Who's behind the sinister Subaru strategy?
The Kerry bumper stickers are still on and passions are high.

-- Paul Krugman, speaking at Princeton recently.

Well, he's right -- at least in my neck of the woods.

While there's a lot of distancing from Kerry going on right now, I don't expect to see much scraping off of the ubiquitous Kerry bumperstickers which I see on a lot of cars. Even though the election was held two years ago, the bumperstickers are so new that I often wonder whether people are buying new ones as the weather takes its toll on the old ones. Even outdoorsy cars sport brand new Kerry bumperstickers.

Like this one I saw this morning:


(License plate photoshopped to protect the innocent. Numbers by Dennis.)

Now that I think about it, that's a Subaru. I don't mean this as an ad hominem attack (how can a criticism of a car be that?), but for some reason, those cars seem incapable of going fast enough to keep up with the normal rate of speed, and I've been meaning to look into the problem. Honestly, I can't tell you how many times there's been a Subaru in front of me, putt-putt-putting along, as if the poor thing can't go any faster, and just because they often have Kerry bumperstickers, that's no reason for me to impugn their owners' driving abilities or even stereotype them. Surely, there must be Subarus for Bush!

I mean, there are Volvo Republicans, aren't there? (While I first heard the phrase uttered by Susan Bray, who described herself that way on the air in the mid-90s, credit seems to go to Newsweek's Howard Fineman.)

So logic would dictate that if there are Volvo Republicans, there must be "Subaru Republicans," right?

Um, maybe not. A Google search turned up no such species, but I did find this rather ominous statement:

I have never seen a Bush bumper sticker on a Subaru. Is this some weird political conspiracy, that all Subaru drivers must be democrats?
Political conspiracy?

Sorry, folks, but much as I regret my tendency to get carried away, I simply can't ignore an allegation like that. I'll try to be as fair as I can, within limits, because I have been annoyed by slow-moving Subarus one time too many, and there's just something about seeing shiny new Kerry bumperstickers two years after the election right after Kerry's amazing gaffe that I find impossible to ignore.

Before we even consider the psychology of the drivers, there's the slowness of the cars themselves. According to one expert, it seems to be a combination of factors:

As I have always said about Subarus, I basically liked the car when I first got one a few years back, but I recommended against buying one because, as I said at the time, "fast" and "Subaru" just don't seem, to me, to go together, and as much as I like the Impreza, it was my feeling that most people would be better off buying the standard Impreza and saving the expense of all that speed.

WRX aficionados -- and judging by the number of e-mails I received questioning my parentage, my sanity and my future existence, they are legion -- took my recommendation as a slight to their car and themselves, and organized a smear campaign against me.

There is nothing more personal as a possession in life than one's car. People hate to have their car criticized because, well, they have put a lot of money into their car, and they have also invested not a little of their personality and their own self-image into what that car represents.

For the most part, it has been my experience that Subaru drivers are into safety and are not, as a rule, flashy kinds of people. My parents both drive Subarus. I have good friends who drive Subarus. These are people who chose their vehicles for two very simple reasons: safety and value. As I have said many times, when typical Subaru drivers come into some money, they become Volvo drivers. It gives you some perspective.

In other words, Subarus are slower, and Subaru drivers are poorer than Volvo drivers? This means that economic factors might be at work. (The problem with that theory is that the Subarus I see around here look like they're well-maintained, and driven by members of what Michael Barone called the "trustfunder left.")

The last writer was being nice to the Subaru drivers. But Subaru stereotypes abound. Many of the commenters at Ace of Spades don't like Subarus or their drivers, and don't mind saying so:

These [Subaru drivers] are the timidest drivers in the world. These are the people who stop at the end of a highway on-ramp instead of merging, causing you to lock up your brakes and skid to a stop 1/4 inch from their bumper.
And that was one of the polite comments about Subaru drivers.

