Editorial: The Politics of Political Fashion

By Michelle Lynn Kahn
Editor-in-Chief, CMC ’12

Barack Obama swag is so last season. I gave my collection of campaign t-shirts (seven in all, including a super-hip Urban Outfitters Shepard Fairey “HOPE” poster screenprint) a late funeral; they now lie buried in my bottom dresser drawer at home. Of course, I still like him… I’m just not in love with him anymore. Gone are the days when I would paint the campaign logo on my back windshield, referring to my car as the “Obamobile”; clip out Newsweek photos for a collage in homage to the future POTUS and FLOTUS, later dubbed the “Barack Wall”; and pretend I was an “O-baller” while practicing three-pointers to a mix CD of his regular campaign music. I was so cool, and so were the portmanteaus. 

But then I moved on. Sorry, Mr. President – in the world of political fashion, I wear my issues on my sleeve (literally), and you’ve been a bit boring in the accessories department lately. All good causes need good branding, and in good branding, the visual is key. That’s why I walk around with my “EQUALITY =” ring supporting the National Marriage Boycott ($10 at the Queer Resource Center) and my orange armband for Workers for Justice (free in Pomona’s Walker Lounge). I also purchased my $10 plus shipping Boxer for Senate boxer shorts, because they are too funny to pass up.

To my dismay, WhiteHouse.gov has no merchandise tab. I want a t-shirt depicting the public option as a zombie, with a catchy slogan like “Back From the Dead?” I want a rainbow camouflage tote bag that reads “ASK & TELL” in big, bold letters. And I don’t want to buy them on CafePress. I want my money to go to something real, not to a bored, geeky politico with some mediocre design skills and a willingness to let some corporate website steal commission. 

So instead of raising taxes, let’s raise sales. Why is governing so artistically bland? Why does campaigning get all the fun? There’s a huge market for political swag – 300million people, in fact. Babies might prove effective walking (crawling?) advertisements; GOP Congressmen should sell “Thank Jesus mommy didn’t abort me” bibs, or swimming floaties that say, “Look at my guns.” Let’s get John Boehner to sign onto “Tea Party” tea party playsets for toddlers with “I don’t want a government takeover of Medicare” printed on the saucers and “My momma hates Obama” on the sugar bowl. Indoctrinate the youth and make profit? That’s like killing two liberals with one stone.

Obviously, this is satire. After all, I am a Claremont McKenna student – the Claremont Independent, Claremont College Republicans, and half the government department would lynch me (or worse, pond me) if I were serious. But both parties in Congress, and definitely the administration, could use some better messaging strategies, and issue-based political fashion could work. And if they need a graphic artist, I know an Editor-in-Chief who would lend her services (pro-bono, of course), because Shepard Fairey is so last season.By Michelle Lynn Kahn

By Michelle Lynn Kahn

Editor-in-Chief, CMC ’12

Barack Obama swag is so last season. I gave my collection of campaign t-shirts (seven in all, including a super-hip Urban Outfitters Shepard Fairey “HOPE” poster screenprint) a late funeral; they now lie buried in my bottom dresser drawer at home. Of course, I still like him… I’m just not in love with him anymore. Gone are the days when I would paint the campaign logo on my back windshield, referring to my car as the “Obamobile”; clip out Newsweek photos for a collage in homage to the future POTUS and FLOTUS, later dubbed the “Barack Wall”; and pretend I was an “O-baller” while practicing three-pointers to a mix CD of his regular campaign music. I was so cool, and so were the portmanteaus.

But then I moved on. Sorry, Mr. President – in the world of political fashion, I wear my issues on my sleeve (literally), and you’ve been a bit boring in the accessories department lately. All good causes need good branding, and in good branding, the visual is key. That’s why I walk around with my “EQUALITY =” ring supporting the National Marriage Boycott ($10 at the Queer Resource Center) and my orange armband for Workers for Justice (free in Pomona’s Walker Lounge). I also purchased my $10 plus shipping Boxer for Senate boxer shorts, because they are too funny to pass up.

To my dismay, WhiteHouse.gov has no merchandise tab. I want a t-shirt depicting the public option as a zombie, with a catchy slogan like “Back From the Dead?” I want a rainbow camouflage tote bag that reads “ASK & TELL” in big, bold letters. And I don’t want to buy them on CafePress. I want my money to go to something real, not to a bored, geeky politico with some mediocre design skills and a willingness to let some corporate website steal commission.

So instead of raising taxes, let’s raise sales. Why is governing so artistically bland? Why does campaigning get all the fun? There’s a huge market for political swag – 300million people, in fact. Babies might prove effective walking (crawling?) advertisements; GOP Congressmen should sell “Thank Jesus mommy didn’t abort me” bibs, or swimming floaties that say, “Look at my guns.” Let’s get John Boehner to sign onto “Tea Party” tea party playsets for toddlers with “I don’t want a government takeover of Medicare” printed on the saucers and “My momma hates Obama” on the sugar bowl. Indoctrinate the youth and make profit? That’s like killing two liberals with one stone.

Obviously, this is satire. After all, I am a Claremont McKenna student – the Claremont Independent, Claremont College Republicans, and half the government department would kill* me (or worse, pond me) if I were serious. But both parties in Congress, and definitely the administration, could use some better messaging strategies, and issue-based political fashion could work. And if they need a graphic artist, I know an Editor-in-Chief who would lend her services (pro-bono, of course), because Shepard Fairey is so last season.

*This word has been changed from the Claremont Port Side print edition. We recognize that the original term may have offended some readers and we apologize if that was the case. Any offense was unintentional. The Port Side regrets the oversight.
Michelle Lynn Kahn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Port Side, is a senior History-Government major at CMC. She just spent seven months in Europe, where orange juice has no pulp -- and is glad to be back in the Land of the Free and Home of the Fro-Yo. When she's not writing her senior thesis on Germany and Namibia, strategizing how to finagle her way into top history PhD programs, or learning French with a bunch of 5C freshmen, she'll be writing her new regular web-column "Schweinerei."


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