The Use and Misuse of Beer

You may have missed this.

Questions raised:

  1. Do the reporters get to deduct state and local taxes from their tab?
  2. Why aren't they including payroll taxes in their bar tab accounting?
  3. Why isn't she calling the four poorest reporters "bloggers," since we all know who she's talking about?
  4. Is anyone drinking Russian beer and if so, who?
  5. Why did Sarah Huckabee Sanders drag beer into this?

I'm only half-kidding on that last one. Politicians have routinely used beer as a prop in their theatrics. Bill Clinton downed a pint with Vaclav Havel in Prague in 1994; the Yale-educated son of a president, George W. Bush, managed to get elected because the campaign continued to ask, "who would you rather have a beer with?"; Obama engineered perhaps the worst set-piece of his presidency with the "beer summit"; and who can forget that moment in 2008 when Hillary attempted to woo pre-Trump voters in the rural north by appealing to them as the "beer and a shot" candidate?

Why beer? It's interesting how the fortunes of alcohol have changed in a century. A hundred years ago, Americans outlawed it; now they use beer to explain tax policy. This has less to do with the alcohol--though Sanders, nodding to her evangelical father, acknowledges that element--than its symbolic power. Politicians think beer bespeaks blue collar authenticity, the drink of the everyman. (That Sanders harnessed it to sell a tax cut for the cognac-tippling wealthy is ... curious.) In the politician's grab bag of easy symbols, beer is like a pair of jeans, a hunting rifle, steel-toed boots, a pick-up truck. Wine is sometimes used in these analogies to mark fancy elites (almost always when talking about one's opponent); it says cravats, mustache wax, chauffeurs.  

I have my doubts voters see it that way, and I'm certain they can see right through these lame attempts to borrow its cred for political purposes--in much the same way an average human cringes when confronted with a politician in jeans. If you can make it through that all four minutes of Sanders' tortured analogy, you're a stronger person than I. Nevertheless, that's what beer has become in American politics--a quick way to signal how simpatico you are with the ordinary man.

That said, you do have to admire Clinton's beery moment; dude could fake authenticity better than anybody in the business.

Havel is to Clinton's immediate right; Madeleine Albright (herself Czech) is to his left.