I try to avoid stereotypes, but when I see something over and over again, I wonder whether I'm alone in noticing it. Until today, I actually thought I was alone in my suspicions about Subarus -- if not being downright kooky. But the fact is, many others really have it in for them, and stereotype or not, they have for a long time. Like Adventures in Business Communications:

File this under "gross, but true generalizations." Subaru drivers are all alike. Sure, they might be different shapes and sizes and races and genders, but they all share something in common. I'm not sure if this commonality exists before they own one, or if some sort of transformation takes place once they do...but trust me, they are all afflicted similarly.

First the disclaimer...I'm sure they're good cars. Lance drives one...at least in the ads he does. And here in Colorado, where it is important to have all-wheel or 4-wheel drive, it's a practical choice...moreover it's an affordable option compared to a big, honking SUV.

Now...on to the "Subaru experience..." Whenever there is a slow-down in traffic, particularly in the left lane, historically known as the "fast" lane, it is usually the fault of a Subaru. I shit you not...I've documented it. It might be the car right in front of me or a car that is 12 cars up...but it is invariably a Subaru that you can point to for this.

This all started when I lived in Vail for 7 years. In every ski town in Colorado, you'll find 12-20 year-old Subarus living there. These old 4-bangers never die and they're usually passed on from one generation of seasonal ski bums to another for a bag of weed. There's obviously no emissions testing required for licensing in these mountain towns so they just live on with two functioning cylinders, barely breaking 45 miles an hour, for years! I thought when I moved to Denver that I'd lose sight of these little shitboxes for good.

No...they're just newer...but they still muck things up. Never mind the political statements that you typically see on their bumpers..."Imagine Whirled Peas" or "Dog is my Pilot" or "Axis of Evil" or the classic "Save Tibet." No...I'm focused on the driving behavior. It's as if it is the self-appointed duty of all Subaru drivers to enforce the speed limit for the rest of us. What else would explain it? Is there some club I'm not aware of where all Subaru drivers share secrets?

The writer moves into high dudgeon, and after fantasizing about going on an anti-Subaru rampage, even questions the sexual tastes of some of the Subaru drivers:
I know I'm not the only one that has this distaste for Subarus. A girlfriend of mine said that she wouldn't be caught dead in one...I asked her why...and she said "Lesbarus!" I hadn't heard that one yet...and it doesn't really color my opinion much...as I said before, all shapes and sizes drive them...and they all share the same, annoying set of driving habits.
Lesbarus? Ye gods, it's a word!

Sheesh. This is getting into downright Culture-Warrish stuff. And over a type of car!

Does every last thing have to be political? Seriously, I did not go out looking for trouble early this morning, and when I saw that bumpersticker in my bleary-eyed state, I thought my imagination was getting the better of me. Surely (I thought) if I settled down and Googled Subaru drivers, I'd see how wrong I was.

Was I ever wrong about my being wrong!

This stuff just goes on and on, and it gets worse. A man named Larry likens Subaru drivers to a "social disease":

....the #1 way to know you've seen a stupid, leftist liberal:

You drive a Subaru. Your Subaru has at least two of the three stickers: "Bush:One Term President." "Attack Iraq? NO!" "Clinton lied, no one died." And of course, mandatory issue for the stupid f'in Subaru drivers, your Kerry-Edwards 2004 sticker, which was placed carefully over your "Selected, not elected" sticker leftover from the 2000 elections. Subaru drivers are a social disease. The herpes of the US general population....


That's just about enough for me. I don't hate Subarus or Subaru drivers, and I am not about to spout, um, "Subaru eliminationist rhetoric."

I only wanted to know is why so many Subarus seem to be for Kerry, and I find myself running into a stereotype.

Like most stereotypes, this one goes in circles.

Why are they for Kerry? Because they just are!

Sorry, but that doesn't cut it. There has to be a reason why all these Subarus are engaged in an apparent national conspiracy to obstruct traffic while brandishing suspiciously new Kerry bumperstickers.

(Deep down, in my darkest heart of hearts, I know that somehow, Karl Rove has to be behind it.)

