So, unless you live under a rock you probably heard about "the Beer Summit," at which President Obama, Vice President Biden, Henry Louis Gates and James Crowley sat down to have a beer together last Thursday. Don't worry, I'm not going to rehash the endless pontificating about what it meant for race relations in America (answer: nothing). Instead I have an observation about the brands of beer consumed, and the press coverage thereof.
First of all, it's ridiculous that with everything going on in the world, so much time was spent discussing what particular beer each man drank. Couldn't that time have been better spent talking about health care, or the situation in Iran? I read that a group of over 100 demonstrators had been imprisoned and tortured into false confessions (excuse me, coerced using harsh interrogation techniques into providing questionable intelligence) and the Iranian government is planning a round of show trials. I'd sure like to know more about that. But who am I kidding, we're talking about TV news here. Beer brands it is!
I heard a lot of bitching and moaning about Obama drinking Bud Light. Both from right wingers complaining that Bud Light is now owned by a Belgian company and Obama should buy American (to which all I can say is, really? Because Obama drank it, Budweiser is now un-American? Good luck with that), and from left wing yuppies who sound crushed that Obama would drink a crappy beer like Bud Light.
I have to admit that I was puzzled by the choice of Bud Light. Of course I know that there's no accounting for taste, and no way to predict what someone will like, especially someone I've never met. But still, set aside the fact that he's president and ask yourself: A Chicago mover and shaker, law professor, wasn't born rich but doing just fine now, eats healthy, likes fine food, favorite bottled drink is Black Forest Berry Honest Tea;* what beer does he drink? It's not Bud Light.
Well I finally heard an explanation that makes sense: Budweiser is union made. Miller is also union made (and is even worse beer than Bud, or so I hear from people who drink beer). Coors, which the Fox & Friends yahoos were proposing as a better choice for the President to drink, is not union made. Also, the owner of Coors is a major Republican donor.
Of course I don't know for a fact that Obama drank Bud Light because it's union made. But I remember last fall, the official campaign website said all over that everything they sold was union made. So it's obviously something he's thought about.
This got me to thinking. Well first of all, it must be tough to know that every single thing you do in public will be analyzed and judged like a statement of some kind. Second, does this count as a dog whistle? As you know Bob, a "dog whistle" is a statement by a politician meant to appeal to a particular group, while anyone not in the target group misses it entirely. The first time I ever heard of the concept was George W. Bush in 2000, dropping phrases from evangelical hymns into campaign speeches and debate responses. Most people didn't even notice, or if they did shrugged it off as an odd turn of phrase. Evangelicals heard it and thought, "He's one of us."
So does a Democratic politician drinking Bud Light count as a dog whistle? Most people won't even notice, or if they do, will wonder why the heck Obama would choose to drink such bad beer. People who care about buying union made are more likely to notice. Are dog whistles speech only, or can they be an action as well?
*I read that Obama liked Honest Tea during the campaign, but didn't remember the flavor & had to look it up. I'm really not an Obama stalker, really.