When à la carte spirit gets political, the menu concept comes in handy. If the United States of America is a melting pot, then it makes sense to ask: what is in the pot, what is the pot made of, and who is stirring the pot? It’s an election year and we have new choices. Do we want to keep the same pot, the same recipe, and stir it the same way it’s been stirred before?
At the moment, the pot (made in China?) is flaking and crumbling, leaching lead and other impurities into the soup. The fat (think the 1%) floats on top while the poor and disenfranchised huddle at the bottom and get burned. The middle class swirls in a thin, substance-less broth.
Imagine being served such a soup at a restaurant. You raise your spoon but put it down after taking one look at the fat globules on the surface and charred ingredients on the bottom. Your highly sensitive nose detects the unmistakable metallic whiff of corroded coins wafting from the bowl. You beckon the waiter.
“It’s not palatable,” you say. “It smells as if there is money in it. Please send it back to the kitchen.”
“But this is American soup,” says the waiter. “It’s the greatest soup in the world.”
You glance around the table at friends, family, colleagues and neighbors spooning soup into their mouths.
“Don’t make a scene,” they say between slurps.
“Can’t you smell the money?” you ask, wrinkling your nose.
“It smells the way it’s always smelled,” they say. “It’s the soup we know.”
You look at your dining companions. They are good people even if perhaps a bit too sated, if not sedated, by the status quo, perhaps reluctant to sample spicier or more revolutionary flavors. You wonder if they have visited other countries lately. Have they tried other soups? Even perused other recipes? You’ve heard that Canada’s soup is getting better. It’s now made by a young and handsome Executive Chef with a diverse kitchen staff. Denmark’s soup is supposed to be quite good, too. The point is, there are many ways to make soup. We can borrow and adapt from other recipes, even if we don’t copy them exactly.
“What is in this American soup?” you ask the waiter.
“I’m not really sure,” he says. “But we’ve been making it the same way for a while.”
“Are the ingredients organic, at least?” you ask. You care about what goes into the body politic.
“I can’t say exactly. There might be some Genetically Modified Organisms in there,” he says. “Or some heavily subsidized corn and sugar that gives it a special (interest) flavor.”
“Can I speak to the chef?” you ask. The waiter shifts from one foot to another.
“There isn’t one chef,” says the waiter. You give him a blank stare.
“How many are there?” you ask. Your dining companions clear their throats. They’d like you to shut up so they can enjoy their soup in peace.
“There are lobbyists and PACs and Super PACs and bankers who influence the preparation of the soup. Honestly, I’ve lost count.”
“Don’t too many cooks spoil the broth?” you ask, even though you normally avoid speaking in proverbs.
The waiter shrugs and looks at you as though you’re crazy to question the greatest soup on earth, whose recipe has been held up as something for “less developed” countries to emulate.
“It would be too complicated and disruptive to change how the soup is made at this point,” he says. “That’s not how things are done in this kitchen. We make incremental adjustments.” He whips out a pepper mill as long as a rifle and aims it above your bowl. “Could I offer you some fresh pepper? Would that help?”
“No thanks,” you say. Condiments are not going to cut it. Not this time. You’d prefer an entirely different soup from a very different kitchen.
“Would you like some Freedom Fries instead?” he asks. By now, your dining companions have finished their soup.
“I’ll pass on the fries,” you say.
You think about Bernie Sanders who wants to remove money from the American kitchen. Perhaps, in a scrubbed and uncontaminated kitchen, the soup would have less fat floating on top and fewer burned bits stuck to the bottom. Maybe the flavor and richness would be more evenly distributed in the soup, more nourishing for all. Perhaps the money that once went to influencing kitchen staff and the recipe could be used to buy new pots and pans from American factories, pots and pans that don’t leach lead and impurities, pots and pans with transparent lids so we can see what’s cooking.
Sanders’ skeptics and opponents say, among other things, that he’s a one issue candidate. They say that removing money from the soup recipe is not enough; he needs to be able to make salad, hors d’oeuvres, entrees and dessert, too, and not just the kinds preferred by white voters. His democratic rival says Sanders doesn’t know his way around the kitchen or how to get things done and, because she does, she should receive your vote. Your feminist acquaintances urge you to support a female candidate: isn’t it time there’s a woman chef in this kitchen? Wouldn’t that be revolutionary, they argue? Except that in addition to being a feminist, you’re also a foodie, and not in the snobby sense. You give a damn about what you put in your mouth and what fellow citizens eat, too. You want authentic soup. The real deal. Soup you can count on, soup that isn’t made behind closed doors by special interests. You don’t want soup similar to the one that’s been served up for so long, even if other candidates promise to freshen it with a drizzle of creme fraiche or serve it with a different spoon to make it seem innovative.
You’re confident that, even though Sanders’ extensive experience is not in that particular kitchen, he can surround himself with people adept at preparing things other than soup and can show him where the oil, flour and spices are stored. First, however, we need to clean up the kitchen in which the soup, and everything else, is created. Sanders is the only candidate proposing to do that. If we don’t clean it up now, our soup might be forever tainted to the point that it poisons the democratic ideals and, ultimately, the prosperity of this nation. The 1% might continue to live off the fat of the land while others flounder or get burned, ultimately a recipe for disaster.
Bernie Sanders has my support for Executive Chef. Let’s “Feel the Bern” rather than burn the soup.