MORE: Finally, a ray of hope!

Via Charles G. Hill, I see Mickey Kaus quoted as saying that "Subaru is the new Volvo."

Well, what say ye, Subaru Republicans and other stereotype smashers?

AND MORE: I found a bumpersticker that might go a long way towards countering these unfair stereotypes:


Well? Fighting stereotypes has to start somewhere.

So go ahead! Stick one on your Subaru.

(No one will ask for proof that you're a lesbian.)

posted by Eric on 11.02.06 at 09:31 AM


Subarus do have a reputation as a "lesbian" car. That reputation was crystallized by their infamous ad campaign from a few years ago (1998-99 time frame, if I recall) featuring pea-brained America-hater Martina Navratilova and a couple of other mannish-looking female professional athletes. I guess the plan was to market the brand as female-friendly, but ended up branding the brand as female-"too friendly," if you get my drift.

So here's the math:
Subaru = Lesbian car
Lesbian driver = Grampa-style driver
(I don't know why, but all the lesbians I know do drive like a Pennsylvania Grampa behind the wheel of his 10 year old Buick)
Thus ...
Subaru = Lesbian driving like Grampa in his 1988 Buick

Rhodium Heart   ·  November 2, 2006 10:13 AM

Thanks, I didn't know about that.

I suspect that lesbian Subaru drivers for Bush might face more intolerance than heterosexual Mercedes drivers for Kerry.

Eric Scheie   ·  November 2, 2006 10:30 AM

"Surely, there must be Subarus for Bush!"

Yes, they are called Humvees. :)

Anonymous   ·  November 2, 2006 11:08 AM

"Surely, there must be Subarus for Bush!"

Yes, they are called Humvees. :)

mdmhvonpa   ·  November 2, 2006 11:09 AM

FWIW, Subaru has been noted as being one of the first companies to actively target gays. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal in the early- to mid-1990s, if I remember correctly, that outlined their marketing strategy. From what I've seen, they have been handsomely rewarded.

ken   ·  November 2, 2006 11:45 AM

One thing's for sure: Kerry should stay out of the joke business -- the Republicans pretty much have a lock on it. I mean, how will we ever top such prizes as "compassionate conservative," or "a uniter not a divider," or "major combat operations are over," or "heckuva job, Brownie," or my personal favorite, "we do not torture?"

(Of course, any of those lines would have been even funnier if Bush left his tongue sticking out of his mouth at the end of each one -- but he doesn't do that anymore.)

Raging Bee   ·  November 2, 2006 1:47 PM

"Pea-brained America-hater Martina Navratilova and a couple of other mannish-looking female professional athletes?" What the hell are you talking about? Those athletes looked pretty feminine to me -- more so than Ann Coulter, not that that's saying a lot.

And since when was Navratilova an "America-hater?"

And you wonder why "conservatives" get ostracized by their friends...

Raging Bee   ·  November 2, 2006 1:53 PM

From the Wikipedia entry on Martina:


"perhaps her most consistent theme-aside from promoting the views of the gay and lesbian community-has been her unstinting opposition to Communism, and unrepentant opposition to the former Eastern Bloc power structure that she believes compelled her to flee her native Czechoslovakia."

Doesn't look anti-American to me, but I hadn't given it a thought until today.

Bee, I don't claim to be a conservative, and I had to hold my nose to vote for Bush. The statement that "you wonder why "conservatives" get ostracized by their friends?" makes no sense unless you believe that opinions are held collectively -- even by people who don't agree with them. It's about like saying that anyone who preferred Bush to Kerry not only likes everything about Bush, but also agrees with every far right member of the Republican Party.

I said that the personal vitriol (against conservatives and those accused of conservatism) I've seen on the left far exceeds anything I've seen on the right. I've spent a lot of time with people who disagree with me, and in general, conservatives are more polite -- and far less personal -- about it.

