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28.2.17

On Steaks and the Difference Between Trump and Bush

Donald Trump is in the news again for ordering an expensive steak well-done, a longstanding culinary preference of his. Some observers have been content to simply mock him, while others have written long pretentious not-sure-if-it's-satire-or-not personality analyses based on his eating habits. It's the kind of thing that would be shameful if applied to anyone we didn't already hate.

Some people have pointed out that it's not just urban liberal foodies who like their steaks raw -- bloody steak is also the official Real Red-Blooded American Man way of cooking. So how can it be that Trump, champion of the rural working class, can get away with well-done steaks?

I think the answer can be seen when we contrast Trump's style with George W. Bush's. Bush made a great effort to portray himself as one of the people, a regular Joe, the guy you want to have a beer with. He came from Texas (the most American of the states), spoke with a drawl, and spent his vacations clearing brush on his ranch. And he portrayed John Kerry as just the opposite cultural type -- a windsurfing, swiss-cheese-chessesteak eating coastal elite. And it seemed to work! Gallons of ink were spilled by left-leaning commentators analyzing Bush's affected populism.

Then along comes Trump. Trump set himself up as the champion of the white rural working class -- but he never made any pretense of being one of them. Where Bush presented himself as a brush-clearing, drawling, reg'lar guy Texan, Trump flaunted his wealth and spoke with a yuge Brooklyn accent while hanging out in his gold-encrusted New York penthouse. There's a certain weird authenticity to the way Trump doesn't seem to care if he looks like one of the people he represents.

I don't think Trump's taste for well-done steak is an act. I assume that really is how he likes it. (And I can sympathize -- before I became a vegetarian, I preferred my meat well-done too.) But it shouldn't be a surprise that good old bloody-steak-eating heartlanders wouldn't be turned off by Trump's culinary tastes, since he's never claimed that his personal lifestyle is normal.

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