eyes on the U.S.

Iowa-To-New Hampshire, Through The Eyes Of Foreign Media

Marco Rubio emerges as the international media’s aspirational GOP nominee.

At a Marco Rubio rally on Jan. 25 in Des Moines, Iowa
At a Marco Rubio rally on Jan. 25 in Des Moines, Iowa

PARIS â€" The left-to-right political spectrum is always relative to where you stand. And if you’re standing in Denmark, notes the Copenhagen-based daily Politiken, Marco Rubio would be considered “far to the right.” But with the Florida Senator emerging as a kinder, gentler â€" and yes, less right-wing â€" alternative to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, the Danish newspaper acknowledged his presidential potential following a surprisingly strong third-place showing in the Iowa caucus. “He is a serious politician, and one of few candidates who has actually presented serious solutions to some of the structural challenges the U.S. faces: increasing social inequalities, globalization and the stagnated wage levels among middle-class workers,” Politiken writes.

Around the world this week, echoing conversations whispered among Republican Party elites for months, Rubio is now seen as a viable GOP moderate compared to Cruz, an evangelical opportunist with a tenuous relationship with the truth, and Trump, the xenophobic real estate mogul making it up as he goes along.

Between now and November’s general election, Worldcrunch will deliver a regular sampling of global coverage from all languages and corners of the world.

Between last Monday’s Iowa caucus and next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, here is a roundup of worldwide coverage of the race for the White House:

Madrid-based ABC writes that Rubio made “slow, silent” progress toward becoming a “third path” away from Cruz and Trump. The conservative daily notes that his campaign team hoped to land him second behind Trump in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. “From there, Rubio’s team believes, all the options of victory will open up.”

Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion dedicated an Obama-esque front page to the 44-year-old Cuban-American senator.

During a Republican debate last month, Rubio earned some cheers and laughs by quipping that Democratic Party challenger Bernie Sanders would make a great president ... of Sweden. And maybe he’s right, noted Swedish daily Aftonbladet: “He wants free education, a Scandinavian-style health care system and increased minimum wages. He speaks to both the white working-class and young intellectuals, and, he produces nostalgic campaign videos with music from Simon and Garfunkel.”

But Aftonbladet writes that, in truth, it isn’t necessarily that simple. Hillary Clinton’s politics are also quite well aligned with the way Sweden is governed.

“Sanders policies are more ambitious â€" but also more unrealistic … Basically, the Clinton vs. Sanders debate is about something else, namely whether it is possible to carry out reforms within the existing system, or if a popular uprising is needed to create opportunities for ‘real change.’ ... Sander’s response in a way reflects the Republican candidate Donald Trump's grim message, that the country is broken and dysfunctional. Small changes at the margin is meaningless.”

French business newspaper Les Echos writes that the Iowa caucuses highlighted two phenomena, “the radicalization of traditional parties and the ever-growing distrust of the establishment.” World affairs editor Virginie Robert describes a shrinking American white working class that “feels humiliated and abandoned” and for which “immigration, globalization and the establishment’s contempt are an ordeal.” She writes that Trump has committed “an authentic heist on a dying party in which bigwigs” are concerned only with lower taxes and deregulation.

“Trump’s genius lies in the fact that he’s brought back to the GOP people who had withdrawn from the political process altogether, galvanizing bitter and disillusioned Republicans.”

But that doesn’t make Trump “eligible” to be president. Instead, the journalist sees Rubio as the real winner in Iowa and potentially the “most dangerous candidate for Hillary Clinton.”

Immigration, religion … and sexy first ladies?

After Bernie Sanders’ surprise showing in the Democratic caucus in Iowa, where he finished in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, Polish radio RMF 24 noted that Sanders is the son of a Polish immigrant who came to the United States in 1921 and whose Polish relatives died during World War II. Asked how his parents would react to his candidacy, Sanders said, “For my father and mother, being a senator would already be something impossible to believe in, never mind running for president.”

The Mexico City-based columnist of América Economía writes that Trump is neither a “fascist” nor “crazy,” and that his anti-Mexican tirades are intended to win and keep his voters. Mexico, Luis Rubio writes (no relation to Marco!), has so far been “wisely” restrained in responding to Trump, and should consider building bridges “without giving him more fuel.” He argues that the logic of rapprochement is very simple: “It is not meant to convince or dissuade him, as that is impossible, but as with all candidates in countries of key importance to us, bridges are indispensable.”

Lebanon’s French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour writes that while Iowa was crucial in gauging the preferences of America’s white, Protestant voters, many voters are nevertheless shedding religion as the “crux” of their electoral choice. Historian Nicole Bacharan tells the newspaper that Cruz has only recently discovered his evangelical calling, while Trump “has divorced twice and married three times, and becomes confused when citing the Holy Scriptures.”

Taking an election angle that only The Donald himself could appreciate, Spain’s El Confidencial regards Melania Trump as someone who would be possibly the “sexiest” first lady ever.

See other Melania art here.

The credibility issue

Israel’s Jerusalem Post writes that “all the factors that broke against Hillary Clinton” when she lost against fellow Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 “are breaking for her in 2016.” The newspaper ascribes Sanders’ strong showing in Iowa to “a flirtation with socialism within the Democratic Party â€" a flirtation with a specific brand of liberalism that has ebbed and flowed for decades.” But, the newspaper cautions, the danger for Clinton is her credibility problem and how that might impact the general election. “According to exit polls, fully one quarter of Democratic caucus-goers voted based on which candidate they deemed most honest and trustworthy â€" Clinton earned 10% of those voters to Sanders’s 83%.”

The South China Morning Post suggests that Trump is on target when he talks about the U.S. losing out on China trade deals. But writer Cathy Holcombe also implicitly notes that Trump is a prevaricator. “Here’s an unsettling thought: What if Tim Cook is a liar, and Donald Trump a truth-teller,” she writes, referencing Apple’s chief executive. Cook’s recent comments that labor costs had nothing to do with why the iPhone is manufactured in China are disingenuous, she argues. “China’s huge population was its chief comparative advantage when it first opened to the world,” she writes. “In the three decades that followed, the wages of U.S. low-end workers stagnated, then fell in real terms. Common sense would indicate there might be a connection.”

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!