The Great Chick-fil-A War of 2012
Landmark Mall is a sad monument to past commercial greatness not far from my neighborhood of Yuppie Acres in Alexandria, Va. It has all the classic hallmarks of the 1980s-era shopping malls – anchor department stories at the ends, large airy atriums, escalators, a food court, a small play area for the kids – but most of the big-name stores have disappeared. The branches of the big names that are still around – Macy’s, Sears, Victoria’s Secret, Bed Bath and Beyond – all seem to be a bit chintzier and more downscale than the other ones in the D.C. area. And there are a lot of empty spaces. Most times I’ve gone there, the mall seems almost abandoned; walking around you feel as if the area survived some great apocalypse and you’re witnessing the first tentative signs of human commerce among the survivors.
Upon hearing about Wednesday’s “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” I decided to see how it was playing in my (usually pretty Democrat-leaning) neck of the woods. I think I’ve eaten at Chick-fil-A twice in my life. The only one in the area is at the previously-described post-apocalyptic commercial wasteland that is Landmark Mall, and so I figured I would see little sign of the grassroots effort near me.
Instead, I found a line of eager Chick-fil-A customers stretched through the food court — easily fifty to one hundred people. None of the other food court eateries had more than a few people on line, so it wasn’t just a crowded day at the mall.
In case you’re not up to speed, I’ll let Ed Morrissey set the stage…
Fast-food outlet Chick-fil-A started operations 45 years ago in the South, and has been expanding ever since. The owners have a well-known and widely publicized commitment to their Christian faith; Chick-fil-A stores remain closed on Sundays to celebrate the Christian Sabbath. Chick-fil-A’s mission clearly underscores those values, as well as traditional customer service goals: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
With that background — which Chick-fil-A promotes on its website — no one should have been surprised to hear chief operating officer Dan Cathy express his support for a traditional definition of marriage. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy told Baptist Press two weeks ago. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
…Boston Mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter to Cathy stating that “[t]here is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.” (Chick-fil-A’s website explicitly states that they do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in employment or in commerce, by the way.) A few days later, Menino had to retract that statement, after belatedly discovering that mayors and cities can’t discriminate on the basis of political or religious belief.
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that Chick-fil-A did not represent “Chicago values,” and suggested that Chick-fil-A invest its money elsewhere. Chicago, by the way, has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation among major cities, so it seems odd that its mayor would tell Chick-fil-A to take a hike for having the exact same position on marriage that Emanuel’s former boss — President Barack Obama — held the entire time Emanuel worked at the White House. Even more odd, at the same time Emanuel declared Chick-fil-A fast-fooda non grata, he rolled out the red carpet for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to have his acolytes patrol Chicago neighborhoods. Not only is Farrakhan a well-known anti-Semite, he also opposes same-sex marriage. In fact, Farrakhan publicly blasted Obama for flip-flopping on the issue in May.
Emanuel later backed down, but not one of the local aldermen, who still demanded a pledge from Cathy to quit associating with groups that oppose gay marriage as a prerequisite for a business permit. A councilman in New York made a similar threat. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee kept his attack on freedom of thought to Twitter, noting that the closest Chick-fil-A outlet was 40 miles away — and that the company shouldn’t try to get any closer.
Ed goes on to point out the obvious: in a free country, any citizen has a right to protest or boycott a business, and any officeholder is free to express their personal support or opposition to the views of a company or its leaders. But once officials start using the power of the state to punish companies for expressing views they disagree with, well… that’s fundamentally anti-American, and sliding towards a fascist view of how society should operate. Your ability to run your business should not depend upon mayoral approval of your personal views.
The good folks at Twitchy compile the photos and anecdotes of massive crowds at Chick-fil-As across the country.
I’ll probably never be an effective ideologo-vore. I like Ben & Jerry’s and Oreos too much. As Adam Wilson put it, “Not gonna lie: I’m so hungry I would eat a chicken sandwich without a full inquiry into its politics.”
Iowahawk asks, “Does Chick-fil-A oppose marriage between Five Guys?”
Dave Weigel speculates, “Time to ask whether Rahm, Menino and Vince Gray have Chick-fil-A stock.”
Exurban Jon laments, “I dream of the day when our sandwiches will not be judged by the color of their politics, but by the contents of their sesame-seed buns.”