Over at the Smithsonian Blog, Lisa Bramen has a nice post about booze and elections. “The practice of wining and dining the electorate can be traced back to Britain and, even earlier, to ancient Rome and Greece.”
In Whiskey: A Global History, I note that U.S. office-seekers long have used booze to up their election odds. When George Washington ran for Virginia office in 1758, he served up free whiskey. While chasing the Democratic presidential nomination a couple years ago, Hillary Clinton began hoisting tumblers of Bourbon in a very public way.
None of this is especially surprising; like so much else, drink carries social connotations. Whether this is good or bad is neither here nor there; it is what it is.
The person who gives away good drinks to friends may well be viewed as a fine fellow, whereas the person who turns up his nose at a plastic cup of cold Budweiser might be seen as a snob. And speaking of beer, can you imagine what the reaction had been if President Barack Obama had invited Henry Louis Gates and the police officer to the White House to sip some Chardonnay? Though no one is simply the sum total of what he drinks, what’s in the glass is not without import.