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A Brief History of Conservatives Owning the Libs With Food

From using plastic straws to pouring their own cereal in the toilet

Former Republican vice presidential candidateSarah Palin drinks a large soda on stage at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin drinks a large soda on stage at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Pete Marovich/Getty Images

In 2018, plastic straws went from being banal beverage accessories, barely an afterthought for many people, to the subject of almost daily headlines. Once they’re discarded after a single use, plastic straws take on a second, immortal life as pollution in the oceans. Bowing to pressure from environmentalists, corporate giants are phasing out the skinny little tubes from their operations, and left-leaning municipalities are banning them altogether. These developments have left conservatives with no choice but to own the libs by posing with plastic straws in selfies and posting the photographs online.

That is Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, and the text in her tweet translates from ancient Greek to “come and take [them],” a favored phrase of the modern gun enthusiast. Were actor and five-term National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston still alive today, no doubt, he would be behind some podium somewhere, declaring Democrats could have his plastic straws when they pry them from his cold, dead hands (or, maybe, lips). Thanks to The Cut for uncovering this right-wing, pro-plastic trend, which is only a small sub-genre of the expansive Owning the Libs With Foodstuffs movement.

There’s no telling who first used food to own the libs, but the concept can be traced at least as far back as 2013. That’s when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed for a ban on soda servings larger than 16 ounces in his metropolis, the idea being that if oversized, sugary soft drinks were taken off restaurant menus, people would become more healthy. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, responded to Bloomberg’s proposal by taking the stage at that year’s Conservative Political Action Conference with a Super Big Gulp soda from 7-Eleven — which, presciently, she sipped through a plastic straw. New York never enacted a big-soda ban, but other American cities, such as Berkeley, California; Philadelphia; and Seattle, have evolved the idea with soda taxes. If soft drinks are more expensive, people will drink fewer of them, the thinking goes.

Soon after Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States in November 2016, his supporters ramped up their ownage of the libs by targeting Starbucks, the coffee mega-chain with a somewhat liberal chief executive and thousands of cafes where libs are known to congregate. Trumpsters would go to their local ‘Bucks, buy coffee, and tell baristas the order was for “Trump,” which would force the java jockeys to shout the president’s name when said order was ready. While hearing Trump’s name bellowing throughout their safe spaces surely left the libs cowering behind their laptops, protesting Starbucks by spending money at Starbucks may have been a misguided notion, not unlike the time conservatives protested Keurig’s decision to pull sponsorship from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show by smashing their own single-serve coffee makers, or when they took action against Kellogg’s removing ads from by pouring their own boxes of cereal in the toilet.

Patronizing businesses they hate and destroying their own stuff aren’t the only ways conservatives own the libs. Supporting companies and consuming foods that would trigger the average bleeding-heart is another viable strategy. They eat meat because, not only does it bring tears to the eyes of vegetarians and vegans, it purportedly makes men sexier and cures depression. Trump once claimed he has “never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke,” and he reportedly downs a half-case of the soft drink per day. Other conservatives love the stuff, too. Sadly, the silver-canned elixir is mired in a long sales decline that dates back to 2006.

The straits are more dire for Papa John’s, which became the pizza of choice among white nationalists after founder “Papa” John Schnatter blamed protesting African-American football players for a sales decline. Schnatter has continued his pattern of racism, faces sexual misconduct allegations, and was forced to step down from his company (although, he’s planning a comeback). All of the headlines, despite endearing the company to Richard Spencer types, has sent Papa John’s stock into a tailspin. Meanwhile, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has his own line of coffee and survival meal kits, may find it harder to advertise these products now that his presence is (mostly) being systematically erased from the internet.

In better news for practitioners of a right-wing diet, Chick-fil-A is booming. The Atlanta-based fried-chicken chain is rapidly expanding and is poised to become the third-largest fast-food outlet in America, a moral victory for those who can’t stomach the idea of marriage equality. Libs, owned.

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