A poor, Trump-voting Florida town opened a government grocery store to end its food desert, but it's "not socialism"

68% of the 1600 residents of of Baldwin, Florida — where the median income is $44k/year — voted for Trump in 2016, and in the years since, they've lost their only grocery store, which has been a particular hardship for the large number of seniors who live there, many of whom are no longer able to drive.

So the town did the logical thing: it opened a city-run grocery store that operates on a break-even basis, with the clerks, stockers, butcher and other staff all drawing a paycheck from city hall. This is unquestionably a socialist enterprise, but the town's residents don't see it that way. As Mayor Sean Lynch, a retired Navy vet, told The Washington Post: "We take the water out of the ground, and we pump it to your house and charge you. So what's the difference with a grocery store?"

Not a thing, Mayor Lynch, not a single, solitary thing. Indeed, America's most important institutions — power, water, roads, libraries, schools, even the Navy — are socialist in nature.

White Americans vote against welfare benefits and publicly provided healthcare because the Republican Party and Reagan's "welfare queen" campaign convinced them that "welfare" is "undeserving Black people, Native Americans and immigrants" being helped out by the state. Of course, the majority of public spending in America goes to white people, so racism is used to harm racists themselves — as well as the racialized people at the margins who are also punished by cuts.

The good news is that things like Baldwin Groceries are an opportunity to de-brainwash reactionaries and racists, showing them that the "socialism" they're been terorrized with all their lives is actually the stuff they love best about America: the letter-carrier they see every day, the VA that takes care of them, the library and the high school and the roads.

So far, though, the experiment has been a success. The town council had hoped to take in $3,500 a day, and sales have routinely exceeded that, Lynch says. About 1,600 people — roughly the equivalent of the town's population — stopped in during opening weekend, according to the Florida Times-Union, and the market sold out of meat. Eight employees, all Baldwin residents, were hired at the outset, but the town recently brought on two more people to help out during the busy holiday season.

As Lynch showed a reporter around on a recent weekday afternoon, a woman in a McDonald's uniform excitedly interrupted him. "I'm so happy you guys are open," she gushed. "I was a regular before." Though she works at the truck stop in Baldwin, she lives in an even more rural community outside of town, she explained, and had been driving 10 miles out of her way on bad roads that always seemed to be under construction to get to the nearest Winn-Dixie. "And their meats are not as good as yours," she added.

When a deep red town's only grocery closed, city hall opened its own store. Just don't call it 'socialism.' [Antonia Noori Farzan/Washington Post]

(via Naked Capitalism)

Mike Mozart
, CC BY, modified