• Lapelle Bosworth

Newt Gingrich Viciously Politicizes Policy Against the Predatory Marketing of Junk Food in One Tweet

Updated: Mar 21, 2021


John Pitney comments on Newt Gingrich's political move to drive out Democratic Speaker, Jim Wright, “and that really, for the first time, kind of politicized the entire ethics process.” Image by DonkeyHotey from Flickr.


As a distraught nation pondered on how to best deal with the ongoing wave of devastating crises that seemed to be blanketing America, some respite was offered in a small yet satisfying victory. National and global news headlines boasted the marvel of Berkeley, California being the first city in the US to ban junk food from being sold in the checkout aisles starting March 2021 for retailers 2,500 square feet and above. This is not necessarily earth shattering, but it’s a mighty and symbolic step towards confronting predatory marketing, just one the many invisible hands feeding the obesity epidemic. The residents of Berkeley who supported the ordinance and Council members who officially passed the ordinance acknowledged that a primary focus of the policy was to dampened the steadily encroaching power of predatory marketing. Director of programs at Healthy Black Families, Ayanna Davis remarked, “As a mother of seven, I can definitely speak to the predator marketing that takes place at checkout counters. This will continue to show Berkeley is a world leader in healthy living and taking on corporate predatory practice in our communities.


However Newt Gingrich could not resist adding his own tainted input which dripped with venom. His tweet wrapped around the ordinance and attempted to suffocate the life out it, “Amid pandemic and wildfires - this is the focus in CA: Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a measure this week that would prohibit grocery stores bigger than 2,500 square feet from displaying junk food and other unhealthy items in checkout aisles.” I argue that just because millions of acres in California have been engulfed in fires, it does not mean that firefighting is the only job that remains or that public health officials and public health initiatives ceased to exist in California. Nor does it signify that the projection that 50 percent of the American population will be obese by 2030 is now irrelevant and should be displaced on the list of priorities in favor of only fighting fires. In fact, according to a research study conducted in 2006 by the California for Public Health Advocacy, obesity cost California $21 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity. If California’s budget was not as weighed down by obesity there would have been more expendable resources available for a number of issues including the fires. For example obesity has taken a toll on California by hastening spread of the Covid-19 which in turn has made less firefighters available due to a number of direct and indirect reasons.


But I doubt his followers were inspired to consider these facts. Instead they have been trained to feed off the poisonous polarization and add their own partisan outrage which resembles more like Tea Party political candidates than concerned constituents. Burrito Avenger declared, “They want government grocery like they have government schools.” While Chemist, taunted the ordinance with a tinge of sarcasm, “Nanny State at its best. Now I am protected from buying a large soft drink and impulse junk food. I am truly thankful.Judith Ann Miller, tweeted her suspicions about their true agenda and hoped to spread her mistrust in Berkeley, “Berkeley has always been a communist haven with the city council telling people what they should and should not eat from available food products even exceed the dictates of the USSR.” However this ordinance did not derive from the ramblings of raving socialists but instead public health experts across the nation who have linked predatory marketing to the precipitous rise in obesity. Instead of Gingrich using his privileged access to information to offer tweets that are backed by valuable knowledge he inundates his followers with a consistent stream of toxic outrage and fear mongering. His followers are convinced that a communist takeover is on the horizon. Kianfa Martinez warned in incoherent rage, “People this is how it all starts. They first tell you how to set up your store, then the[y] take it away from you - the final step is that they turn you into a slave and they tell you that you have to be grateful! That is the Marxist agent!

Even Newt Gingrich must lose a little sleep at the idea of making political hay out of the mini-civil war that struck Oklahoma City,” Philadelphia Daily News commenting about Newt Gingrich's refusal to approve disaster relief funds for Oklahoma until they yielded to his politicized economic plans; the Oklahoma bombing did not deter him, he continued to demand concessions in the budget. Image by Mario Piperni from Flickr.


