The Rockford Files

Economic Patriotism

In an essay first published in Chronicles in 2006 and collected in the Chronicles Press volume Life, Literature, and Lincoln, the late Tom Landess relates a story about Arizona Sen. John McCain.  While stumping in South Carolina for the Republican presidential nomination, the Mad Bomber encountered a textile-mill worker who was not a fan of Senator McCain’s support for free trade.  The millworker had made a good living in textiles, and he had hoped his children would as well, but just as Bruce Springsteen sang two decades earlier about the textile mills of New Jersey, down in South Carolina “the foreman says those jobs are going, boys / and they ain’t coming back.”

It didn’t have to be that way, and the millworker knew it.  So, for that matter, did John McCain, but having done his damnedest to change the economic landscape not just of South Carolina but of the United States as a whole, he wasn’t about to back down.  “Sir,” he said to the millworker,

I did not know that your ambitions were for your children to work in a textile mill, to be honest with you.  I would rather have them work in a high-tech industry.  I would rather have them work in the computer industry.  I would rather give them the kind of education and training that’s necessary in order for them to really [sic] have prosperous and full...

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