Gordon Chaffin / Uncategorized

Leading America into Recovery: Clint Eastwood and Detroit’s Cars

This Chrysler advertisement aired during the Super Bowl, featuring Clint Eastwood, was a doozy:

 

By the end of it, when watching live for the first time on Super Bowl Sunday, I was out of my chair screaming “Hell Yeah!”  But, my reaction is personal. I’m a Metro Detroiter. I’m a Michigander. That message spoke to me: that Detroit knows how to come back — we face ever worse odds than the country as a whole, but we aren’t giving up. That’s close to my heart.

My gut reaction, and I think the visceral reaction of 90 percent of Americans, was optimistic excitement. I resonate with the idea that America doesn’t go down with only one punch — who better to deliver that message than the Outlaw Josie Wales himself?

People have said that the end of halftime was the wrong time to place the ad, but I think that’s wrong. With the “Halftime in America” message, there was no better spot for that ad. Everyone got the metaphor, it was perfectly clear — we got our butts kicked in the last few minutes of the 2nd quarter, but now the 3rd quarter is about to start and we can regain the momentum with a strong opening drive.

It’s a car ad, and there’s no better way to discuss Detroit and America coming back than Clint Eastwood’s raspy voice asserting with authority that “soon the whole world is going to hear the roar of our engines.” That’s when I got out of my chair right there. That’s when my goosebumps gave way to pride in my state, pride in my country. That’s American exceptionalism, an inspiring message. Generations of car-guys born and raised in the middle-class Midwest, in swing state America — the kids who get their driver’s license on their 16th birthday — resonate with that. I heard it. My dad heard it. We heard it in our heads and hearts, the roar of an engine straight out of American Muscle.

No, I didn’t think about the “Second Half” as wink to an Obama second term. I didn’t think about politics until I looked on my Twitter feed. IT’S NOT ABOUT POLITICS! It’s not about bailout money, or “Government Motors.” That ad was about America. It might not sell lots of Chrysler cars, but neither did last year’s Eminem ad. Chrysler itself is now a secondary part of the “Imported from Detroit” brand.

You know what, though? Every time I see a new Chrysler on the road, it says something about the owner. That guy cares about American manufacturing. He wants to be a part of our revival.

Finally, I’ll say that this ad and the Eminem ad, speak to something few people outside of Southeast Michigan understand. We’re in it together, we might not all be blue-collar line workers, but we know people who are, or their relatives were. We’ve been battered to Hell the last few decades, from Japan and Korea, and now China. We might lose jobs because we’re not right-to-work, but we see unions as a flawed — but-important part of employment.

Our weather sucks, our roads are horrible and our spirits have been broken. But we don’t give up, we don’t give in. We’re in this together, and we’re leading America now — out of the deep abyss of global competition.

Our sports teams epitomize this spirit. Our college teams speak of “character kids.” This is Michigan, this is Detroit. We’ve got some problems to deal with, but we’re going to teach America how to recover. We will lead. This is our moment. This is our second act.

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