For despondent Democrats there's a new treatment, if not a cure, for their lingering Election Day blues: Think retail therapy. A Web site called "Choose the Blue" is offering shopping...
CHICAGO For despondent Democrats there’s a new treatment, if not a cure, for their lingering Election Day blues: Think retail therapy.
A Web site called “Choose the Blue” is offering shopping advice this holiday season, providing information about which companies’ employees give to Democrats and which prefer Republicans.
Costco workers gave more to Democrats, for example, while Wal-Mart’s preferred Republicans, according to campaign-finance records. Donna Karan’s people lean left. Fruit of the Loom’s give to the right.
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For Ann and Bill Duvall, creators of www.choosetheblue.com, Nov. 3 brought great disappointment and a call to action.
“We woke up that morning just really devastated and depressed, and in some ways I’m grateful that we came up with this idea because that’s where we’ve been able to put our energy,” said Ann Duvall, 56.
Choose the Blue’s goal is to shift wealth to people who support the Democrats’ cause. Using information from the Federal Election Commission Web site and the Center for Responsive Politics Web site, www.opensecrets.org, the Duvalls give their fellow Democrats a gift that could keep on giving.
“If each American who voted for John Kerry spends $100 in 2005 on a Blue company instead of a Red company, we can move $5 billion away from Republican companies and add $5 billion to the income of companies who donate to Democrats,” they say on their site.
In the few weeks since the Duvalls launched the site, it has gained growing notice.
Within days of the election, the Duvalls asked 10 of their friends to review it and tell them what worked and what didn’t. Shortly thereafter, they started getting e-mails from strangers thanking them for their work.
At its peak, the site received more than 300,000 hits in one day, Ann Duvall said. Typically between 100,000 and 200,000 people view it daily.
“This is not a boycott,” said Bill Duvall, a software creator who helped write the first code connecting two computers on the Internet 35 years ago. “It’s just that we believe it’s possible to direct some of your spending so we can begin to at least even the playing field.”
“Choose the Blue” breaks down its information into categories such as automotive, consumer electronics, retail shopping and fashion, and sports. The site’s tallies also include gifts from companies to political-action committees. The figures for the companies and their employees show the total percentages and dollar amounts given to Republican and Democratic candidates or causes.
“Choose the Blue” is joined in cyberspace by “Buy Blue,” a site with a similar mission. Its slogan is: “In today’s America there’s a more powerful act than voting blue, and that’s buying blue.” It also urges people to have a “blue Christmas” and says: “Find out which businesses have been naughty and which have been nice. Shop accordingly!”
While experts applaud the initiative taken by creators of the sites, they aren’t sure their strategy is sound. After all, Republicans, too, can take advantage of the information they’re providing.
“The question that remains then is which side does a better job of spreading the word to those who are most likely to act on it,” said Eszter Hargittai, an assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University and a faculty fellow in the Institute for Policy Research.
Richard Feinberg of Purdue University said most people don’t make their shopping decisions based on personal ideology: They look for the best bargains or the most convenient stores.
“The handful of people that it might influence are already boycotting or not spending money on businesses that they think go against their political grain,” said Feinberg, director of the school’s Center for Customer Driven Quality. “It’s not going to change a neutral person.”
While innovative and purposeful, “Choose the Blue” illustrates something about some of the people who voted for Sens. Kerry and John Edwards. As exhausting and frustrating as the loss was for them, they’re not done fighting.
“It would be really easy for us to sort of fold up our tent and say we’re OK for the rest of our lives and go off and live our retirement in peace,” said Bill Duvall, 59.
“That doesn’t seem right to me. We have a responsibility to our children and our grandchildren.”
Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, said the Democrats’ future success, however, would not depend on the power of smaller movements.
He said the party must re-evaluate its purpose, and with temperatures still high after a close election, raising money won’t be its main challenge.
“I think the important thing is for the Democrats to define who they are and to develop a grass-roots organization that isn’t dependent on other groups,” Gans said.