Two Americas

December 9th, 2011 at 4:22 pm David Frum | 64 Comments |

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From my Twitter feed:

Wasserman: 82% of cong districts that flipped from D to R in 2010 had a Cracker Barrel; just 20% had a Whole Foods.

Recent Posts by David Frum

64 Comments so far ↓

  • armstp

    NPR did a phenomenal piece on the Republican lie that slighly higher taxes on the rich will negatively impact small business hiring. Anyone with any experience in business and economics knows that marginal tax increases or rates have zero impact on job hiring. It is all about demand and ROI.

    Here is the NPR piece. I suggest you listen to it.

    “GOP Objects To ‘Millionaires Surtax’; Millionaires We Found? Not So Much”

    “We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So, NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.

    So we went to the business groups that have been lobbying against the surtax. Again, three days after putting in a request, none of them was able to find someone for us to talk to.”

    This report just makes me laugh at the GOP, but is also really sad that we have one party in this country that is just so full of BS and straight out continually lies.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      If there’s anything we’ve learned from the past ten years of US history, it’s that when it comes to policymaking, particularly from the Republican Party, having the better of the argument doesn’t mean shit.

      Thanks, though, for highlighting this article. Republican economic policies have no basis in reality, as everyone who likes America knows.

      Some more:

      Specifically, a recent discussion paper by Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis shows that only 1 percent of all small business owners have adjusted gross income over $1 million and would be affected by this surcharge. Not only will the remaining 99 percent of small business owners be protected from paying this surcharge, they will receive a net benefit from the employer-side payroll tax cuts. The percentage of affected taxpayers who earn a significant share of their income from small businesses is also much smaller than the opponents of the Senate Democratic plan claim. Critics of the plan often use a definition of “small business” that includes many investment managers, lawyers and extremely wealthy people who are not by any common sense definition small business owners. In fact, more than half of the top 400 earners – whose average annual income was $271 million – would qualify as small business owners under their definition.

      But hey, why let rational empirical analysis get in the way of talking points and dogma? It’s only America’s future we’re talking about here, what’s that compared to the prospect of picking up a few percentage points in the polls?

      • overshoot

        Specifically, a recent discussion paper by Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis shows that only 1 percent of all small business owners have adjusted gross income over $1 million and would be affected by this surcharge.

        The Treasury is using a contrived definition of “small business” that doesn’t cover the majority of the small businesses [1] economy. I believe that the actual number (David probably knows it by heart) is that something like 87% of small business income is way, way over $1 million.

        [1] As defined by the objective definition of “Subchapter S corporation,” whose profits are reported directly as stockholder income.

        • D Furlano

          I would like to see the data that says that 87% of small businesses has income above 1 million dollars. Revenues maybe but I doubt incomes. My guess would be as less than 10%.

        • overshoot

          You need to appreciate that the correct (i.e. Republican) definition of “small business” as a Subchapter S corporation includes small businesses such as Bechtel and Price, Waterhouse, Coopers. Maybe Koch Industries too, I haven’t checked.

          So including them and then measuring the amount of net income goes to the larger entities, well, let’s say that large percentages aren’t shocking.

        • YuriPup

          You need the correct figure for income too.

          Taxable income for a corporation is gross income (business and possibly non-business receipts less cost of goods sold).

          So a million dollars of income means nothing for this conversation.

    • Oldskool

      Which makes you wonder, what is their end game? If everything they do is based on lies or half-truths, why would they think that they’ll create the best possible outcome?

      The obvious answer is that they think their outcomes are best when they serve their interest and no one else’s.

    • overshoot

      Real Americans™ don’t listen to NPR.

      • Rich T Bikkies

        I have no problem with Real Americans. The people I can’t stand are those who were, or will be, described in their media obituaries as Real Americans. They all seem to be like Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann.

  • animal

    Is there a corollary study of the obesity rates of republican and democratic party members?

    • paul_gs

      I’ll bet way more lefties are overweight. And they blame others for their own overeating too.

  • Oldskool

    Never seen a Whole Foods but I can testify that Cracker Barrel sucks. The food isn’t bad but it seems less great when they overcharge for it by a factor of two.

    • balconesfault

      Here in Austin, I’m surrounded by Whole Foods (their headquarters are about a mile from me). Remember when they were a small local shop way back in the day. But now, they’re a place to buy weird stuff imported from around the world, and produce priced with a 2x multiplier over the local grocery store, and aisles of various herbal remedies. They do have their devoted fan base, however.

