Wine and “Strange Bedfellows

Bedfellows The concept of "Strange Bedfellows" doesn't usually figure into my work in wine public relations. The basic concept is help your client effectively deliver their brand message to a specific audience, be they trade, media or ultimately consumers. There's really not issue about worrying about whom you get in bed with.

Politics is different.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a dinner in honor of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. No one would ever mistake the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) for a liberal or moderate organization. They tend for the most part to be an anti-regulatory organization that has for many years been players in conservative politics. I'm moderate to liberal in my politics. But the CEI has also been extraordinarily helpful in the battle against H.R. 5034, the alcohol wholesalers' bill in congress that would radically change the relationship between state and federal powers where alcohol regulations are concerned and adversely affect consumer access to wine if it passes.

Insofar as I am liberal and the CEI is conservative, it feels like a situation of strange bedfellows.

And there are other examples of strange bedfellows inside the H.R. 5034 battle. Just about the only ally the beer and wine wholesalers have in this battle is an organization called the Marin Institute, a hugely anti-alcohol organization that wants to see H.R. 5034 pass presumably, according to their representative's testimony at hearings last month, because its passage would make wine less accessible. Yet there they were, along with wholesalers, who have the job of, presumably, making alcohol safely accessible, pushing for passage of H.R. 5034.

Sitting at the dinner to honor CEI, it struck me that there is far more room for folks on opposite sides of the fense to work together. Given the seeming acrid climate in politics these days you'd think this not a likely scenario. But it truly is. Clearly, the more strange bedfellows that get together, the more that gets done. The alcohol wholesalers know that. And I know that too.

There are no "sides" where the enjoyment of wine is concerned. We are all Switzerland. But that's rare where politics are concerned. Finding those issues where seemingly opposite sides can come together is a very productive strategy.

5 Responses

  1. Ray - Pure Spontaneity - October 12, 2010

    As a conservative and wine lover, I’m opposed to H.R. 5034 and I’m glad some of my liberal friends are, too. When I visit my sister in Oregon, her liberal friends and I can have pleasant conversations with all that wonderful wine they produce. Keep up the good fight.

  2. Scott - October 12, 2010

    Another case of strange bedfellows would be conservatives (who presumably would prefer to see the individual states’ rights to regulate and control their own policies preserved) and retailers who would like to sell their wares in states where they are not licensed to do so. Any conservative who can legitimately claim the mantle doesn’t want an already over-powerful federal government to have authority over local and state governments’ right to decide certain issues for themselves. So, to a conservative, HR 5034 is anathema, but so is the federal courts’ meddling in the manner that states choose to regulate alcohol distribution

  3. Tom Wark - October 12, 2010

    Really Scott? The federal judiciary has no business “meddling” in the manner that states choose to regulate alcohol distribution?
    So if a state passed a law prohibiting black women from buying whiskey, you think it would be “meddling” on the part of the courts if the state was sued and the court found the state had violated the equal protection rights of black women?
    So if a state passed a law that allowed all its wineries to sell directly to retailers in the states but prohibited out of state wineries from doing the same, it would be “meddling” by the federal courts if they found this law violated the commerce clause of the United States?
    The 21st amendment never did and never has granted to the state the right to violate any and all sections of the Federal constitution. And to suggest that the courts “meddle” when they stop states from violating constitutional rights is simply a misunderstanding of the meaning of rights, the balance of power between the states and federal government and an indication that a little more education is needed.

  4. Scott - October 12, 2010

    Just wanted to point out before I run off to get a little more education that I was merely pointing out that a conservative viewpoint would interpret the feds intervening in matters of local government as unwanted and unwarranted inteference. I don’t see what the argument is here. I’m agreeing with you essentially that HR 5034 is disagreeable policy to a conservative. But you can’t have it both ways. If 5034 is against one’s politics, then so are federally mandated changes to a state’s duly and legally enacted policy on alcohol distribution. Unless, that is, one’s understanding has been clouded by which side is paying him or her to argue their case.
    And as far as ridiculous and uneducated arguments go, which state is it that prevents black women buying whiskey? We’re a little bit more enlightened than you think in flyover states, and frankly any wine we want isn’t very hard to come by.

  5. Tom Wark - October 12, 2010

    You suggested that any federal court meddling in State alcohol laws was a matter of “Meddling”in state affairs.
    Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that a state can pass any kind of law it chooses with regard to alcohol?
    Finally, neither the Granholm Supreme Court decision nor any other court decision that faulted state laws on alcohol mandated any specific changes to state laws. They only told the states that the Commerce Clause of the U.S CONSTITUTION prohibits states from purposefully discriminating against out of state entities for the purpose of protecting in-state interests. Not too much to ask.

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