- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2018

President Trump’s plan for a military Space Force has not gotten off the ground yet, but it already has launched a merchandising craze of Space Force-themed T-shirts, coffee mugs, spiral notebooks and throw pillows.

In West Virginia, sales of Space Force apparel is helping finance the Wood County Republican Party, which can’t keep enough of its homemade Space Force T-shirts in stock.

“They’re selling very quickly. Anything that says Trump’s Space Force — it’s kitschy, it’s fun. It’s not what the old people are buying, but the young people? They think it is fun,” said Rob Cornelius, chairman of the Wood County Republican Party.

The shirts are on sale for $15 at the party headquarters or on its website.

The craze reaches far beyond politics. Online retailers such as Amazon, Etsy, TeePublic and Pop Threads offer a variety of Space Force merchandise.

The shirts, hoodies, hats, mugs, patches and stickers are emblazoned with myriad Space Force logos and graphics.

“From a branding perspective, it almost feels like something out of a Hollywood movie, and why not?” said Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of the advertising firm DXagency. “It could be a huge brand.”

The idea seems to resonate strongest among millennials, who are accustomed to rapid changes in technology and culture.

“Now we look at all the futuristic things like self-driving cars that we thought were only on ‘The Jetsons.’ Maybe it is time for this,” said Ms. Rubinstein. “Why not be aspirational with a Space Force?”

Some items poke fun at the idea, depicting Mr. Trump’s face peering out of an astronaut helmet or include the laser gun sound effect “pew-pew.”

The cover of a Space Force spiral notebook from retailer Redbubble depicts Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as TV’s “Star Trek” characters Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock, respectively.

Other merchandisers take the idea seriously and emblazon items with authentic-looking military insignias.

A shirt from TeePublic incorporates a stars-and-stripes motif with the acronym USSF.

The privately owned White House Gift Shop offers a decorative coin in its Historic Moments in World History Coin Collection, the fourth in the series celebrating Mr. Trump’s presidency.

The coin, which is valued at $100 but was recently available on preorder for $49, commemorates Mr. Trump’s order on June 18 for the Pentagon to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military.

Mr. Trump frequently heralds that order as a high point of his presidency. He is pushing forward the Space Force project despite objections from political foes and Pentagon naysayers who quibble that it is too expensive, impractical and unnecessary.

Whether folly or destiny, Space Force has sparked the country’s imagination.

Still, Americans are divided over whether the U.S. needs a Space Force to protect space-based assets. A recent Economist/YouGov poll shows 38 percent in support and 42 percent opposed.

As with most other issues these days, the opinions split along party lines. A majority of Republicans (66 percent) think the Space Force is a good idea, and a majority of Democrats (64 percent) think it’s a bad idea. Independents are divided neatly 36 percent for and 39 percent against, according to the survey.

For retailers, the merchandise can appeal to those who think the Space Force idea is a joke and those dreaming of someday enlisting.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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