Booze & Presidential Politics
Recently Hillary Clinton strolled into a Fort Wayne, Indiana bar and proceeded to very publicly throw back a shot of whiskey and chase it with a beer. Call me a political cynic but I’d take even money on the proposition that there was a fairly substantial discussion on the bus with her advisers prior to arriving at the bar as to whether or not the presidential candidate should drink…and if so, what she should drink.
I’m willing to further bet that during this discussion the question of whether or not Clinton should have some wine was not even brought up. I’m willing to bet the question was "Whiskey or Beer?"
Here’s the thing: on the campaign trail wine is something of the kiss of death, politically, for its elitist reputation.
I went googling for a photo of Clinton with wine and Obama with wine and McCain with wine. Nothing. Poor Obama is already so associated with elitism I suspect that he’d cancel any campaign stop at this point that even held the possibility of seeing him holding a glass of wine. Hillary has made her "Beveragoligical" proclivities clear with her whiskey throw back and public sudsing. McCain? Well, his connection to beer is pretty strong. His wife, Cindy, sits on the Board of Directors of her family’s Arizona Beer Distributorship, Hensley & Company, which has been very generous to his campaign.
There is some evidence that wine drinkers are more likely to vote Democratic and beer drinkers more likely to vote Republican. However, this appears to have more to do with issues of gender and socioeconomic status than real drink preferences.
Nevertheless, don’t expect any of the current candidates to make a public display of wine drinking. The image of a candidate swilling Chardonnay just has too many negative, elitist connotations in our culture. You know, the pinky-out, I’m-better-than-you, high-falutin-limo-sitting, down-my-nose-looking kind of image that most candidates rightly understand doesn’t go over too well in flyover country, let alone in the less liberal areas of the coastal states.
But that’s not to say that candidates don’t receive support from drink-associated folks. Obama seems to
have the support of this group that wanted to encourage folks to "have a glass of wine on the patio and talk about changing the country." However, no one has produced a wine that celebrates Obama, but they have produced a beer.
Meanwhile, the alcohol industry seems willing to support the presidential candidates, though not show too much partisan support. As of March 1st, the Beer, Wine & Alcohol industry has given Clinton $228,000, McCain 160,000 and Obama $158,000 in donations. This number will skyrocket after the the two parties have chosen their nominees.
I can imagine if any of the presidential candidates came to Sonoma or Napa for a public event they just might, possibly, maybe, perhaps show themselves with a glass of wine in hand, risking national humiliation for the opportunity to connect with locals. However, Napa and Sonoma are so completely democratic in make up that the only reason for a presidential candidate to come to this neck of the woods is to slip behind closed doors and privately scoop up some of that wine-soaked money.
So then, we are left with the old, tired stereotype that wine is elitist and beer/whiskey is "of the people". I’m not sure what it would take to rid us of this stereotype. But I do know that it won’t be shaken this political season.