Okay, what are the odds that half the people who signed up to boycott Whole Foods spend $200 a week there? The class of people who are most worked up over this is not necessarily contiguous with the class of people who drops $800 every single month at a single grocery store. Looking over the Facebook list, I see, broadly, three groups of people:
■People who live in a
handful of very liberal urban areas
■People who live in hippy towns and/or
There are exceptions, but this is the overwhelming effect of the list. There is also an amusing minority who live in places that don't have a Whole Foods anywhere near them, like Waterloo, Iowa, or Finland.
These people think they are indispensible to Whole Foods' business, because in their area, they are. But according to Google, there are more Whole Foods per person in Houston, Texas, than in New York City. I don't think anyone could look at a map of the distribution of Whole Foods stores in, say, Philadelphia, and proclaim that this looks much like the distribution of people who are so fired up about national health care that they are willing to cause themselves great personal inconvenience in order to punish the CEO of Whole Foods for writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
Whole Foods' customers are hippies, yet there are more Whole Foods in conservative areas? How could Whole Foods survive under those conditions? To resolve this contradiction we have to determine which is correct--is Houston less liberal than she thinks, or do more conservatives shop at Whole Foods than she thinks? Whole Foods would not have so many stores in Houston if they were not making money. The Whole Foods in Houston have the same progressive, environmentalist, organic hippie image that they have in more liberal places. People who are not political would not go out of their way to shop at a more expensive store when you can find organic foods in every store unless there were another reason, such as image. So let's check to see how conservative Houston actually is.
Here is a study by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research [pdf] that says that while Houston is the largest conservative city in the nation, it is only moderately conservative. A Houston blogger notes:
Houston, as the 62nd most conservative and 177th most liberal (out of 237 total cities), on the surface seems to tilt pretty far to the right, but only voted 53.6/46.3 for Bush over Kerry. The national vote was something like 51/48 (1% other), so Houston is pretty darn close to the national average. The skew is the result of a national bias of larger cities towards liberal. Manchester, NH was the most balanced city I could find in their list, at almost exactly 50/50, and that got it ranked #80 most conservative and #159 most liberal, very close to Houston's rankings.
The bottom line: compared to other large cities, we're very conservative, but compared to the country as a whole, we're right in middle. In my humble and biased opinion, that makes for a more diverse and more interesting city than other cities that are more monocultural (or at least monopolitical).
When we see contradictions we make a decision, to either question our biases or assume our emotional reaction is the correct one. Ideologues will go with their biases, as will fundamentalists of every kind. We can't afford to indulge people who deliberately refuse to think a problem through, for fear it will make them question themselves or because they are being paid to look the other way.