Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Food and politics

One of the media's favorite games is to pigeon hole politicians, and ultimately the voters, with things like food preferences and consumer choices. This contrast was especially played up during the Hillary/Barack slugfest; see the "latte liberals v. dunkin donut democrats" argument here. "Mr Obama's supporters... are the people for whom Starbucks, with its $5 cups of coffee and fancy bakeries, is not just a consumer choice but a lifestyle," writes Gerard Baker.

First of all, let's not kid ourselves. Starbucks food is pretty bad, and anyone who thinks their blueberry muffins define "fancy bakery" eating is long overdue for a trip to, you know...an actual bakery.

But it's a catchy title, and his theory got a lot of press. As he points out, food choices and the like become a values issue. And this in itself would be fine, if Americans weren't so bafflingly proud to label themselves with less than high-end taste, to put it delicately. In short, for a country so proud of its capitalism and money-spending ways, so proud that the American Dream is to put themselves at the top of the financial heap, it's amazing that Americans want to define themselves with bottom of the barrel, McDonald-quality choices.

To be sure, when Obama and his supporters get boiled down to Starbucks, Mac computers, and Barenaked granola, it connotes elitism, and perhaps rightfully so; all these products are overpriced and not exactly staple pantry items during one of our worst economic periods. But when Obama orders a slice of regular cheese pizza and the media dubbed his choice "vegetarian" while McCain ordered pepperoni, it makes it harder for us to realize that sometimes, it's not necessarily a bad or elitist thing when a potential leader forgoes that extra portion of greasy meat in a country with a rising obesity problem.

As blue as I am, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some Republicans out there with some concern for personal health, and have, oh yeah...some money to burn.

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