merkel" sticker? Nope, didn't think so. While passing the local Catholic church in Laguna Beach a few weeks ago, I spotted three cars, parked side by side, each with at least two stickers on their rear ends proclaiming hatred for Obama and Obamacare. Which tells you a lot about organized religion and tolerance, but that's a completely different subject...
My own car isn't exempt from telling a story, I have to admit. For a start, it's a Mini, which is British, (yes, I know, Mini is owned by BMW, but in my mind, the brand will always be British, in the same way that Land Rover, Jaguar, Lotus, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin and Bentley are British, despite the fact that every single one of them is under foreign ownership.) Then there's the fact that I have "blackjacks" on my door mirrors: monochromatic versions of the British flag. My tag number is a variation of the zip code for Laguna Beach, the tag itself is a "Spay and Neuter" design, featuring artwork by Pierce Brosnan, and money raised to pay for the tag helps to spay and neuter shelter animals. Finally, there's a Best Friends Animal Society sticker on the rear window. So I guess I'm nailed: a Brit in Laguna who loves animals.
And that's all correct and fine by me. Now I'm off to vote next week...