So Kirsten Gillibrand attended some event where they served fried chicken on waffles (I think I’ve heard of this Southern dish). She started using a knife and fork, asked if you normally ate it with your hands (I’m guessing it wasn’t covered in syrup) and proceeded to do so. This seems unremarkable enough; it’s what I think most people would do in the same situation. But according to various pundits, it’s an apocalypse-level event showcasing why Gillibrand is wrong for America.
The gist seems to be she’s putting on a show. NYT’s Jonathan Martin refuses to believe she didn’t know how to eat fried chicken (I’m sure she did … but on a waffle?). Pundit Frank Rich says it’s “contrived and opportunistic,” though I can’t see how — if it was contrived, what advantage would it gain her?
Perhaps Rich is thinking along the same lines as NYT’s Frank Bruni, who “got the sense that she would have grabbed that chicken with her pinkie toes if she’d been told to; she would have sucked it through a very large straw if those were the cues. Anything to conform. Anything to please.” And this is why Trump will win — because Dems just grovel and say whatever they think will make people happy!
I’m willing to bet that if Gillibrand had insisted on ignoring everyone else and using silverware, Bruni would be discussing how she’s an obvious elitist who can’t connect with regular people. Much the same way that other pundits and reporters declared John Kerry was an elitist who didn’t realize nobody in middle America knew what green tea was. And because he ate Philly cheese steak sandwiches with “dainty bites” and Swiss cheese (apparently Cheese whiz is the topping of choice).
This kind of analysis, as LGM says, is useless because a)it’s not an issue for anyone but the punditry and b)you can shape these little details to fit whatever your mental image is. Rich thinks Gillibrand is opportunistic, therefore her eating chicken with her fingers shows it (conversely in 2017, Bruni said criticizing Trump’s eating habits is just food snobbery)! Similarly when Hilary Clinton ate ice cream at one campaign event, a reporter described her as putting on a show, pretending to be just a regular person. Of course it could be she likes ice cream, but as the take on Clinton in 2008 was that she was a calculating liar whose every word was weighed for political gain (she claims to have Rolling Stones and Beatles songs on her iPod so she won’t alienate fans of either group!), that couldn’t possibly be the reason. Nor is it possible that she (or Kamala Harris) genuinely like hot sauce.
Then we have Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz who has no chance of winning the White House in 2020, but could conceivably suck enough Democratic votes out to seal the deal for Trump. As Ezra Klein says, Schultz says he wants to fix our political problems, but he embodies them: if you or I ran for president with no discernible base of support or chance of winning, we’d be relegated to the inside pages. Schultz is super-wealthy, so he gets coverage. Even though, as noted at the link, his ideas are trite or clueless (let’s bring everyone to the table to work out a deal)!
On the plus side, whatever Bruni or Rich think of the Democratic candidates, having four women running for the White House is a good thing. And while Ilhan Omar isn’t running for president, her calling out Elliot Abrams during a congressional hearing is a good thing too.