Friday, November 26, 2004

Let the holiday shopping season begin!

[Note: I had already outlined most of this post last night, well before Hecate’s post before this. I believe Hecate’s comments on the election to be spot on. Anything else I say to contradict Hecate is merely incidental]

Start here. (Props to my man Willis)

When I first noticed Willis begin this Brand Democrat campaign and that tremendous “since 1794” donkey logo I was so excited I almost, well, we won’t go there. Having been self-employed for most of the last twenty years following a career arc that, with the exception of not being in the music industry, makes the movie Spinal Tap a painfully accurate biography (though fortunately we’ve been entering the coveted and profitable “casino tour“ stage of our Spinal Tap existence) I hold the concepts and power of brand identity close to my heart. As Democrats we suffer too often as intellectuals in a world defined by simple images, and as a brand the Democrats have done little to push a simple, defining distinction between them and the emerging aristocracy/theocracy movement that is the modern GOP. This is a great place to start the re-imaging process. Got Liberty? Got Rights? Gotta love it.

Now as to Hecate’s call to boycott the materialism of the holidays, I’d just like to say I would prefer not to cut off my nose, my face deals with enough spite already thank you very much. One of my biggest peeves with many Democrats and the Democratic Party in general has been how overlooked small businesses have been. I’ve often felt like the ugly stepchild of both parties. Too often I have to correct well-meaning people who disparage all business people (and call for general boycotts, grrr) as being a part of “Them,” while on the other side Republicans pay us lip service (and we get tons of that from them) while ignoring our real needs as they rig the system for the largest 10% of any given industry. Ironically most of all the business owners I deal with (the exceptions seem to be those who inherited their families business – go figure) are Democratic supporters. One of the new economic realities is that more and more people are responding to unemployment and underemployment by starting micro-businesses (I say micro because by definition a “small” business can have as many as 50 employees and generate many millions of dollars a year). These are the independent service people (from plumbers to lawn care to web design), the small restaurants, the retail stores not owned by Wal-mart or Target and small manufacturers [like me] that make up a growing and important segment of our economy. Boycotting all businesses is counter intuitive – though I still won’t patronize any business with a NFIB [National Federation of Independent Businesses] sign because of their campaign tactics against Paul Wellstone. Spend only what you can afford but be creative and useful with those gift ideas. And please focus on non-chain stores. Independent retail stores are considerably more likely to be getting their inventory from domestic sources than the big box retailers. And it doesn’t even have to be a product to be a gift. We get my honey’s parents prepaid lawn care. We’ve given out certificates for favorite local restaurants and small bookstores. Give someone golf or yoga lessons, maybe a certificate for a massage (I can guarantee you those will be micro-business people).

For better or worse we’re a consumer-based economy and much of that is based on how strong the holiday shopping season runs. The best impact we can have is not through starving the beast (because it will cannibalize us first); it’s through determining on whom we spend our money.

Small businesses are our friends.