      Ironically, the CEO of Whole Foods is a Randian disciple. Meanwhile, Sandra B. Cochran, the Cracker Barrel CEO, seems less overtly political, and has donated money to both GOP and Dem candidates in the past.

      • Ray_Harwick

        Balconesfault, I envy you so. My daughter and her family live in Austin and I’m sooooo homesick to see her, every time I stumble onto an Austonian online I get pangs of homesickeness. My daughter and her husband are Whole Foods junkies and one of the big selling point for them to move to Austin was because they had a WF in Orange County, California they loved. I know WF is associated with the berkinstocks-wearing crowd but the company plants their stores in highly conservative areas. My kids live in the Lake Austin area where my son-in-law is the executive chef at Lake Austin Spa. They really love Austin and I fell in love with it when I helped them move there last March.

    • Redrabbit

      I’ve been to both, though I have not been to a Cracker Barrel in ages. The food is just regular ‘country’ sort of fare. Not really my thing, though I don’t recall it being ‘bad’ or anything.

      • Houndentenor

        What about those of us that care for neither.

        Everyone I know refers to that grocery chain as “Whole Paycheck”. It’s the Neiman Marcus of grocery stores.

        Cracker Barrel has bland, tasteless food. You can find better deals on food all over any town, especially ethnic food.

        Some of us prefer not to overpay and also like to support local business people. That’s a win-win. So spare me the debate between high end and low end corporate rip-offs. It’s all the same BS if you ask me.

  • TerryF98

    I would not shop in either place. I value my hard earned money too much.

    • overshoot

      Whole Foods isn’t bad if you stick to staples. It’s the cheapest place around here to buy steel-cut oatmeal, for instance. And to address the original point: this is Ben Qualye’s district.

      • Redrabbit

        I go to multiple outlets. Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Publix, Aldi’s, farmers markets, street markets, produce booths at flea markets, all to seek the best price. (My mom clearly rubbed off on me more than I ever expected.)

        Whole foods, at least around here, is good for some types of rice and grains, etc. Their soup stocks are good for the price as well. Ghee is available at whole foods if you don’t have access to an indian market that carries it. I like their various scented bars of soap as well. I don’t get a lot of produce from it, but their mushroom medley pack is pretty good for the price. Their whole wheat flour is actually pretty decently priced compared to a few other places here.

        I tend to avoid the meats and produce. I get a lot of those elsewhere

        Though Whole Foods sometimes has totes of about 10 or so Apples for $5, which is a decent price. Compared to a few other places, their cheeses can be reasonably priced. The olive bar thing isn’t too bad either if you only want a few things.

        I LOVE the sandwiches. The Normandy Landing is great!

  • Ray_Harwick

    They all have a Starbucks – or something like it. It’s the new McDonalds with better polo shirts.

  • ConnerMcMaub

    Trying to explain the difference between conservatives and liberals in any single meme will always fail. I have liberal friends who are rabidly anti-immigrant and I have conservative friends who are atheists. Everyone deviates from their groups issues in some ways. Conservative and liberal philosophies today seem to me to be collections of issues and interest groups rather than a single clear defining rationale. Even dumb people are still complex and full of contradictions, and a nation of 300 million is never going to be boiled down into two easily digested descriptions.

  • Graychin

    Cracker Barrel = older demographic = Republicans

    Whole Foods = younger demographic = Democrats

    I think we already knew that.

  • baw1064

    538 came up with the Starbuck’s/Walmart ratio. This is probably along the same lines.

  • Sinan

    Cracker Barrel…perfect name for the demographic.

  • valkayec

    I understand the point Mr. Frum is attempting to make: liberals shop at Whole Foods while conservatives eat at Cracker Barrel. But the truth is that economics has more to do with where people shop – as well as what stores are available and how much health information people have regarding food.

    For example, I lived in the Bay Area for numerous years and began shopping at health food grocery stores (not health food pill shops) long before Whole Foods and their competitors moved into the area. I did so, even though it raised my food budget costs which at the time I could hardly afford, because I spent time learning about what would be the healthiest foods for my children. In fact, the organic and natural foods I bought were not only a hit with my girls but with all their friends as well. My youngest daughter explained to me, after I angrily complained about the cost of feeding all her friends, that her friends all came to our house after school for their afternoon snacks was because the food tasted better. Emotionally, I was stopped dead in my tracks.

    Instead of my daughters taking cookies or chips – or even requesting them – as a snack in their bag lunches, they took organic carrots. Parents, imagine going through 5 to 10 pounds of carrots every two weeks for school lunches! Yes, Sarah, there is a difference in taste – and shelf life – that kids get.

    So, okay, I’ve a college degree so perhaps that makes me one of those uppity elites not well liked in the Deep South or conservative Mid-West, but buying food from Whole Foods was not about “elitist values” but about purchasing healthier groceries for my children. I’m just not into high fat, high cholesterol, overly sugared foods…and neither are my daughters. As a result, neither of them suffer from high cholesterol levels or being overweight.

    Of course, this article is not about healthy food habits. It’s about cultural differences. It attempts to show that somehow purchasing food from Whole Foods is liberal elitism while purchasing from Cracker Barrel is middle class American. It’s attempting to set up a stark difference between two groups of voters to show that the GOP favors those Crackle Barrel “average middle income American” patrons whereas Democrats (i.e., liberals) are highfalutin, big spending, elitist shoppers who patronize Whole Foods as a way to show off their wealth and elitism.

    Mr Frum would be better using the recent reports from Third Way on the electorate to provide himself with shivers of emotional good feelings. Approximately, a quarter of the population are now independents.

    These independents will determine the election if Obama and the Dems can pick them up as they did on ’08. And since most of those independents are probably younger, more moderate, or more well educated, I suspect they’re easier pickings for the Dems right now, given that the GOP has lower poll rating among this group than the Dems.

    The two Americas are, in fact, the very wealthy who use their wealth and power to buy and influence legislation, legislators and candidates. Regardless of where I shop for food, I can no more influence a legislator to enact legislation that favors me than I can reach out to touch the moon. I simply don’t have the available cash. But a Koch Brother or a Lloyd Blankfein or a Thomas J. Donohue or any one of any number of large, highly profitable corporations does have the kind of available cash to influence election results and legislation. Just look at ALEC. Without all the corporate sponsors, would this really right wing organization be able to write and sponsor pro-forma legislation that is being put forward in every state on nearly every subject? Just look at the Rove and Gingrich superPACs. Hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the upcoming election – and not one election rule on “truth in advertising.” Look at Mike Lee who wants to start his own superPAC to help himself get re-elected. These actions are nothing more than a complete and utter distortion of our democracy…and what TR fought against nearly 100 years ago.

    If you, Mr. Frum, are so blind as to not understand what is happening in this country as a result of the vast schism between the very wealthy and powerful and the rest of us, then I do indeed feel sorry for you. Using a cultural, economic shopping pattern as a means to further divide this nation is truly saddening.

    I keep hoping that you will take up the glorious, honorable mantle of TR to bring the GOP back to its former state of glory. However, with blog posts like this one as well as some others you’ve posted lately, I despair that you have the moral fortitude to rise to the level of TR. I hope I’m wrong….

    • Ray_Harwick

      I understand the point Mr. Frum is attempting to make: liberals shop at Whole Foods while conservatives eat at Cracker Barrel.

      DF wants you to believe that but Whole Foods is planted in the heart of gated suburbs filled with those alleged job creators on the Right all over the place. You’d never catch any self-respecting conservative shopping at Cracker Barrel in Orange County, California with a Whole Foods Market within a hour’s drive on Interstate 5. DF is creating a myth that is no less the politics of division than the alleged culture war on billionaires.

      • greg_barton

        Exactly. I was just in a shopping center a bit north of me in Plano, TX, and noticed a new Whole Foods there. Plano is, by no stretch of the imagination, liberal. Not. Even. Close.

        • Ray_Harwick

          Tell me about it. Ross Perot built Plano and most of the North Dallas suburbs. It’s the Silicon Valley of Texas and it ain’t anywhere near like the one in Cupertino.

    • ConnerMcMaub

      Frum didn’t make any point other than recommending the piece. I suspect he considers it a fun piece, which is how I took it.

  • rubbernecker

    OK, it’s time to watch the Whole Foods Parking Lot video:

  • D Furlano

    Cracker Barrel has 600 stores, Whole Foods 288 of which 60 are in California. Wasn’t that the state that elected a democrat governor?

    • greg_barton

      There are 18 Whole Foods stores in Texas. Didn’t Texas just elect a Democratic governor, too?

      • Graychin

        There’s a Whole Foods in Tulsa, Oklahoma. No place is “redder” than Tulsa, Oklahoma.