Gingrich has a reputation for engaging in high stakes, media magnet political battles. He then used to these battles to relentlessly polarize political institutions and even the American populace to consolidate his power through the Republican Party. But now he is using the same tactics to target measures from smaller localities that are meant to help with the unique needs in the community and are usually less partisan driven. He is determined to convert a low stakes situation into an intense partisan war. Atlantic Journalist McKay Coppins explains Gingrich’s tactics further, “He was not there to work in the committee structure and deal with constituent services, he was there to foment a revolution and declare war. He set a model for future Republican Leaders. I think his defining legacy is he enshrined this combative, tribal, angry attitude in politics that would infect our national discourse in Washington and Congress for decades to come.” David Brock, a former conservative journalist, relays Gingrich’s history of holding meaningful public policy at the mercy of his political agendas, “He took these things that were confined to the margins of the conservative movement and mainstreamed them. What I think he saw was the potential for using them to throw sand in the gears of Clinton’s ability to govern.” If local lawmakers cannot even take small steps toward handling obesity due to self serving figures who abuse their renown and power to extract political capital from every situation, then how will localities be able to use every tool at their disposal to handle such an overweening and complex public health issue? Local politicians need space to handle pressing community issues without a wrench being tossed in the gears by national figures using their localized problems and solutions as a political stage.


Newt Gingrich clearly values the almighty corporate dollar over the needs of his former constituents. I believe he hides behind the polarizing statements to pretend as if he cares about his political admirers and shares an ideology with them. If he was an ethical former statesman he would have learned to care about all segments of American society. His values would balance both the shareholders and the voters. His concerns would focus on citizens just as much as the market. He acts as if this main concern is that this ordinance will impinge on the rights of citizens to impulse buy junk food from the checkout aisle when his true concern is if this ordinance has the potential to affect the profits of corporate conglomerates that rule over the food industry. For now, he is quietly presiding as a guardian for corporate profits while loudly sharing political thoughts that conveniently and discretely financially benefit corporations.


One of his former corporate donors that he is covertly fighting for is Coca Cola, one of his largest donors during his time in Congress. Coca Cola stands to lose a lot if this ordinance becomes popular nationwide. Coca Cola has their own reputation for fighting against public health campaigns that risk influencing policy that could send their profits down the drain. Coca Cola paid research scientists at the Global Energy Balance Network (GERN) to obscure and undermine the role in sugary beverages in the obesity epidemic. $1.5 million was the price Coca Cola paid for GERN to conclude that obesity was predominantly attributed to the lack of exercise. This conclusion from an authoritative source can easily mislead those who are starting on their health journeys but that is exact intention of predatory marketing, manipulate dollars away from the wallet. Now it seems that Coca Cola wants influential figures to behave as if there is not an obesity epidemic altogether and act as if we have time for obesity prevention policy to be politicized. Hopefully us citizens can come together and behave towards each in a non partisan manner to solve important issues. Because if left to political actors like Newt Gingrich, American’s progress will be stalled indefinitely while he enriches himself with millions.


Sources:


The Atlantic: The Man Who Broke Politics, Newt Gingrich turned partisan battles into bloodsport, wrecked Congress, and paved the way for Trump’s rise, article published October 17, 2018.

Berkeleyside: Berkeley will be first in the nation to ban candy, soda at checkout aisles, article published September 23, 2020.

Cambridge Core: Evaluating Coca-Cola’s attempts to influence public health ‘in their own words’: analysis of Coca-Cola emails with public health academics leading the Global Energy Balance Network, journal article published by Paulo Serodio, Gary Ruskin, Martin McKee, and David Stuckler, August 3, 2020.

Center for Responsive Politics: Rep. Newt Gingrich - Georgia, report last updated December 31, 2012.

The Nation: How Newt Gingrich Crippled Congress, No single person bears more responsibility for how much Americans hate Congress than Newt Gingrich. Here’s what he did to it, article published January 30, 2012.

UCLA Center for Health Policy Research: Obesity in California, report published by Joelle Wolstein, PhD, MPP, Susan H. Babey, PhD and Allison L. Diamant, MD, MSHS, June 2015.

WBUR News: 'Combative, Tribal, Angry': Newt Gingrich Set The Stage For Trump, Journalist Says, article published, November 1, 2018.


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