brie-eating liberals

Thu Nov 24 01:46:50 UTC 2011

As I recall, the association of political liberalism with eating brie, drinking white wine (sometimes narrowed down further), and driving a Volvo first attained wide popularity in the 1980 election campaign.  It may have been kicking around in some quarters earlier than that, but if so, it had not yet reached a larger audience.  Initially it was seen as a way of describing affluent suburban voters who were not necessarily all that liberal.  Here's the earliest example I see on Historical Newspapers, from the Washington Post, Aug. 7, 1980, at A2 (story continued from page A1):

<<A perceived liberal, [Zell] Miller will certainly have to expand his coalition of big labor, blacks, the education establishment and the Volvo station wagon and Brie set if he is to beat up on Talmadge in the runoff.>>

Discussion of this demographic group was particularly associated with third-party presidential candidate John Anderson, as in this story from the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 16, 1980, at 12, Reagan Supporters Fret Over Defections To Anderson Camp by Affluent Moderates:

<<But the more traditional Republican suburban voters - what Assemblyman Kern labels the "Volvo-owner vote" and others call the "chablis-and-brie" set - may have difficulties with some of Mr. Reagan's conservative views on social or cultural issues, such as the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion.>>

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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