Senator Elizabeth Warren may not be leading in the polls in South Carolina, but she has been taking time to drink beers with one of the state’s proudest native sons, Stephen Colbert. After a hearty round of billionaire bashing in which the late-night talk show host described Jeff Bezos as “like Lex Luthor, but he knows more about you and he’s less trustworthy,” the two adjourned to the bar for a round of Michelob Ultras—or as Warren prefers to call it, the “club soda of beers.”
If you can remember all the way back to January 2019—approximately a million years ago in the hellish, neverending news cycle that is this campaign—there was something of a fuss when Warren announced that she was running via an awkward Instagram Live post. Reactions ranged from eye-rolls to right-wing trolls decrying a woman drinking beer as an obvious attempt to pander to male voters.
Though the senator’s stilted “I’m gonna get me a beer” may have proven that she’s no social media-savvy AOC, the level of faux-outrage it provoked seemed petty, even at the time. It all factors into the constant hand-wringing over whether female candidates, regardless of their qualifications, are sufficiently “likable.”
The truth is, performative drinking and eating are a subtle, but important part of every political campaign. Whether it’s Senator Bernie Sanders giving himself heartburn over a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair or Mayor Pete Buttigieg mauling a cinnamon roll from a local Iowan restaurant, candidates across the political spectrum are hyper-calculated about their consumption habits.
When effective, this strategy helps portray the candidate as relatable. When it flops, as with former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s disturbing attempt at eating ice cream, the result can be something like watching the cockroach alien from Men in Black attempt to impersonate a Regular Earth Human.
Warren has steered clear of Instagram Live since the initial kerfuffle, but she’s in no way backing down on her stance on Michelob Ultra. While voters lined up to have Pizza with Pete or a hot dish with Senator Amy Klobuchar, Warren stans had the option to Grab a Beer with Elizabeth.
So when Warren sat down to talk policy and southern cuisine, it’s no surprise that she stuck to her guns on the beer order. Maybe her focus group thought Michelob Ultra was an appealing, blue collar choice that fared better than some high falutin' craft alternative like Mayor Pete’s preferred Toppling Goliath, or maybe that’s just what the senator likes. Either way, Colbert, who has been drinking a lot more bourbon on screen since 2016, was less enthusiastic.
“Do you know the joke about why Michelob Ultra is like making love in a canoe?” he asks. “Because they’re both fucking close to water.”