A primary complaint seems to be that a discussion of election-year politics doesn't belong on a food blog.
I disagree. I think that this is the exactly the place to talk about an election that may go a significant way toward deciding some of this nation's most significant food issues, with consequences that could affect Americans for generations.
It goes without saying that a meal on your plate doesn't simply appear from a magical fridge, but is the end result of an incredibly complex set of interactions among the environment, animal and plant life, and man. Governmental policies on agriculture, energy, the environment, etc., have a tremendous effect on the quality of the air, earth and water in which our crops and livestock grow, as well as what is grown and how it is distributed. (And if you don't believe me, read anything by Michael Pollan.) The president not only sets the administration agenda on these issues, but also has great sway over the legislation Congress passes to address them.
If you're a wine lover and are concerned about the quality of future wine crops, for example, you ought to be studying our next president's stance on global warming and his intended solution. Barack Obama and John McCain may both say they favor cap-and-trade programs, but they differ on issues such as whether carbon-pollution permits ought to be auctioned off (Obama) or at least partially given away to businesses (McCain). It sounds like a detail that only a policy wonk could love, but some say it could mean the difference between a solid step toward reducing greenhouse gases and a fumble we might not have time to recover from.
Maybe you're more concerned about food costs or food safety. We didn't need rising food prices, salmonella from Mexican-grown peppers or melamine-contaminated milk from China to tell us that food crises can take lives and decimate businesses. In the 21st century, both food prices and food safety have become inextricably linked to globalization and foreign trade, and the next president may have to hammer out trade deals that could help keep coffee affordable or prevent diseased bananas from getting to our groceries. Both candidates generally support free trade, though Obama is notably more ambivalent and has said he would renegotiate free-trade agreements to strengthen environmental and labor protections. McCain has been a much more ardent free-trade spokesman, saying that protectionism installs "a hidden tax on almost everything you buy."
It's also worth noting that both candidates had contrasting stances on the highly controversial $289 billion Farm Bill, that perennially resurrected Frankenstein monster of legislation that critics have blamed for everything from rising gas prices to the predominance of monoculture to America's obesity epidemic. McCain opposed the bill and supported President Bush's veto, calling it an example of the Washingtonian excess that average Americans have come to detest. Obama called it "far from perfect," but ultimately voted for the bill.
The food-related issues that the next president will have to deal with don't end there, and neither do the differences between the candidates. Obama calls for plans that include country-of-origin labeling, incentives for organic farmers, and programs to train young farmers. McCain focuses on a specific system to address the immigration of low-skilled agricultural workers that would be "reflective of market needs and protects both the immigrant and U.S. workers."
Throughout the campaign, it's become increasingly obvious that the two men vying for the White House are remarkably different men in temperament and philosophy, and that an Obama administration would have vastly different priorities in many respects than a McCain administration. Those differences will trickle down to the everyday details of American life, even down to the food on your plate.
Anyway, what are your feelings and counterarguments? Do you disagree or agree, or just want to try out a joke involving Palin, Biden and a pit bull in drag?
Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
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