        They’ve got a Cracker Barrel there too. The Cracker Barrel parking lot seems to be busier.

      • Houndentenor


        Rick Perry has been governor of Texas since Bush became president in 2001. The last Democratic Governor of Texas was Ann Richards (1991-1994).

  • baw1064

    I have to ask:

    When was the last time David Frum went to a Cracker Barrel?

    How about a Whole Foods?

    Which party is he in again?

    • margoharris1

      Are there Cracker Barrels in Canada? My husband called them Crack-in-the-Barrel’s when we lived in Florida, there are none here in California. (that I’ve ever seen)

  • superdestroyer

    The difference between conservatives is that they know that when the Democrats promise something in exchange for tax increases that the tax increases is last but the promise will be quickly renged on.

    Conservatives know that they will eventually pay more in taxes and that they money will go to core Democratic group. Progressives believes that they are clever enough to get the benefits of increased government spending while avoiding the increased taxes.

    • indy

      Attempting to parse this ‘comment’ reminds me of why stereotypes exist.

    • jakester

      Poor cons, every time they try to get anything from the government, some evil liberal “loses” their application. And even the poor cons get special hidden “political views” taxes assessed on them that rich liberals don’t have to pay.

  • MSheridan

    I have never been inside a Cracker Barrel and think I’ve seen the inside of a Whole Foods exactly once, when visiting a friend in ruby red Scottsdale, Arizona [Disclaimer: I AM a member of a natural food coop, which I'd guess counts as much the same thing]. However, so far as I can tell the stores’ demographics are not separated primarily by political affiliation. They are separated primarily by income level.

    But really, the whole argument is based upon a false premise. Given the 2 to 1 disparity in the number of stores and the different ways in which they are geographically concentrated, it would be only be surprising if in some specific example the numbers favored Whole Foods.

    • Graychin

      Income level? I think that Cracker Barrel is kinda expensive. But they do serve up huge portions of fried meat, potatoes, biscuits and gravy. They contribute substantially to America’s obesity epidemic, except their obese customers must have a tough time making their way through the clutter and junk that Cracker Barrel sells in their lobby.

      • MSheridan

        Thanks, Graychin,

        I shouldn’t have written anything on a matter I know so little about. I appreciate the correction.

  • Rocketship7

    In Canada, its Tim Hortons vs. Starbucks.
    Regular Canadians vs. the rich liberal elitists.

    Prime Minister Harper spoke to the Tim Hortons crowd, and the Liberals were stuck with being branded as Starbuck elites.

    • jakester

      There are Starbucks all over where I live in even the lower income areas. Considering their basic coffee is LESS THAN the ubiquitous Duncan Donut’s equivalent, using the term “elitist” tells me more about the low brow mentality of the user than the mentality of Starbuck’s patrons.

    • icarusr

      Out of curiosity, have you ever been to a Canadian Starbucks? Or Second Cup? Or Timothy’s? Or Bridgehead?

      Every time I hope that a Conservative, or a Canadian self-described conservative (or Conservative), has active neurons firing, I see a post like this that makes me wonder. Unless the writer is a 15-yo member of the CPC Youth Wing, this is about the stupidest post on here (well, right after Paul_gs’s non sequitur).

      Speaking as a very comfortable liberal Canadian, I don’t set foot in Starbucks – or any of the other alleged “elite” coffee places – because they overcharge, are overcrowded with salarymen-and-women and students, serve awful coffee and even worse food.

      Liberal secular humanist elitists like me – I admit to it freely – work in corner offices and have our own espresso makers in the office (and at home), along with brown crystal sugar and Viennese porcelain espresso cups. We also know the value of money – most of us at any rate – and have a good sense of knowing when we are being overcharged ($2.25 for a slice of poppyseed cake, when you can get a whole cake at Loblaws for under $5? I don’t think so). For guilty sweets, me and most of my friends – also all liberal elitists – actually visit Timmy’s for the donuts. And also because it is a national institution.

      Man … where do these people come from?

      • paul_gs

        Hell, everybody has their own espresso machine nowadays. Seriously, you think owning one makes you special?

  • SallyVee

    I have two Cracker Barrels within 10 miles of my house. Love it because they will cook my fried eggs over MEDIUM, to perfection. The CB hash brown casserole is a guilty, cheesy pleasure.

