What's wrong with sushi and lattes?

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Caught Geoffrey Nunberg on NPR on his new book, "Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show". I haven't read the book, but a lot of the discussion seemed to be about the relevance, or rather irrelevance of cultural signifiers like eating sushi, driving Volvos, etc.

OK, I can see how reading the Times or having body piercings can be seen as reflective of one's political beliefs. After all, the Times's coverage is liberal, and body-piercing certainly could be seen as a way of signalling that you're part of the counterculture, but sushi and lattes? Obviously, some people don't like sushi, but as Nunberg points out, it's not like whether you like it or not has anything to do with whether you voted Bush.

Of course, there is one very obvious thing that sushi, lattes, and Volvos have in common: they're all foreign. And of course only communistsliberals like anything foreign.

5 Comments

You seem to be missing the point of a hate plank. The GOP has nothing against Lattes or sushi, they eat it themselves. The point is simply to identify an enemy for their stupider supporters to hate. The idea is that they will be so busy hating the sushi eating classes that they will not notice the incompetence of their administration.

Ther is another obvious commonality, they are also all more expensive than related alternatives. There is a bit of class warfare going on here. The democrats are more showy at class warfare, and their cry of "Tax Cuts for the Rich" is heard far and wide. The republicans play class warfare too, quietly and effectively.

The point is that until ten or fifteen years ago, sushi and lattes were popular mostly in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

It's not just that sushi is foreign, it's weird. I mean, raw fish?

(I grew to like some sushi when I lived out in the Bay Area; but my parents won't even consider it. It's food non grata to them).

It may be not the foreign or weird aspect, but that sushi and lattes are both excessively labor-intensive.

As Jim Lebeau pointed out above, it's easy to get people to disapprove of displays of wealth, regardless of their political convictions.

Conservatives flaunt their wealth by acquiring or consuming resources: a big tract of land, a huge gas-guzzling truck, rare Scotch. Liberals find some of this consumption particularly offensive for the obvious reasons (negative externalities).

Liberals flaunt their wealth by funding labor: look, I make so much money at my job that I can help create another job. I can pay someone else to spend time frothing the milk in my coffee, or carefully arranging the fish in my rice burrito to make a visually appealing cross-section.

Of course, the sushi and lattes are meant to be consumed ostentatiously, in public. After all, they taste just like coffee with creamer, or fish and rice in a bowl.

Conservatives are often offended by such a "waste" of labor. I'm not sure why: because it raises wages, maybe? Because the barista or sushi chef could be more productive by drilling for oil?

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