Honolulu’s Café 8 ½ appears to be serving dishes with an anti-democratic relish after the election. To the delight of many of its customers, it has barred anyone who supports President-elect Donald Trump from eating at the Hawaiian restaurant. The sign on the front door reads “If you voted for Trump you cannot eat here! No Nazis.” The sign has caused a firestorm of controversy for the relatively small restaurant.
The owners appear to maintain that there are now 62,979,879 Nazis in the United States since everyone who voted for Trump is now deemed nothing more than knuckle-dragging fascists. They will not be able to enjoy such curious delights as “Italian stir fry.”
The restaurant was founded by Robert Warner and his wife Jali. He is a former hair stylist for Vidal Sassoon in San Francisco and former restaurateur in Seattle. His wife and co-owner is quoted as saying “Robert just wants to express how much he doesn’t like Trump. If people take it personally or it hurts them, we cannot help. That’s why we say they have [a] choice if they want to come or not come. We don’t force them.”
Well, it is hardly that simple. What the owners are saying is that they wish to exclude people who disagree with them politically and further dismiss anyone who voted for Trump as nazis. It is Robert who appears to be channeling his inner “Soup Nazi” in banning customers based on their political beliefs. Many people voted for Trump because they are sick and tired of the establishment (including the Clintons and Democratic establishment). Others feel strongly about issues like immigration or health care even if they did not agree with other aspects of the Trump campaign. There were a myriad of difficult choices for voters to make this election and it was made a close election by the Democratic establishment pushing one of the most establishment figures in the country at a time when voters were demanding change.
Democracy does not guarantee results or, as shown by Robert Warner, civility. However, we are all bound by a common article of faith in our democratic traditions. The position of Warner is that our restaurants and public establishment should be able to exclude people based on their beliefs — an approach that (if followed by others) would create a balkanized system of stores and restaurants for Democrats, independents, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and even subsets like Sanders supporters. The alternative is to celebrate everyone’s right to choose. Indeed, with so many people not voting, all voters have a shared value in caring about the direction of their nation and participating in these elections. We do not have to agree on the next president to eat (or even talk) together. That is something Robert Warner appears incapable of understanding.