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T-Shirts as a new force in politics

Conservatives may dominate talk radio, but the left owns our nation's chests.
 
 
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The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting take this morning on the immigration debate. It's not the story of how Spanish-language radio hosts are helping coordinate the massive protests that happened nationwide last month and are repeating this coming Monday (though that's a great story as well), but rather about how t-shirts have become the weapon of choice for political activists of all stripes. Reporter Chris Gaylor writes that at last month's pro-immigration rally in Washington, thousands of marchers strolled onto the National Mall in identical "Legalize the Irish" t-shirts:

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform says it handed out 3,000 shirts that day, but that is just an ink drop compared with the ocean of political T-shirts printed each year. From campaign boons to political lampoons, more and more Americans are wearing their political hearts on their short sleeves.

"[Political T-shirts] are absolutely catching on," says Pia Catton, fashion editor for the New York Sun. "It's really an interesting movement to watch.... It's totally democratic and really kind of fun."

The Monitor article singles out CafePress.com as a "one-stop shop for buyers of virtually every political view. With a staggering 22 million products -- including scores on the immigration debate."

The article quotes silk screener Andrew Laidlaw, who runs the conservative clothing line Authentic GOP, as saying business has been slow lately: "I don't know what to say. Conservatives dominate talk radio," he says. "I guess liberals have T-shirts."

Checking out CafePress's politics section backs this argument up:

Clearly, the much-vaunted t-shirt demographic dislikes Bush (intensely), leans heavily to the left, but isn't exactly pro-Democrat. From my perspective, that paints a pretty accurate picture of the political scene in this country. After all, Hillary Clinton is the most-reproduced face of all political candidates, with 40 percent of t-shirts dedicated to supporting or bashing her, with Governator Schwarzenegger in a distant second place in the 'teens.

"If the 2008 [presidential] election were based off T-shirt sales," [CafePress spokesman Marc] Cowlin says, "Hillary [Clinton] would win by a landslide."

Matthew Wheeland is AlterNet's managing editor.