The Whole Foods Voting Test

With four exceptions I have never in my life lived in a county that was not then — or would not later be — the site of a Whole Foods supermarket. So what?

Not so what, it makes a difference. “Some years ago David Wasserman, an analyst with the Cook Political Report, spotted a way to predict the political leanings of any given county: check whether it is home to a Whole Foods supermarket, purveyor of heirloom tomatoes and gluten-free dog biscuits to the Subaru-owning classes; or to a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a restaurant chain that offers chicken and dumplings and other comfort foods to mostly rural, often southern customers. Mr. Trump won 76% of Cracker Barrel counties and 22% of Whole Foods counties, the Cook Political Report calculates.”

The quote is from the Lexington column of a recent issue of The Economist entitled “The rise of the Herbal Tea Party.” My residential history should put me in the center of the crowd in this picture. It doesn’t.

The subhead of the story — Scolding Trump voters will not carry the Democrats back to power – is a pretty good summary but do yourself a favor, click the link and read it all. And should you find the need to justify an expensive subscription to the magazine, here it is: “As a rule, populist insurgencies are rarely defeated with slogans in Latin.”

I am not much of a fan of the two-party system — I’d have more parties to reflect the disparity of opinions — but I am absolutely no fan of a one-party system, which is where we might be headed unless the Anti-Trump forces exit the Whole Food aisles and start listening to people other than themselves.

Before deciding that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are the answer to Donald Trump, have a look at England where Jeremy Corbyn is busy demonstrating the foolishness of that scheme. It is difficult to imagine any plan better designed to help people feel good about their virtue signaling while losing ignominiously than creating an Herbal Tea Party.

Anyone who thinks demeaning or insulting an opponent’s voters is effective should test his own reaction to being demeaned or insulted. Which is your more likely response?

  • “Horrors, thank you for showing me the error of my ways I am trading in my Ford F 150 for a Prius” or
  • “Go and have carnal knowledge with yourself.”

If any meaningful number of people chooses the latter, all you are doing is emboldening your opponents.

There are many simple rules in sports but one of the simplest is “never give an opponent a quote he can post on the bulletin board in his locker room.” In this simple rule, the word “never” means precisely what it says.

Are you still curious about my four Whole Foods residential exceptions?

The first was Gstaad, Switzerland, where I went to school for three years. Might we agree that Gstaad seems more Whole Foody than Cracker Barrelish?

The second was Concord, NH, whence I would have had to drive to Manchester to meet my organic food and crunchy friend needs. Again, education was the culprit.

Then there were two “thank you for your service” moments – Pensacola FL (nearest Whole Foods locations are Destin FL and Mobile AL) and Newport RI, which is a worthy candidate for the Gstaad exception to the Whole Foods Cracker Barrel rule.

Until Trump opponents quit talking to themselves and quit insulting people who have legitimate gripes, they are going to lose and, increasingly, they will be ignored.

I should be on their side but I have no interest in closed-mindedly following a path to irrelevance. In theory, Trump opponents are smart enough to see that, unless they prefer self-indulgence.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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  • This analysis by the Economist is exactly correct. Further, there are plenty of exceptionally well educated, sophisticated people who are in favor of Trump’s policies, yet they choose to keep their mouths shut lest they be shunned by their friends. Personally I don’t shop at Whole Foods because I don’t want to have my chow packaged in open flexible cardboard boxes. I”ll take a tightly sealed impervious plastic container for my chow, thank you very much.

    I own a large garden apartment complex in Enola, PA which is across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg. That’s Cumberland County. There are 396 units in the complex and the tenants are middle class people. Before the November election I saw over 50 Trump signs and not a single Clinton sign on the lawns. There is a Stop and Shop and a K- Mart in the shopping center near the complex. There are no Whole Foods markets in the area. Quod Erunt Demonstrandum.

  • All this talk about the left needing to convince Trump voters of the error of their ways is absurd. That’s not the way American politics works in the 21st century.

    At least my recollection of the Tea Party was not that they were exceedingly clever at convincing lefties of the superiority of their argument. To the contrary, their attitude toward lefties was go f*** yourself. Exactly like the left’s current attitude toward Trump. Warren, Sanders and Schumer are no different than Cruz, Sessions & McConnell.

    Everybody underestimates two truisms of US politics: we don’t elect people to third terms (why Hillary lost) and being in the minority is far, far, far more popular than being in the majority. The only question is whether Trump will be so bad that he won’t even get two terms. Surely if he does the odds are astronomically in favor of the dems winning everything in 2024 beginning the 8 year cycle once again.

    And, as WAPO points out today, Whole Foods is being crushed by Costco – the largest purveyor of organic foods in the country. Not sure how that fits the Cook model…

    • I don’t think Cook was concerned about the success of either Whole Foods or Cracker Barrel, merely that the business strategies of each tended to focus on a particular demographic.

      It is a sound business strategy for politicians to divide voters because it enables politicians to raise far more money, which appears to be their primary goal. Sadly, that is a poor governance strategy, which ought to be a higher priority for all of us.

