Starbucks Nation


Perhaps a cleaner way of making the point I made in yesterday’s United States of arugula post is to think about the growth in Starbucks. Even within my memory, espresso drinks were, once upon a time, not only considered somewhat hoity toity but genuinely difficult to acquire. Now I grew up in Manhattan, so it was hardly impossible. But you had to go to special places. You could get a cup of joe on any old corner, but not a cappuccino. Thanks to Starbucks and its competitors, this stuff is now all over the place. We haven’t become France or Italy where this is all anyone drinks, but espresso products are hardly a rare delicacy. Anywhere that people go, you’ve got a Starbucks and places like Dunkin’ Donuts have upgraded their offerings.

In electoral terms, the Starbucks/arugula set still isn’t a majority. But it’s a much larger slice of the electorate than it was in 25 years ago. And at the same time, the proportion of African-Americans in the electorate has grown and the proportion of Hispanics in the electorate has grown. The McGovern constituency from 1972 still isn’t a winning political coalition, but it’s a much larger minority than it was in McGovern’s day. A progressive politician needs more than zero non-college whites — and you certainly can’t afford to have McGovern’s terrible relationship with the labor movement — to win, but it’s not nearly as steep an uphill climb as it’s been in the past.

UPDATE: The image is from Bernie Hou’s comic strip Alien Versus Predator.