Admittedly, my libertarianish views are more compatible with conservatism than with modern liberalism, but I've seen that people on the left are more likely to see disagreements as personal attacks, while those on the right tend to see them as evidence that those who disagree are wrong and need convincing. Even the evangelists, while they might think my soul needs praying for, they haven't shouted me down. I realize your personal experience is different, but all I can do is discuss my own.

Eric Scheie   ·  November 2, 2006 2:29 PM

Around here in the Northwest, Subarus abound (I hear we have the largest Subaru sales of any region in the country. Given the all-wheel-drive and our tendency for lots of rain but little snow, down in the urban areas with lots of people, I suppose that's plausible).

Thus I don't especially associate them with completely stupid driving, as people might in areas where they're not so astoundingly common. (I do, however, associate Volvos with bad driving, unless they're old ones like 122s or P1800s.)

And the proper response to the WRX people complaining about people knocking Subaru is that the WRX (and especially the STi) is very much the exception to the Subaru product line and market.

But it's not like they're actually slow cars, in any case. To paraphrase what we say in the programming world, "error between seat and wheel".

Sigivald   ·  November 2, 2006 3:16 PM

Eric: how can you call yourself "libertarian" or even "libertarianish" when you admit voting for a President, and a party, that shamelessly supports such clearly un-libertarian actions as:

Ignoring the Geneva conventions on the treatment of POWs;

Invading a country that had done us no direct harm and posed no immediate threat;

Overextending our military in said war to the point where we can't deal with REAL WMD threats like Iran and North Korea, neither of whom now take us seriously;

Running up enormous deficits and national debt, to the point where China now controls a significant portion of our debt;

Offering multi-billion-dollar no-bid contracts to their friends at Halliburton without even pretending to invite competition;

Enforcing religious doctrines in public schools, sometimes disguised as science;

Denying birth-control to ADULT women in refugee camps;

Enforcing inadequate or dishonest sex-ed policies in public schools and school systems receiving Federal money;

Using ever-more-draconian tactics to enforce ever-more-tyrannical laws against old, sick, terminally-ill people who smoke pot to reduce pain and nausea;

Openly pandering to a faux-Christian right who blame gays for just about every evil known to Man, want to deny gays the most basic liberties, and, while they're at it, want to replace our republic with a theocracy;

Passing and signing a law giving the President the right to abrogate the Constitutional rights of US citizens, based solely on his word that said citizens might be terrorists;

Refusing to allow a pentacle to be inscribed on a Pagan soldier's plaque at Arlington Cemetary;

Interfering with the work and publications of NASA scientists working on global climate issues;

Trying to ban abortion one state at a time;

Interfering in the personal medical end-of-life decisions of private citizens, based on lies and outright slander knowingly spread by their own elected officials...

There's more examples that I don't remember offhand, but I'm sure you get my point. What about any of these policies can be called "libertarian" by any stretch of anyone's imagination?

You "libertarians" have been clinging to the Republicans since 1980, pathologically terrified of "liberals," whom some of you can't seem to distinguish from Stalin; and all you've accomplished for your cause is to make yourselves into ideological crack-whores and bum-boys for the Republicans' use and enjoyment. Haven't you bent over for them enough? They didn't respect you in any morning in the past, and they won't respect you tomorrow morning either.

Alone among ideologues in the US, Libertarians have shown amazing ability to reason, question, and see past the sloganeering BS and hysteria of both parties. This is what makes their chronic crack-whoredom so much more disappointing. Communists have always been idiots; we expected a LOT more from libertarians.

Raging Bee   ·  November 2, 2006 4:31 PM

lol "Subaru eliminationist rhetoric" nice

anon   ·  November 2, 2006 6:54 PM

Bee. And vote for a party that does just as many or more anti-libertarian things?

Or, vote for someone who won't win.

Those are your choices as a libertarian. The solution? Do what conservatives did starting 40 years ago.

You're foolish to think that Libertarians are the 'bum-boys' of the Republicans. Mostly, they are just waiting for their chance to replace the dems as the other party.

One step at a time.

