Monday, April 23, 2012

Broccoli: A Vehicle for Scorn

"I say it's government-mandated broccoli, and I say to hell with it."

    Remember when President George H.W.Bush announced publicly that he hates broccoli?  That was maybe 1990.  
    I remember because I designed  and purchased a T-shirt that said, "I Love Broccoli and I Vote!" ( To understand this one has to remember the somewhat older slogan "I'm a woman and I vote".

 It perfectly illustrated the Semiotic term signifier and my anthropology class loved it !

So now we have a "government mandated" item, perhaps a remark spawned by President Obama's health plan and President Bush's menu preference:



Stahler, 2012



The Broccoli Trail

Until recently, nothing. But now, perhaps a lot. 

Broccoli, of all things, came up in the Supreme Court during arguments over the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s health care legislation. If Congress can require Americans to buy health insurance, Justice Antonin Scalia asked, could it force people to buy just about anything — including a green vegetable that many find distasteful? 

“Everybody has to buy food sooner or later,” he said. “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”
Since then broccoli has captured the public imagination and become the defining symbol for what may be the most important Supreme Court ruling in decades, one that is expected any day and could narrow the established limits of federal power and even overturn the legal underpinnings of the New Deal.
If the court strikes down the health care law — which many constitutional experts on both the right and left long doubted it would do — many lawyers say they believe one reason may be the role of broccoli in shaping the debate. 

It turns out that broccoli did not spring from the mind of Justice Scalia. The vegetable trail leads backward through conservative media and pundits. Before reaching the Supreme Court, vegetables were cited by a federal judge in Florida with a libertarian streak; in an Internet video financed by libertarian and ultraconservative backers; at a Congressional hearing by a Republican senator; and an op-ed column by David B. Rivkin Jr., a libertarian lawyer whose family emigrated from the former Soviet Union when he was 10.(New York Times, June14, 2012).