Maybe it’s time for the commons and liberalism to have a frank talk. Liberals would seem to be natural allies of the commons; they certainly often profess its values and goals, however superficially. But the politics that liberals generally deliver -- even in their re-branded guise as “progressives” – tends to be seriously disappointing.
Consider this little vignette recounted by the New York Times last week. It was a story about declining sales for soda, the rising popularity of water and First Lady Michelle Obama’s role as a cheerleader for healthy choices. This paragraph jumped out at me:
“Last month, Michelle Obama heavily endorsed water, teaming up with Coke, Pepsi and Nestlé Waters, among others, to persuade Americans to drink more of it. Health advocates complained that Mrs. Obama had capitulated to corporate partners by not explaining the benefits of water over the sodas they sell and that her initiative promoted even greater use of plastic bottles when she could have just recommended turning on the tap.”
What could be more quintessentially liberal: sincere, passionate commitment to a laudable social goal (drinking water instead of sugary soda) but no willingness or courage to fight for the right choice – tap water. The reason is fairly obvious: What would the corporate benefactors think?
The corporate backers of the First Lady's anti-obesity campaign are only too willing to bask in the socially minded glow. The brand director for Dasani, the bottled water brand sold by Coca-Cola, proudly declared, “…We are looking to lead in packaging and sustainability because those things also matter to out customers.”
Yes, let’s sell more bottled water in “sustainable” plastic bottles.