RiverCocytus   ·  November 2, 2006 7:01 PM

Bee, if I held my nose and voted Democrat, someone could just as easily provide a laundry list of un-libertarian characteristics of Democrats. So what? The main reason I became sick of the Democratic Party is that I grew tired of relentless socialism, identity politics, and multiculturalism, and while the Republicans aren't much better, I see no change in the Democrats.

Even though they don't consider me one of their own, I find it easier to disagree with conservatives. In general, they don't take opinions as personally.

Eric Scheie   ·  November 2, 2006 8:16 PM

R. Bee

Your litany of Rethug evils starts with two falsehoods.

And any reasonable person is to take you seriously after that?

This is why I won't vote Dem and put a foolish female like Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker's seat.

Y'all are unserious and, at this point, dangerous to the health of the United States.

If you like European values...MOVE TO EUROPE.

Darleen   ·  November 2, 2006 11:10 PM

Hey, I like Subarus... and I'm an independent who voted for Bush. But I don't own a Subaru. I was thinking I would buy one after I moved out one of the mountain states. But I went off-road with some Michael Moore-loving liberals one time shortly after moving here, and we got to a rock we couldn't get over and got stuck, while all the other folks in our group were able to keep on going towards the trailhead. So when I decided to buy a vehicle with 4WD, I started by looking mainly at makes other than Subarus. I ended up getting a Toyota SUV. I heard last night that more Republicans drive Toyotas. Go figure.

Kurt   ·  November 2, 2006 11:24 PM

Very interesting articles...not a big fan of Subarus. But then again - not a big fan of Bush..never really put those two together though!

Miss Used Car Los Angeles   ·  November 2, 2006 11:38 PM

Yes, Subarus do have that Lesbarus reputation and with some good reason. But darn it, I may have to get both a sex change and a sexual orientation change, then! They make an enormous amount of sense for winter driving around here--all wheel drive without massive amounts of weight or the high center of gravity of most SUVs.

Clayton E. Cramer   ·  November 3, 2006 1:04 AM

Sigivald writes:

You "libertarians" have been clinging to the Republicans since 1980, pathologically terrified of "liberals," whom some of you can't seem to distinguish from Stalin;
Perhaps because so much of the hard left end of the Democratic Party can't seem to distinguish itself from Stalin, and much of the rest demonstrates that it differs from social conservatives only in what it disapproves of--not in the methods it will use.

Once upon a time, there were laws telling homosexuals that they couldn't have sex--because that was immoral and corrosive to the society. Liberals say that's wrong. Instead, they have laws prohibiting businesses from refusing to print gay wedding announcements (as happened in Seattle), because discrimination is immoral corrosive to the society.

Libertarians that cling to the Republican Party do so because the social conservatives, for the most part, don't control the courts, and thus aren't much of a threat. Liberals control the courts (Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, Free Speech Coalition v. Ashcroft), and their antilibertarian tendencies are therefore a lot more dangerous.

Clayton E. Cramer   ·  November 3, 2006 1:12 AM

CC, thanks for coming. The new comment template feature is a bit confusing, and it might have looked as if Bee's comment came from Sigivald, but the name is at the bottom.

Regarding the assertion that homosexual sex was "immoral and corrosive to the society," was that referring to private sex acts? Because most of the social conservatives these days are a lot more worried about what goes on in public, and I think most would be a lot more worried about homosexuals holding hands in public than screwing in private. (While "sodomy" laws prohibited the latter and not the former, they also failed to prohibit numerous sex acts common between homosexuals, while prohibited many acts common between heterosexuals. So even if the purpose was to stop things that were deemed "immoral and corrosive," I think there are problems with overinclusiveness and underinclusiveness. And of course I don't think government should police consensual sex acts of adults.)

