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Some have viewed Bob Dylan's recent Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler as a sell-out.  But there's more to it, namely a strong step in support of America's factory workers.

Last night, I heard someone venting his frustration about Bob Dylan “selling out” by appearing in a Chrysler commercial during the Super Bowl.  He was upset because the iconic Dylan had “tried to sell me a Chrysler with tinted windows and electric seats.”  He felt it was the last straw, the last gasp of something that was finally imploding into pure “consumerism.”

I didn’t see it that way, though.  As someone who has spent the last decade fighting to save U.S. manufacturing, and the good jobs that come with it, I was instead grateful that Dylan was taking a stand in favor of Detroit and its struggling workers.

No doubt, the Chrysler commercial is sleek and well-produced, with a great folk-rock backbeat for its soundtrack.  And Dylan appears very “cool” in the ad, clad in a black leather coat, walking the streets, shooting pool in a corner bar.  But what comes through quite clearly (to me, at least), is Dylan standing up for America’s workers.

A quick check of his voiceover reveals what’s really on his mind: 

“You can’t import original…You can’t duplicate legacy…Detroit made cars, and cars made America…You can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line.”

It’s important to remember that Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota.  He’s a Midwesterner.  He understands the importance of the local factory in one’s home economy.  It’s quite possible that Dylan has trekked home to Minnesota and been very troubled by what’s he’s seen, namely one in four factory jobs disappearing since 2000.  

And then there’s Michigan, where the collapse of Detroit has left one in eight residents dependent on food stamps.  And let’s not even talk about Detroit, once the jewel of American industry, now bankrupt.

When I see Bob Dylan praising American ingenuity, and reminding Super Bowl viewers that the nation’s auto workers put their heart and sweat into the cars they make, I say, good for him.  Let’s help these people to keep their jobs.

Dylan is in fact being absolutely consistent with his past commitment to America’s working men and women.  It was Dylan’s comment at Live Aid in favor of America’s hard-pressed farmers ("I hope that some of the money…maybe they can just take a little bit of it…and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks…") that sparked the eventual creation of Farm Aid.

So, good for Dylan when he urges support for America’s auto workers, particularly in his closing statement:

“Let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone.  We will build your car.”

It’s a deal that we need to make.  Yes, your iPhone is being assembled in China.  But why can’t America retain some stake in the global pie, something that our workers can build with ingenuity and pride?  I salute Dylan’s proposition, and America’s manufacturers and their workers undoubtedly do, too.

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