The Slatest

It Is Actually a Big Problem for Republicans That They’re Losing Voters Who Eat Avocado Toast

Kennedy, wearing a brown suit coat, puts on an American flag-themed hat while speaking to Trump supporters at an arena.
Sen. John Kennedy in Bossier City, Louisiana, on Nov. 14.
Tom Brenner/Reuters

Last Thursday, Donald Trump held a rally in Louisiana to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone. At the rally, Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy asserted that he, Trump, and Rispone stood with ordinary everyday folks against the purported condescension of the Democratic Party and its “cosmopolitan, goat’s milk latte–drinking, avocado toast–eating insider’s elite.”

Many Democratic eyes were rolled in response; as the Washington Post explained, Kennedy was updating a Republican talking point to which Dems have long taken exception with references to current food trends. (While “goat’s milk lattes” don’t appear to be widely available, the Post noted it was possible the senator was either riffing on or misunderstanding the increasing availability of oat milk at many coffee shops.) Kennedy himself is a graduate of Vanderbilt, the University of Virginia, and Oxford, and his reelection campaign recently ran up a $1,139.80 food and drink bill at the George, a boutique hotel in D.C.

To a large extent, Kennedy’s statement was just as ridiculous as previous iterations of the insult in which the alleged Democratic signifiers were Volvos and arugula. Democratic policies are popular with many millions of non-affluent people who do not engage in conspicuously refined cultural consumption; at one point during the 2016 presidential primary, FiveThirtyEight found that individuals who had voted for Trump had household incomes that were, on average, $11,000 higher than those who’d voted for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. In Louisiana, incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards centered his campaign on his support for Medicaid expansion.

In another way, though, Kennedy was right. Republicans do alienate many voters who eat avocado toast and drink lattes. The problem for Kennedy is that his stereotypes about what regular people eat vis-à-vis “elites” are out of date: Good coffee and brunch dishes that use fresh produce are available not just on the Upper East Side and in Harvard Square but all over the country, including in many traditionally conservative suburban areas. And Republicans can’t actually afford to write off the people who live in those places, as was made clear Saturday, when Edwards won reelection by defeating Trump and Kennedy’s friend Rispone.

As depicted visually here by a polling analyst and Louisiana State University alum, Edwards did especially well in Jefferson Parish, which is just to the west of New Orleans:

Edwards won 60 percent of voters in Jefferson Parish, which until recently was, as they say, a Republican stronghold—Hillary Clinton only got 41 percent there. His strong showing in the New Orleans suburbs resembled Democratic Kentucky Gov.-elect Andy Beshear’s showing in the Louisville and Lexington suburbs earlier this month, which resembled Democratic congressional candidates’ showings in places like Orange County, California, in the 2018 midterms—which resembled Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones’ showing in the Birmingham suburbs in 2017. The Dems have made major gains in those regions by appealing to voters, particularly women, who are concerned about health care coverage and gun violence, unconcerned by the alleged threat of immigration, and personally turned off by Trump.

And as it happens, you can can get avocado toast at the Ruby Slipper Café and Perks Coffee and Café in Jefferson Parish; at an outlet of the First Watch chain in outer Louisville; at Big Bad Breakfast in Homewood, Alabama; and at many, many establishments in Orange County, California. As Democratic operative Brian Fallon put it presciently in 2017, the party’s path to retaking political power ran “through the Panera Breads of America,” and there are few items you can order at Panera that don’t have damn avocados on them. Guess what, Kennedy? Regular people like good coffee and faux-bourgeois food too. You’d know that if you left the George and went into a Panera occasionally. You snob.