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The Hamburger Problem


Josh Barro–who became a Democrat about 5 minutes ago–is already helpfully doling out advice on how to advance Democratic causes. His first piece of advice? Quit being so annoying!

This combination of facts has me thinking a lot about what I call “the hamburger problem.” As I see it, Democrats’ problem isn’t that they’re on the wrong side of policy issues. It’s that they’re too ready to bother too many ordinary people about too many of their personal choices, all the way down to the hamburgers they eat.

They don’t always want to prohibit those choices. But they have become smug and condescending toward anyone who does not match the personal lifestyle choices of liberal elites. Why would the voters on the receiving end of that smug condescension trust such a movement to operate the government in their best interest?

The nice thing about the hamburger problem is that Democrats can fix it without moving substantially on policy. They just have to become less annoying.

I’m annoyed.


The one major exception to the Democratic edge on cultural policy is abortion, a closely divided issue on which public opinion has barely shifted since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

But the median voter’s position on abortion boils down to “It should be legal, but only early in pregnancy and only if you have a good reason.” If Democrats have a problem with their broad-access position on abortion being too extreme for the median voter, then so do Republicans who want to prohibit it.

… but they do not like being told to feel guilty about personal choices

That Democrats are on solid political ground with the biggest planks of their culture-related policy agenda does not mean Lowry is wrong about the culture gap. What it does mean, I think, is that “cultural politics” is barely about public policy at all.

This hand-waving away of an issue that affects half the population is infuriating to me. When you combine that with the fact that many Trump voters will be happy with the appointment of Gorsuch, even if that proves to be Trump’s only legislative accomplishment and that many Trump voters are rabidly anti-choice and anti-woman, I think this particular passage feels like a head-fake to me. Trump voters are conservatives/Republicans/white supremacists/outright Klan members. A lot of them are profoundly misogynistic, in addition to being profoundly racist. Lustily eating hamburgers are not gonna get these buttboils on our side.

Let’s discuss the hamburger example.

Suppose you’re a middle-income man with a full-time job, a wife who also works outside the home, and some children. Suppose it’s a Sunday in the early fall, and your plan for today is to relax, have a burger, and watch a football game.

Conservatives will say, “Go ahead, that sounds like a nice Sunday.” (In the Trump era, they’re not going to bother you about not going to church.) But you may find that liberals have a few points of concern they want to raise about what you mistakenly thought was your fundamentally nonpolitical plan for the day.

Liberals want you to know that you should eat less meat so as to contribute less to global warming. They’re concerned that your diet is too high in sodium and saturated fat. They’re upset that the beef in your hamburger was factory-farmed.

They think the name of your favorite football team is racist. Or even if you hate the Washington Redskins, they have a long list of other reasons that football is problematic.

Liberals are from the planet Buttsexia where eating hamburgers and watching football is illegal. Everyone knows this.

And, seriously, “The Redskins” is a racist name. And everyone should be eating less meat. (Including me!) That doesn’t mean I don’t think you shouldn’t be able kick back with a burger and watch some guys play grabass. That’s just good old American fun.

Beyond what you’re doing this weekend, this movement has a long list of moral judgments about your ongoing personal behavior.

The SUV you bought because it was easier to install car seats in doesn’t get good enough gas mileage. Why don’t you have an electric car?

The gender-reveal party you held for your most recent child inaccurately conflated gender with biological sex. (“Cutting into a pink or blue cake seems innocent enough — but honestly, it’s not,” Marie Claire warned earlier this month.)

You don’t ride the subway because you have that gas-guzzling car, but if you did, the way you would sit on it would be sexist.

The thing is, all these things are problematic. But the idea that libs are just constantly barging into Superbowl parties to lecture people and knock meat out of people’s hands is kind of ludicrous. The complaint here is that liberals are silently (mostly) judging people. But I’m not quite sure why our judgement should matter if these Real Americans aren’t doing anything wrong.

I get weary of conservatives painting women who have abortions as murdering sluts. I also worry about people who view LGBT people as alien sex-monsters, and the reason I do is because these people VOTE…for actual legislation that can hurt actual people.  So forgive me if I don’t find the idea that I am…annoying…particularly compelling.

In the past few years, conservatives have made a strategic retreat from telling people what to do in their personal lives. Except on abortion, where public opinion remains about evenly divided, conservatives have implicitly admitted that they have lost certain parts of the cultural war.

This is truly baffling passage. Again, he waves away the issue of abortion as if it’s not hugely important to women, both substantively and symbolically and he acts as if conservatives have not been in hysterical meltdown mode for around 25 years now.

Where are these meek, quiet conservatives? I want to meet them.


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