Opinion: Nothing's Political About A Chicken Sandwich - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Nothing's Political About A Chicken Sandwich



    I understand 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno’s beef with Chick-fil-A. As a progressive politician, he’s upset that Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy made this statement against gay marriage:

    “We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

    As a customer, Moreno has every right to boycott Chick-fil-A over its homophobia. (Although, since Moreno is a vegetarian, the only Chick-fil-A product he can boycott are its waffle fries.) As a politician, though, he is planning to use aldermanic prerogative to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in his ward, on the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue. Moreno has the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who told the Tribune, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”

    That strikes me as an abuse of power, by imposing a political litmus test on businesses that want to operate in Chicago. Agree or disagree, opposition to gay marriage is a legitimate political stance. Mitt Romney is against gay marriage. Does that mean the Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to open a campaign office in Chicago?

    I’m worried that we’re becoming a nation whose political beliefs dictate not only how we vote, but which restaurants we patronize, which stores we shop at, which TV shows we watch, which sports we follow, and which churches we worship at (or whether we worship at all). If you’re conservative, you shop at Walmart, tune in to Fox News, dine at Cracker Barrel, watch stock car racing and go to a Baptist church on Sunday morning. If you’re liberal, you buy your groceries at Whole Foods, watch the Colbert Report, eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, watch soccer and go to brunch on Sunday morning. In the past dozen years, our political divide has widened into a cultural divide which is leaving us with less and less in common as Americans.

    Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is organizing a counter-boycott by encouraging his supporters to eat at Chick-fil-A next Wednesday. And what’s to stop a conservative local official in Dallas or Memphis from blocking a Starbucks because the coffee chain offers benefits to partners of employees in same-sex relationships?

    I’ve never seen a Chick-fil-A, and I doubt I’d eat at one, because their food looks like fried crap. But I’m a big Detroit Tigers fan, and I didn’t stop rooting for the team when it was owned by Tom Monaghan. Monaghan built an entire college to prevent gay marriage. Chick-fil-A should be allowed to find out whether there’s a market for its chicken sandwiches in the 1st Ward. Maybe Dan Cathy’s opinions on gay marriage will make his food unpalatable in Logan Square.

    Or maybe there are still people who don’t think a chicken sandwich is political.

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!