As to the Subarus, I didn't mean to attack the cars, only the stereotype. The last time I was held up by a slow Subaru, it occurred to me that my car (a 1995 Toyota Tercel) probably had a smaller engine, and that if I were driving the Subaru I'd probably have no problem keeping up with traffic. Subarus certainly seem to have a long life and do well in cold climates. I'm almost tempted to buy one and drive it as a parody of some sort, but I'm afraid I'm getting too old for that sort of thing.

Eric Scheie   ·  November 3, 2006 9:10 AM

And vote for a party that does just as many or more anti-libertarian things?

"Just as many or more" my ass. When did the Democrats invade Iraq, openly pander to (sometimes violent) anti-gay bigotry, lie about women's health issues, deny contraception to adults, force phony sex-ed and phony science on public schools, or dumb down national-security debates to "you're either with us or with the terrorists?"

You're foolish to think that Libertarians are the 'bum-boys' of the Republicans. Mostly, they are just waiting for their chance to replace the dems as the other party.

And waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and looking no more credible or relevant than they did in 1980.

The only time libertarians sound at all sensible on any specific serious issue is when they're attacking the War on Drugs, and even that is mitigated by their support for the party that gave us that War and made it so deranged.

Perhaps because so much of the hard left end of the Democratic Party can't seem to distinguish itself from Stalin...

The democrats were at the height of their power in the late '70s, when they controlled the White House, BOTH houses of Congress, AND the majority of state lagislatures; the Supreme Court was kinda liberal too, and the Republicans were discredited by Vietnam and Watergate, and Ted "Mr. Health" Kennedy was considered a viable candidate to succeed Carter. If the "hard left" wanted to enact any "Stalinist" policies, that would have been the time to do it. So, what "Stalinist" policies DID they enact then? (And who, in the actual Democratic leadership, was "hard left?")

...and much of the rest demonstrates that it differs from social conservatives only in what it disapproves of--not in the methods it will use.

When did the Democrats use overt appeals to sectarian ignorance and bigotry to achieve their objectives? Questioning the patriotism of their critics? Pretending gay marriage was a more important issue than the hostages in Tehran? "Rendering" suspected criminals or terrorists to foreign prisons to be interrogated by questionable means? (Where is the Democrats' Abu Ghraib?) Channelling "faith-based initiative" money to their chosen churches? Covering up the sexual harassment of pages? Taking money from "Christians" who overtly praised terrorists?

And any reasonable person is to take you seriously after that?

Well, if you won't address any of the other points that you admit are NOT "falsehoods," then why should I take YOU seriously?

Y'all are unserious and, at this point, dangerous to the health of the United States.

Care to specifiy exactly HOW I'm "dangerous?" You know, like a reference to a specific action?

If you like European values...MOVE TO EUROPE.

If you don't like American values like mutual respect, equal justice under law, sensible public dialogue about important issues...MOVE TO IRAN.

PS: It may interest you to know that many libertarians are indeed defecting from the GOP. Guess the "liberal = socialist = communist = fascist" Kool-aid was getting kinda stale for them...

Raging Bee   ·  November 3, 2006 2:02 PM

The solution? Do what conservatives did starting 40 years ago.

Conservatives started sucking up to people of opposite ideologies, who didn't respect them, 40 years ago? I musta missed that episode.

Raging Bee   ·  November 3, 2006 2:24 PM

I am a Republican who owns a Subaru. I just bought my Forester a couple of months ago. It's a good car and I like it. But you will never see me with a Bush or whatever Republican bumper sticker on my car because I think bumper stickers are stupid, and always have thought so.

FYI: you can get any Subaru with the turbocharged V4, which is very, very fast.

Rico   ·  November 3, 2006 7:11 PM

If you're stuck behind a Subaru, it's an Outback or a Forester. A Legacy GT (my car) or a WRX will be passing you. I voted for Bush, and totaled my last Legacy GT in my own driveway. Stodgy driver, indeed.

Robin D   ·  November 3, 2006 9:36 PM

Suddenly I'm glad I'm driving an Infiniti. (There aren't enough of them around to warrant any kind of generalization.)

CGHill   ·  November 4, 2006 7:43 PM

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