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Why Conservatives Won’t Stop Talking About Burgers

A single comment from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has turned the concept of eating less meat into shorthand for socialism

Democratic Lawmakers Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Sen. Ed Markey Unveil Their Green New Deal Resolution Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Conservative pundits have seized on a new rallying cry in an attempt to discredit House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: She’s trying to steal America’s burgers.

Ocasio-Cortez, already a favorite target of the right, co-sponsored a resolution in February for a Green New Deal, a drastic plan tackle climate change and make the U.S. carbon neutral by 2030. In promoting the proposal, the freshman Democrat from New York appeared on Showtime’s Desus & Mero, where she argued that in order to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Green New Deal would need to take a look at factory farms and how meat and dairy consumption impact the environment.

“It’s not to say you get rid of agriculture. It’s not to say we’re going to force everybody to go vegan or anything crazy like that,” she said. “But it’s to say, listen, we’ve got to address factory farming. Maybe we shouldn’t be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like, let’s keep it real.” Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that, “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero, emissions in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.” Cue the Ocasio-Cortez Hamburglar comparisons.

Agriculture is responsible for roughly 8 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and meat and dairy industries specifically account for two-thirds of those emissions. However, those same industries also comprise a formidable lobby, which might explain the extreme reactions conservatives have had to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments over the past few weeks.

Throughout the last month Republicans have made hamburgers their symbol for rejecting the Green New Deal. Representative Rob Bishop of Utah held up a burger during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, warning that if the Green New Deal is approved, eating burgers “will be outlawed,” the Washington Post reports. Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina also quipped that “Chick-fil-A stock will go way up” as Democrats try to “get rid of all the cows.”

The hamburger fear mongering reached new heights absurdity during Sebastian Gorka’s speech this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. The far-right conservative pundit and former member of the Trump administration took to the stage and proclaimed, “They want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

The chilling tales of a beefless American heartland continued to take strange turns. On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she was “creepily” photographed eating at a restaurant next to her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, who happened to be eating a burger. The photos have since made the rounds on social media, with conservatives calling Ocasio-Cortez a hypocrite.

The burger ballyhoo is part of a national conservative pastime of owning the libs through food. Back in 2013, when then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a limit on soda cup sizes, Sarah Palin famously appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference and slurped a Big Gulp on stage. Last year, as environmental groups pushed for limits on plastic straws, political pundits trolled supporters of straw bans by brandishing cups filled with plastic straws on social media. As liberals continue to push for a Green New Deal, it’s safe to expect even that Americans are in for a whole lot more burger outrage.

The Energy 202: How the Hamburger Became the GOP’s Rallying Cry Against the Green New Deal [WaPo]
Conservatives Are Bizarrely Claiming AOC Wants to Take Your Burger Away [Vice]
Ocasio-Cortez Explains ‘Farting Cows’ in Green New Deal FAQ: Maybe We Shouldn’t Eat Burgers Three Times A Day [Mediaite]
Ocasio-Cortez Lashes Out at ‘Dude’ Who ‘Creepily’ Took Photo of Burger Meal [Fox]
The Green New Deal Wants to Use American Farmers to Save the World [Eater via Civil Eats]