      Hence i suggest that analogizing Warren, Sanders and Schumer to Cruz, Sessions and McConnell still leaves all six of them wrong in the eyes of those who prefer governing to high fiving wins or gathering political dollars.

      • Of course, its all about the money. And its much easier to raise money from those against something than from those for something.

        McConnell proved for the last 8 years that the American people don’t give a damn about governance. And, because he is not stupid, Schumer will learn from him.

        • the image of Schumer learning from McConnell, perhaps in a classroom setting, is really quite amusing. I am picturing child sized desks and blackboards.

          I suspect you could have the same picture with the roles reversed just as easily.

          Best money raising technique is to scare people. Also ramp up partisanship.

    • I don’t think Haven was talking about you. I think he was noting that your tenants are human beinga subjected to the scorn of the Whole Foods shopper.

  • The golden mean exists! For those who take umbrage at our current noisy political divisiveness, locate the nearest Trader Joe’s, and roll over there. It’s chock full of organic and cut-rate foodie items much prized by the upper middle class, as well as meat ‘n taters and corn puffs and mac ‘n cheese favored by those with a more bluish tint to their collars.

    Joe’s is a class joint, because it’s all about classlessness. And Joe’s patrons vote, but with very little expectation they will receive any benefit from any given administration. They prefer low everyday prices to promised tax cuts and promises of low inflation, which never seem to materialize, or even make much difference when they do. Smart shoppers, I’d say.

  • Isn’t the owner of Whole Foods one of those “Mean greedy capitalist pigs”? Conservative to the core yet markets an emporium appealing to the self satisfied elites who could same same at Costco for less. But would require rubbing elbows with the “great unwashed” masses.
    We’re enjoying great political theater!

  • I don’t mind accepting the concept that class (as measured by money, not manners) plays a significant role in current U.S. politics. I am just having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that the Democratic Party is the party of wealth. But it is. Perhaps it it always has been. For example, in the bad old days, all of the rich plantation owners in the South were Democrats. And God knows that what little middle class the South had did not get crosswise with the rich. So I am willing to believe that the counties with hoity toity food stores are captured by the Democratic Party. And that Trumpers go to Walmart for their rations.

    But I cannot accept the mechanistic swing theory of an eight-year political cycle with the left and right swapping control. That would mean that every eight years the swing voters change sides. Why? Just for the interest it causes? I think more memory and thought (and emotion) go into the swing. But I have respect for voters. It is the elites and old-timers in the two parties that I despise. And to the extent they win, there will never by a Whole Foods, Costco, Trader Vics, or Cracker Barrel here. This will always be a blue county. because the Republican elite has no interest in the residents (geezer George Schultz and his big-thought carbon tax), and the Democratic elite is happy to pay them with your money to stay here and vote Democratic.

    • Lately I have been asking people two questions:

      1. are you proud of your party?

      2. how does your party allocate its efforts between governing and politicking?

      Usually I ask the people I question not to tell me which party they are discussing.

  • Time to dust off the old taboo subject, money in politics?
    I read somewhere a while ago that Congressmen and Senators spend
    half their workdays raising money for their reelection campaigns. If
    this is so, perhaps that tells us something we ought to know. Of course,
    cynics might retort that the less time politicians spend screwing up the
    country with their cockamamie policies and legislation, the better.

    The rejoinder to that might be the policies and legislation might be considerably
    better and responsive to the broad needs of the American people if politicians were no
    longer bought and paid for and bribed by large financial interests. It is now widely accepted that this is far from the case. Solution: each national politician is allotted X amount for their
    election campaigns from the public coffers, and no more. Way less than is currently raised by either party.

    Folk on either side of the aisle will often holler at this sensible solution by decrying the loss of
    “freedom” and the loss of first amendment rights re freedom of speech. But speech will not be
    curtailed. It will simply be refinanced by a neutral party, thus eliminating a goodly swath of the corruption that currently assails our republic.

    But the hollering will continue, often by people who feel they benefit from the current hopelessly corrupt system. Or, by people who feel their rights are being abridged. Which of course they are, i.e. rights to a government responsive to the people as a whole, not just special interests. But, onward they wail. People strangle themselves with their own ideologies from time to time.

    • Another finance idea – Any amount of $$ okay BUT daily posting of a campaign’s feciepts and disbursements. All monies would received in paper check form from person (not org) giving, daily posting would include photocopy of front n back. Candidate personally responsible for proper receipt from proper people/orgs. Violations would disqualify candidate from holding public office and jail time in Gitmo.

    • actually more than 1/2. Often far more.

      could we say “if politicians were no longer bought and paid for and bribed by [ANY] interests”?

      All those engaged in the campaigning business — Rs and Ds alike — love Citizens United. It is what pays them.

      • Self financed (substantially self) candidate/POTUS is rare. No prior public service (dog catcher). No “up thru the ranks”. No favors owed.
        That’s a very real concern to a Favor Trading industry.