The Atlantic Politics Daily: Eat Meat, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants

Is eating meat following plastic straws onto the front lines of the country’s various culture wars? Plus: The question Elizabeth Warren didn’t want to answer.

We’re trying something new with The Atlantic’s signature politics newsletter. Comments or questions? Send us an email anytime. Were you forwarded this email? Sign yourself up here.

We appreciate your continued support for our journalism.

Today in Politics

Cory Booker eats a tamale while visiting a home in Las Vegas in April of 2019. (John Locher / AP)

The Beef Over Meat

“You are a vegan, and that’s obviously a personal choice …. So should more Americans, including those here in Texas, and in Iowa … follow your diet?”

At the latest Democratic debate, moderator Jorge Ramos asked Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey a sprawling question—vegetarianism and the environment, Brazil, the Amazon, Trump and Bolsonaro, regulation—that stood out from the expected policy back-and-forths.

Booker quickly said no, but that Ramos brought up the issue at all goes to show how eating meat may be following plastic straws onto the front lines of the country’s various culture wars.

There’s been a growing awareness in recent years, especially on the left, that reducing meat consumption could help with greenhouse-gas-emissions goals (TL;DR: beans for all). Mix that with a long-standing right-wing trope of liberals as a bunch of latte-sipping, arugula-munching urbanites. The knives are out.

Take Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who said during his 2018 reelection bid, “if Texas elects a Democrat, they’re going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas.” (A couple of years before that, Cruz prepared bacon by wrapping it around the nozzle of a machine gun and firing off rounds.) And as Democrats earlier this year talked about a Green New Deal plan that would attempt to overhaul the economy to ferret out greenhouse gases, Republicans went on the offensive to, as Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming put it, decry the plan because it meant saying “goodbye to dairy, to beef, to family farms, to ranches.”

To be sure, only a small percentage of Democrats are actually vegan or vegetarian—by one measure, the percentage of vegetarians in the country hasn’t moved much since 1999—but with Booker’s veganism now trailing him on the presidential campaign trail, the beef over meat isn’t going away.

Democratic Debate 3.0


Three Down, Nine More to Go: About Last Night

Candidates have a plan for that—but do they have a plan for passing that? Many candidates declined to go into the weeds, but “the level of detail in a proposal doesn’t always correspond to its seriousness. Just look at Trump.” Edward-Isaac Dovere reports from behind the scenes in Houston.

Hedge of the night: There was at least one direct question that detailed-plans candidate Elizabeth Warren didn’t want to answer: Will she raise taxes on the middle class to fund Medicare for All? Russell Berman examines the taxes-for-government-services tightrope Democrats have long had to navigate.

Where was the college talk?: K–12 education is largely the domain of local governments, Adam Harris notes. Considering all the attention that candidates from Elizabeth Warren to Bernie Sanders to Amy Klobuchar have given this cycle to making college more affordable, why weren’t more of them talking last night about education issues that the executive branch can actually affect?

Guns N’ Poses: The waning candidate Beto O’Rourke leaned into the El Paso–focused reinvention of his campaign: “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he declared. But a moment like that has the potential to permanently change the primary debate on regulating guns, Emma Green writes.

What Else We’re Following

Howard University graduates await the commencement speaker Chadwick Boseman in May 2018. (Eric Thayer / Reuters)

Why do Democrats win cities? There’s no obvious reason for why a movement led by Irish Catholic factory workers in the 1800s became the party of progressives in 2019, but much of it can be traced to the politicization of issues such as abortion and climate change, Derek Thompson writes.

The case for black athletes to attend black colleges: It’s not racist to suggest that black athletes attending historically black colleges and universities might both benefit from the institutions and help them to grow, Jemele Hill argues: “You might think this message would resonate with conservatives. Self-reliance rather than increased government dependency? Using capitalism and market forces to improve your community’s lot in life?”

Our Reporters Are Also Reading

Missouri’s Attorney General Refers 12 Catholic Clergy for Prosecution (Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times) (Paywall)

Biden Won by Demonstrating Why Democratic Voters Have Such Goodwill for Him (Jonathan V. Last, The Bulwark)

A Sordid Relationship With Jeffrey Epstein Threatens MIT Media Lab’s Future (Larry Edelman, The Boston Globe) (Paywall)

145 CEOs Call on Senate to Pass ‘Common-sense, Bipartisan’ Gun Laws (Bill Chappell, NPR)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. It’s written by our associate politics editor, Saahil Desai, and our politics fellow, Christian Paz. It was edited by Shan Wang.

We have many other free email newsletters on a variety of other topics. Browse the full list.