OFF THE GRID

Soda Is the New Right-Wing Issue—and Fatsos the New Base

Oct 1, 09 | 9:04 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The new thing we are going to hear about, constantly, repetitively, like a nail driving into our heads, is the soda tax.

We’ll wake up from our dreams with those words in our head: the soda tax.

The proposal is to put a tax on carbonated sugar drinks because, well, they are valueless and probably pernicious and do nothin' for nobody, and no one loses if they drink less of them, and if they must have them, let’s get some benefit for the rest of us. Which, from a tax perspective, is pretty reasonable and benign. Nobody loses, everybody wins.

Except now it is being tried out as a potential wedge issue, a populist theme. Super groovy cool self-satisfied yuppie people, like the president and his health-conscious family, don’t drink soda. But gross fat compulsive lacking-all-self-control normal Americans do.

It is an attempt to rally what could be one of the most significant constituencies in America: the fat. Let me not repeat the statistics. Everybody knows the fat are the nation's fastest growing demographic. The right wing sees a potential opportunity here. The Democrats' health care bill is clearly targeting and demonizing fat people for their disproportionate claim on resources, at the same time that television, with its myriad weight loss, but really fat-is-fun, shows, is promoting fat culture. It could be, the right is clearly figuring, an issue whose time has come.

The basic argument is about the government telling you what to do, taking away choice, being the boss of you. But the real message is about the high and mighty looking down on the hopeless hoi polloi (though the right wing would not say hoi polloi). A group called the Center for Consumer Freedom has a full page ad in the Times opposing the attacks on soda: “YOU ARE TOO STUPID…to make good personal decisions about foods and beverages.”

Curiously, it’s anti-aspirational. That’s a new trend that has slipped into American politics. Arguably, it’s become the right wing subtext—the Fox message. You don’t have to have your face pressed to the glass, be happy being as dumb as you are.

No one knows, however, if this will translate into soda. The real question is, do people feel guilty drinking gallons of the stuff, or do they feel proud?

Having been forced by the government to give up cigarettes, which kept them thin, and having compensated with soda, which has made them fat, how do they feel? Better about themselves? That soda is a right not an indulgence?

We don’t yet know if there is a solid soda vote in America, but we’re soon going to find out.

Meanwhile, I would like to argue for a law banning people from eating and drinking while they walk.
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