THE BLOG
07/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can We Make "Buying American" Cool Again?

In the department of "you've got to be freaking kidding me," some on the (far) right are arguing that Americans should refuse to buy Chrysler and General Motors products as long as the Government (and in some cases the United Auto Workers) own a stake.

Let's start with that paradigm of patriotism, Rush Limbaugh:

Nobody wants to support an Obama company. For those of you for those of you that work at GM you have to understand the people angry are not angry at you. They're not angry at General Motors. The people saying they don't want to buy anything at General Motors are not mad at General Motors. They don't want to patronize Obama. They don't want to do anything to make Obama's policies work!

This is an untold story, by the way. Of course, the government-controlled media is not gonna report anything like this but there are a lot of people who are not going to buy from Chrysler or General Motors as long as it is perceived Barack Obama is running it, because people do not want his policy to work here because this is antithetical to the American economic way of life. The government does not own car companies; the government does not design cars, not in a country that works. So people aren't going to buy products from companies that Obama runs.

Limbaugh goes on to insist that he doesn't want GM to fail, but he then says this in response to a caller:

Anyway, the point is, be it General Motors, be it Chrysler -- whatever else Obama ends up controlling and running -- the American people are not going to want it to succeed. So I want all of you who work at General Motors and all of you who are members of labor unions to understand that the opposition to you is not because of you.

Limbaugh isn't alone. Hugh Hewitt has called for a boycott:

In the effort to reverse this lurch beyond the farthest left fringe of previous Democratic statist urges, individual Americans have a role to play. They have to say no to GM products and services until such time as the denationalization occurs. This is a painful conclusion for those of us with friends still working for the company, and who had supported aggressive efforts to help the private company restructure. But there isn't any alternative, every dollar spent with GM is a dollar spent against free enterprise. Every car or truck purchased from Government Motors is one not purchased from a private car company that competes fairly against all other car companies.

There's even an online petition going around (screenshot via The Detroit Bureau):

This is crazy. Instead of Buy American, some on the right want you to Boycott American. (Imagine what these guys' response would be if the French or the Chinese were to suggest that.)

Perhaps the best response to this foolishness is to buy an American car. GM has nearly a dozen new cars already on the market or about to roll out that compete with or beat the best that other car companies have to offer. Ford is producing some spiffy models as well.

The problem, of course, is that in far too many circles, American-made cars are still regarded as little better than junk. As WaPo"s Warren Brown noted back in March,

Let's be frank about this. Let's be clear. For the past year, as the national economy began to unwind, particularly that part of it represented by the automobile industry, we heard lots of talk from Capitol Hill about Detroit's need to "restructure," Detroit's need to make cars, and fewer trucks, that "Americans want to buy."

It was bunk fueled by bias. The self-evident portion of that bunk is that 48 percent of the new cars and trucks sold in this country are built by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. That's pretty darned good defense of a home market that is wide open to car manufacturers from all over the world, including foreign manufacturers ably assisted by hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks from states seeking new factories.

The bias is more subtle. To detect it, you have to spend time trolling the garages and parking lots of Capitol Hill. Lots of Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota cars are in those places. After a while, it becomes clear that it's not so much that Detroit does not make cars Americans want to buy. What's obvious is that many of the people who were sent to Washington to represent America are no longer interested in taking what America is making...

Detroit makes good cars. The only people who don't know that are people, who for reasons both valid and ill-founded, long ago abandoned Detroit.

But it's not just politicians. If you live in a big city outside of the industrial Midwest, look around. Hardly anyone drives American cars anymore. And tell the truth -- whenever someone you know has bought an American car, weren't you just a little bit surprised? Didn't you wonder why they didn't buy the comparable Toyota or Honda (or Lexus or BMW)?

To be completely transparent, I'm as guilty of this as anyone -- we bought a Volvo S40 in 2006, and didn't even look at American brands when we shopped.

It's time to face facts. For far too long, liberals have bought foreign brands. Owning a foreign car is as much a part of the lefty/coastie/academic community's self-image as lattes, Whole Foods, yoga, and Mac laptops.

We -- all of us, including me -- need to acknowledge our share of the responsibility for having "abandoned Detroit." We need to understand that any effort to rebuild the American auto industry requires each of us to start buying American again.

If you really care about the American worker, if you really want to help turn around the economy, and if you really want President Obama to succeed, there is nothing more important that you could do today. As Hewett noted, we all have an individual role to play. Let's change the way we think and what we regard as trendy.

It's not like we have to sacrifice for this to happen. Detroit is producing great cars these days. And many are cheaper than their foreign competition. They should be flying off the lots. And right now, they're not.

Let's make buying American cars cool again. Let's make it so that movie stars will want to arrive at the Oscars in Ford Fusions instead of Toyota Priuses. Let's make it so that high school boys will want to drive Mustangs, Camaros, and Tesla Roadsters instead of Porsches and Lamborghinis. Let's make it so that athletes will want buy the Cadillac STS instead of the BMW 5 series.

Let's make it so cool that one day soon, Rush Limbaugh will mock a progressive candidate for President because she drives a Chevy Volt.