Part of the Education, Politics, and Public Life book series (EPPL)


On February 15, 2004, George W. Bush made the nineteenth visit of his presidency to the state of Florida, site of the contested 2000 election returns that eventually elevated him, by way of a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision, to the highest office in the land. This visit would be like no other, however, as Bush was scheduled to attend the Daytona 500 race, which is generally accepted as the most important and prestigious event of the domestic automobile racing season. Like virtually all of his previous presidential appearances, this one was scripted like a Broadway show to timeless perfection: Bush arrived on the scene in grand fashion, his motorcade driving once around the 2.5 mile racetrack and creeping slowly past the main grandstand to the fanfare of the 180,000 cheering, clapping, and flag-waving fans in attendance (some flags of which were of the Confederate variety) (Benedetto, 2004). With each ostentatious left turn on the track, the president further forged a powerful symbolic relationship between stock car automobile culture and the conservative political agenda he had come to embody over the previous decade. Political scientist William Connolly (2005) described the scene of Bush emerging from his SUV “to an incredible roar of approval” in this manner:

The crowd responded to the SUV as a symbol of disdain for womanly ecologists, safety advocates, supporters of fuel economy, weak-willed pluralists, and internationalists. Bush played upon the symbol and drew energy from the crowd’s acclamation of it. Resentment against those who express an ethos of care for the world was never named: a message expressed without being articulated. (p. 879)


Cultural Politics Identity Politics Republican Party Supreme Court Decision Consumer Culture 
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© Joshua I. Newman and Michael D. Giardina 2011

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