Posted July 19, 2016

SMC professor talks food, photo-ops and politicians

Bruce Hardy, assistant professor in the department of strategic communication, explains why politicians pose for pics at local eateries.

A political candidate eating a cheesesteak in Philadelphia.
Photography By: 
Courtesy of Matt Rourke/The Associated Press
What local fare a politician eats, and how they order it, can impact their campaign.

Why do politicians always pause on the campaign trail for a photo-op at a local watering hole or luncheonette?

That’s the question PhillyVoice reporter Brandon Baker, SMC ’14, posed to Bruce Hardy, assistant professor in the department of strategic communication.

Hardy said the food photo-op phenomenon has to do with the connection between a community and its cuisine. By showing they can eat like the locals eat, candidates can make themselves look like one of the people. Or, as Hardy put it in the Q&A, “coming to Pat’s and Geno’s and saying ‘whiz wit,’ as opposed to ‘Swiss cheese’ makes you look like you actually understand Philadelphia.”

But the attempts at edible empathy can also deliver a dietary defeat. From former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich eating his pizza with a fork, to President Barack Obama complaining about Whole Foods stores in a state that didn’t have any, examples abound of politicians who flub their food choices.

“There’s this sense of ‘I’m out of touch,’” Hardy said. “And that's why you always see the candidates coming into local bars, drinking beer. Coming into Philadelphia and getting a lager, that kind of thing. Connecting with people that way.”

Read the full story.

In addition to the interview in PhillyVoice, Hardy was also quoted on Time magazine’s website, talking about Donald Trump’s response to recent national tragedies.