Latte liberals v Dunkin Donut democrats

Latte liberals v Dunkin Donut democrats | Gerard Baker – Times Online
Among voters whose voting choice is not based on identity politics, Mr Obama’s supporters are the latte liberals. These are the people for whom Starbucks, with its $5 cups of coffee and fancy bakeries, is not just a consumer choice but a lifestyle. They not only have the money. They share the values.

They live by all those little quotes on the side of Starbucks cups about community service and global warming. They embrace the Obama candidacy because to them he transcends traditional class and economic divides. He is a transformative political figure – potentially the first black man to be president – and is seen as the one to revive America’s faith in itself and restore America’s status in the world. For these voters the defining emotion is hope.

Mrs Clinton is the candidate of what might be called Dunkin’ Donut Democrats. They do not have money to waste on multiple-hyphenated coffee drinks – double-top, no-foam, non-fat lattes and the like. Not for them the bran muffins or the biscotti. They are the 75-cent coffee and doughnut crowd. For them caffeine choice doesn’t correlate with their values but simply represents a means of keeping them going through their challenging day.

Though they don’t doubt that global warming is important, they think it can wait. They want to make sure first they can pay the heating bills. They’re not in favour of the Iraq war but neither are they so focused on restoring America’s

image in the world. They’re not necessarily racist, it’s just that they’re not especially animated by the idealism represented by the first black president. For them anxiety, not aspiration is the defining factor.

So who prevails? That may well depend on the state of the economy. The more voters worry about it and the less they focus on ideals, the better Mrs Clinton’s chances. For her, bad news is good news.

As it happens, the latest figures out this week suggest the US is now very probably in recession. Unemployment is rising, house prices are falling, stock prices are slumping, spending is fading, confidence is sagging. There’s a whiff of panic in the air. Last week the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by more in the space of eight days than the European Central Bank has done in its entire existence.

People are trading down from Starbucks to Dunkin’ Donuts. These may not be the best circumstances for Mr Obama’s soaring rhetoric of hope in the future. His hope has to be that things do not get so bad that fear overwhelms it.

In 1992 Bill Clinton rode to an election victory under the slogan, “The economy, stupid”. Sixteen years later, we could say, given the apparent inevitability of a recession and given Mrs Clinton’s strong following among the less well educated in American society, that it is an even more fitting message for his wife.

2 thoughts on “Latte liberals v Dunkin Donut democrats”

  1. I like your metaphors. This is an interesting time to be watching politics. I think many of Obama’s people are stuck in the 60s. I remember being all ga ga eyed as a youth and falling for every “new” candidates “new” line. There is nothing new here except for gender and race. Unfortunately the two new “types” of politicians have old ideas. I have a great post on this subject at:
    Check it out and leave me a message telling me what you think.


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