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August 19, 2008

Summary of My Discontent - Sticker shock

When Barack Obama is elected president in a few months, it will be a historic occasion, and not just because he will be only our ninth president known to have had sex with a black woman. 

It will also be historic because Obama is both “pro-hope” and “pro-change,” unlike his opponent John McCain, who is pro-change* but neutral on hope. Not since James K. Polk (campaign motto: “Whigs do it with Fewer Lickspittles!”) has America seen so much hopefulness for change. 

Because Obama’s election will be such a historic moment, nine out of 10 flea market vendors predict that 2008 campaign memorabilia will someday sell “better than Transformers but not as well as old Playboys,” according to a recent study by Mullet Monthly. Some even expect Obama memorabilia to outsell Harry S. Truman’s “Nixon is a Shifty-Eyed Goddamn Liar” spaghetti-strap T and Gatewood Galbraith’s “I     Room Service” hookah. 

Campaign stickers, buttons, clothing and other oddities sell particularly well when there’s some irony attached. Republicans, widely renowned for a dogged determination to be on the wrong side of history, have created some of the most eBay-able campaign memorabilia. What collector could pass up the Eisenhower cigarette pack, the Benjamin Harrison “Tap the Whales” oil lamp or the Rutherford B. Hayes “I Got’cher Suffrage” codpiece? 

This year’s trend in campaign merchandise seems to have devolved into schoolyard bullying. Democrats are selling “McLame,” “McShame,” “McSame” and “McCane” merchandise, whereas Republicans have settled on the N word — “Nobama” — as their keychain and coffee-cup rallying cry. So, what kind of clever entrepreneur comes up with sarcastic name-calling of opponents instead of positive campaigning for one’s own candidate? Overachieving Louisville sticker-maker Ted Jackson is one vendor selling Nobama paraphernalia. Jackson is offering collectors a sweet deal: He’s giving away 1 million free Nobama stickers to promote his website, www.mccainstore.com, which apparently his own candidate won’t touch with a 10-foot McCane. 

Jackson’s site, which gamely manages to keep a straight face while showing banners proclaiming “Bush/Quayle ’92” and “Bush/Cheney ’04,” touts the “1 Million Bumper Sticker Giveaway,” which is a response to MoveOn.org’s giveaway earlier this year of 1 million Obama stickers. Jackson’s Louisville company, Spalding Group, sells keychains, caps, T-shirts and other must-have gear for sporty Republicans, all of which are festooned with hard-hitting slogans like “Defend Traditional Marriage,” “Never Surrender,” “Drill Offshore Now,” “Support Our Troops,” and other disingenuous vapidities of the idiocracy.

If Ted Jackson’s name rings a bell, it might be because he is one of the founding members of The Jackson 5. Oh, no, wait. That’s Tito. It might be because Ted Jackson is also the campaign chairman for Anne Northup, who is battling LEO founder and current U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth for the 3rd District congressional seat and/or, well, pretty much any office that is up for grabs, especially if it’s an office that would allow her to support our troops and not surrender. 

You’d think running a congressional campaign and an online sticker kiosk would be enough to keep one man busy, but, according to his web résumé, Jackson is also a lawyer, consultant and PR executive, which means he is currently riding three of the four horses of the American apocalypse. (His résumé lacks only “gun lobbyist” for a sweep.) As he endeavors to give away his million stickers, Jackson also faces the reality that Obama has received donations from an unprecedented 2 million individual Americans, and routinely doubles the monthly donations to McCain’s candidacy, including donations from military personnel. 

So it’s awfully generous of Jackson to give away a million of what will soon be a kitschy collector’s item. In the spirit of national unity, all Republicans and Democrats should take Jackson up on his offer, order a free sticker and stash it away deep in the basement, where it will grow in value and become a cherished piece of Americana. Like the Grover Cleveland Chamber Pot. 


*Known as a maverick, McCain wants to change things from the way they are into even more of the way they are.


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Kids! Guess which of the historical campaign items mentioned in this column are real! Answers below. 


The spaghetti-strap T, hookah, oil lamp and codpiece are fake. Every other item, including the Ike cigarettes, Cleveland chamber pot and Ted Jackson’s creepy opportunism, are real. While Harry S. Truman didn’t sell any T-shirts, he did famously call Nixon a “shifty-eyed goddamn liar.” 

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