Lunch-Bucket Limbo

Ah, labels. They’re good for summing up large, complex populations with a snazzy phrase and reducing people’s lives to an anachronistic prop.

Enter the lunch bucket.

Since Barack Obama chose Joe Biden to be his running mate, this charming term has taken center stage.

“In Biden, Obama chooses a lunch-bucket Democrat with deep foreign policy experience,” proclaimed The Boston Globe.

“Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat,” wrote David Brooks in the Times last week. And so on.

Once upon a time, a lunch-bucket voter is one who works at a construction or factory job and totes along his or her afternoon meal in a pail of sorts. It’s a cute way of saying “blue-collar.”

But just days before Biden and the Bucket burst on the scene, The Press Democrat reported that the ranks of the Buckateers have grown since the economy has taken a downturn.

With white-collar workers—bankers and paralegals according the Democrat—taking up their buckets, the designation becomes more expansive, and less useful for condescending to a huge segment of the population.

And another thing: who has a lunch bucket nowadays? Does Tupperware voter just not have the right ring to it?

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.