    Whole Foods is 5 miles from my house. We go almost every Saturday night… it’s one of the best and cheapest dates. We pick up a $10 bottle of wine off the rack, sit at the sushi bar where we have a hard time spending more than $12-$15 per person on salad, dumplings and two huge, fresh made boards of sushi. I like to grab a $1 chocolate chip/peanut butter cookie on the way out, for dessert.

    I’d be interested to know how Debby Downer categorizes me.

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    I live in a congressional district (WA-3) that contains multiple Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Starbucks, Batdorf and Bronson, etc. , etc., and not a single Cracker Barrel. We just flipped from D to R last November. Under the new House map due out in a few weeks, the part of the district I live in is likely to flip back to the Democrats, but were the 2002 lines to remain unchanged this seat would likely be retained by the GOP.

    The 3rd CD is demographically odd. It’s a large chunk of Real ‘Murrikah crowned with a Walled Fortress of Fake America– Olympia– at its northern most extremity. The WA-3 contains some of the best Food Co-Operatives, used book stores and small batch coffee roasters to be found anywhere in the country; and at the same time some of the worst meth labs. It contains some of the best public schools on the Pacific Coast, and also schools where a student who exhibits any fondness for the life of the mind is at serious risk of betting waylaid by some Levi Johnston or Todd Palin wannabe.

    And while the WA 3rd does not, I repeat, have a Cracker Barrel, it has plenty of Walmarts to make up for this lack.

  • jakester

    So the moral of this story is that both of these food corporations are spiking their foods with additives that can change one’s political orientation?

  • nwahs

    In other news there are over 600 Cracker Barrel outlets in 42 states and 310 Whole Foods outlets spread over the entire North american and the United Kingdom, giving Cracker Barrel about a 3 to 1 edge over Whole Foods in existing in any given Congressional district in those 42 states.

    I didn’t read enough of the article to get the tone, but hopefully its a joke of some kind. Then again, seeing it comes from the Washington Post, it wouldn’t surprise me if Wasserman is using faulty logic.

    “Hey man statistics show opossum for breakfast prevents heart attacks! Only 0.0000023% of people having heart attacks had opossum for breakfast!”

  • Rossg

    Whole Foods caters mostly to the upscale market. I am not sure if more them are liberal, or conservative. Patrons of Cracker Barrel probably cover a broad spectrum of people, but mostly working men and women. Maybe most of them are conservative.

    The topic of what the typical small businessperson earns in a year is of interest to me. In my approximate 27 years working with various small businesses (10 to 20 emplyees, maybe as few as 3), I have found that many have revenues of $1.0 to $5.o million, with some in the $20.0 to $25.0 range. Very few can report actual wage, dividend or bonus income that tops $100,000. However, they are quite able to live a higher life by way of legitimate business expensing. If they had to promote the business solely on their net personal incomes, they could show off much less.

    • Redrabbit

      I won’t deny that Whole Foods probably has more ‘liberal’ customers than something like Publix. But only a certain demographic of left leaning voters shop there. Plenty of other solidly reliable liberal demographics most likely don’t patronize it as much.

      Or, if you like….Whole Foods customers are liberals, but not all liberals are Whole Foods customers.

      Yes, this is mostly a joke.

  • armstp

    Actually, wealthy people shop at Whole Foods. Not really a liberal thing per se.

    Given that there are more than 600 Cracker Barrels, with many in the south, and there are only about 200 Whole Foods in the U.S. it is not surprising at all that there are more Cracker Barrels in districts that flipped Republican iun 2010 than there are Whole Foods in those districts.

    I think Frum is trying to read too much into this. Whole Foods is not particularly Liberal, as it is all about wealthy people, and there are just more Craker Barrels in the U.S.

    By the way Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is a notorious Republican and libertarian. Google his comments on the healthcare bill and unions. He lost more than a few “liberal” Whole Foods customers with his nutty comments on healthcare reform.

    • nwahs

      Nah, I think his point was people who like chicken and dumplings should be looked down on. But then again he tweets what notorious person he’s having lunch with.

      There’s two Americas. Those who rank people by what they do and those who rank people by what and who they eat with.

  • Rob_654

    I went to a Cracker Barrel once while on vacation and wow it looked like a training center for present and future Type 2 Diabetics…

    If the story was correct about the conservative bent of people who patronize CB and based on my limited sample size of “1″ – I would say that I sure hope those folks don’t actually get what they say they want and end government subsidizes for things like Medicare because the results for those folks won’t be pretty…