Calling all Whitties: Buy, then vote, American

Alex Potter

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Maybe I’m just naive. Maybe it’s the idealist in me. Maybe the American worker still looms too large in my youthful imagination.

But whatever it is . . . I had to know. Do I own a single piece of clothing made in America? No. I don’t. And that is eating me.

Why do I care?

Because the American worker is dying and isn’t simply being “reeducated” for “high-tech” jobs. Just look at the unemployment rate today. If you include workers who have stopped looking for work or taken part-time jobs, it isn’t nine percent of Americans who are realistically “unemployed”: it’s 17 percent.

Those levels don’t indicate a recession. They indicate a depression.

I don’t want to seem like one of those people who longs for the days when one third of all working Americans stood on an assembly line, but the fact is the current global economy is not working out for many, many working Americans.

I’m not writing to “prove” this point. Most students at Whitman, due to their liberal leanings, are already sympathetic to working-class claims. Instead, what I am urging is an alliance between the Right (or at least some of it) and the Left in support of the American worker.

When I realized I didn’t own a single piece of clothing made in America, I wanted to do something about it. I decided that jeans, a quintessential American article of clothing, would be an easy place to start looking for an American-made alternative. I was wrong.

After finding out that Carhartt is closing its last remaining American factory and staring at a list of about five other possible manufacturers, I basically narrowed it down to two. I could buy either Texas Jeans of North Carolina or Certified Jeans of Seattle.

What immediately struck me was the marketing of these two American-made brands.

Texas Jeans emphasizes the patriotism and the pride that comes with buying American.  Indeed their online ad explicitly declares, “It’s All About Pride.” Needless to say, it is to conservative, rural and working class Americans that this jean company is marketing.

A pair of Texas Jeans costs $30. Wal-Mart be damned.

This constituency’s opposition to exporting American jobs derives from a distinctively “America first” ideology: American jobs in economics, American lives in foreign policy, the American citizen in immigration and the American taxpayer in domestic politics.

Certified Jeans markets to a different audience. Their slogan is “world protector” jeans, not America protector.

Certified’s first point on their Web site is that all of their materials are organic. Their second point is that they are not sold in those evil environment-destroying malls. Lastly, their jeans are made in the United States but with the qualifier of “under U.S. labor laws” to remind you that this isn’t about protecting American jobs but about preventing labor abuses abroad.

There is no doubt that environmental and social justice issues are the primary marketing tools of Certified Jeans.

A pair of Certified Jeans costs about $80. So yes, Seattle shopper-girl, you can get two or three in exchange for those True Religions you’re wearing and maybe even feel a little less guilty when deciding on your volunteering outfit.

But unlike in business, where a single corporation might form multiple brands to target specific consumer bases, politics is about the convergence of common interests to form coalitions.

I don’t care whether you want to buy American-made goods for environmental, social justice or “America first” reasons. They are all equally valid in so far as buying American really does further all of those interests.

Results are what matter. Votes are what matter.

So I’m calling on all consumers who would buy Texas Jeans or Certified Jeans to cast, as citizens, the same vote. Who will receive that vote, who will unite these uniquely similar yet culturally divided interest groups, is yet to be seen.

I will venture to say, however, that it will not be the Republican Party any time soon. In the meantime I plan on buying a pair of jeans from both Certified Jeans and Texas Jeans once I get a real job.