Some alert readers (ARs) who are now collecting Social Security may remember a time long ago when they were old enough to drink beer legally in some states but were not old enough to vote. Such was the status quo ante in much of the United States prior to the ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution in 1971. I bought beer legally for the first time on October 28, 1966 in Washington, DC, 11 days before the midterm election. While I was not able to vote in this election back in St Louis or anywhere else, I was very aware of the race for governor in nearby Maryland. Spiro Agnew, whom I had never heard of, was running as a liberal. Seriously.
Agnew’s opponent was a Democrat named George Mahoney, whose radio ads made quite an impression on me. To say they were “dog whistle” appeals to racism would not be accurate. They weren’t that subtle. They consisted of a single, memorable slogan: “Your home is your castle. Protect it.” The message was clear and overt. Mahoney’s campaign was based on opposition to a proposed law that would have prohibited racial discrimination in the sale or rental of real estate. He was reassuring voters that he would protect their right to discriminate on the basis of race. Agnew, who really was relatively liberal in comparison with Mahoney, prevailed by a margin of nearly nine percentage points.
Two years later Richard Nixon chose Agnew as his running mate. The presidential election of 1968, in which I was still not allowed to vote, was the first one in my lifetime in which two lawyers were elected as President and Vice President. Four years later, in an election in which I was finally allowed to vote at age 24, Nixon and Agnew were re-elected in one of the biggest landslides in history, winning every state except Massachusetts. Their triumph was short-lived. Within a year of their re-election Agnew was forced to resign in disgrace after it was revealed that he had been taking bribes from milk producers and government contractors. Nixon resigned ten months later in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Both Agnew and Nixon lost their licenses to practice law. Gerald Ford, who replaced Agnew as Vice President and then Nixon as President, was also a lawyer and remained a member of the bar in good standing.
It would be another 36 years before two lawyers would again be elected President and Vice President on the same ticket. By the time Barack Obama and Joe Biden were respectively inaugurated to these offices in January of 2009, the world had changed. For the first time in history most of the beer sold in the United States was not being produced in American-owned breweries. Although I did not attend this inauguration, I have reason to believe that most of the beer served there had been brewed in foreign-owned breweries. As far as I know, that was also the case at the second Obama inauguration in 2013 and the Trump inauguration in 2017.
Which brings us to the present. As most ARs know, for the third time since 2008 two lawyers have once again been elected as President and Vice President on the same ticket. These same ARs also know that, as members of the bar, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a particular obligation to adhere to the highest standards of ethics and honesty. Put another way, voters have a right to expect them to do their best to keep their campaign promises, including the following from The Biden Plan to Ensure The Future is “Made in All of America” by All of America’s Workers:
- Buy American: Biden will use the government’s purchasing power to Buy American, boosting U.S. industries.
- When we spend taxpayer money, we should buy American products and support American jobs.
- End false advertising. Biden will crack down on companies that falsely label products as American.
When better to start fulfilling these promises than on January 20, 2021, the first day of the new administration. At their inauguration Biden and Harris should serve American beer, meaning beer produced in breweries that are American-owned. If breweries want to promote their products as American, their labels should clearly state where the companies that own the breweries are domiciled.
As for the outgoing administration, neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence is a lawyer. Nor does either one of them drink beer. President-elect Biden is also not a beer drinker. There is, however, within his administration a very capable woman who has the requisite expertise to handle the procurement of American beer for the inauguration. I’m referring to Jill Jacobs Biden, who is not a lawyer, but whose experience in the beer business predates mine by almost two decades. In 1972, while Joe Biden was running for his first term in the U.S. Senate; and while Nixon and Agnew were coasting to re-election, Jill and her first husband, Bill Stevenson, were opening a tavern and concert hall in Newark, Delaware called The Stone Balloon. Bill and Jill obviously knew what they were doing. Their bar in the shadow of The University of Delaware was recognized by Playboy magazine as “One of the 100 Top College Bars in America.”
The original Stone Balloon closed its doors in 2005 following a run of 33 years. It was replaced by The Stone Balloon Ale House, which features an extensive selection of craft beers, in other words the types of beers from American-owned breweries that should be served at the Biden-Harris inauguration. Because Bill Stevenson, from whom Jill’s divorce was pretty acrimonious, is no longer involved, the First Lady-elect should have no problem getting in touch with the new Stone Balloon for assistance in putting together a suitable list of offerings for the inauguration.
I want to emphasize that this column is my first and only overture to the Biden-Harris administration on this subject. Unlike milk producers and Vice President Agnew, I have not handed over packets of cash, though thinking of that incident makes me wonder what dairy products were served at the 1969 and 1973 inaugurations.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery