There is a truth that a lot of people don’t talk about when they are talking about Democrats and Republicans–you can’t tell them apart by what they do or where they live. You can’t tell them apart by what they eat, either. I work in a union workplace and our union workforce is just about as evenly split between Democrats and Republicans as the neighborhoods we work in. The union supports Democrats in elections, of course, but the people in it go their own way at the ballot box. We have work in common.
Republicans tend to support businesses in legal matters, they don’t want regulations on pay or vacations because it would cost businesses either business or money. They tend to support businesses also when it comes to food issues. They are the main reason that food companies don’t have to put the percentage of daily allowance that sugar represents in foods on the nutrition label. They are the reason, primarily, that pizza is a perfectly good lunch food for kids, even if they eat that and only that at every lunch meal. They are the primary reason that our food system will not be curbed in it’s excesses, probably, in my lifetime.
The paradox is that people who vote Republican also eat the same foods that the rest of us do. They are fat like us and getting fatter because there is no reason for food companies to not put sugar in every bite of food we eat. It is cheap and tasty and addictive. I am quite sure that if tobacco companies could put nicotine in baby formula they would love to do it–for business reasons, to get the kids hooked on nicotine for life at an early age. They don’t because in a previous generation lots of laws got passed that were good for the people, and not good for business.
Food might just be an area of actual bipartisan cooperation between you and your opposite party neighbors. Maybe food is the area of our lives where we can agree that the market is not going to correct the problems that the profit motive is inserting into our food supply system. Profit is killing bees, killing people, heating up the planet, causing foods grown close to home to be raised and then shipped half way around the planet to satisfy that thirst for profit. Money is a poor indicator of value.
If a consensus could be formed among us as to what the proper role of government is in our food crisis, in our health crisis, in our world crisis of wasted energy, we could actually come together as a society and force the market to price in external costs like damage to bees, or excessive water usage. It might be time for us to get together and decide what those proper roles will be. Groups are forming in other areas of the nation to press OUR concerns, Left and Right, for the state of affairs in food. In this last election a non-profit group in Florida, Food Policy Action was instrumental in unseating an incumbent Republican whose main talking points in the campaign were food-related. Here is an article about the Food Policy Action efforts.
To bolster the case for giving food policy greater attention during political campaigns, Food Policy Action recently commissioned a poll in which it reportedly found that “voters care deeply about policy-related messages on nutrition assistance.” But the group has its work cut out for it when it comes to persuading the national parties: While Republicans appear committed to cutting food stamps, Democrats have by and large stayed away from the issue of hunger altogether. Graham has avoided hitting Southerland over his attempts to cut food stamps, and earlier this year President Obama signed bipartisan legislation that included substantial cuts to food stamps in certain states.
The political reality is that neither party will care about food issues or food policy until it is pretty obvious that we do. Food is an issue that we all should care deeply about. School lunches are an area that we all should care deeply about. Food safety is something that cuts across party lines and we can talk rationally about no matter who we voted for for President. It is different than climate change debates, because the evidence is undeniable, it is effecting us, right now.