November 10, 2004


Is Democrats’ solution on the menu at Applebee’s?: Party strategists ponder how Democrats can persuade ‘red state’ voters to cross over in 2006 (Tom Curry, Nov. 10, 2004, MSNBC)

One veteran Democratic strategist, Clinton White House political director Doug Sosnik, sums up the answer in one word: Applebee’s.

For Sosnik, the chain of modestly priced restaurants (more than 1,600 in 49 states), symbolizes precisely what is wrong with the party’s Washington-based elite.

Democratic leaders are out of touch with the American people, Sosnik said in a panel discussion Tuesday sponsored by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

“The leadership of our party has a cultural disconnect,” Sosnik said. “Our leaders — particularly Washington, D.C.-based — don’t really have the same life, day to day, as all those people out there in those red states. We don’t eat at the same restaurants. I don’t know how many politicians in town that are leaders of our party who voluntarily go to Applebee’s, unless it’s for work. You look at the swing voters out there, what their sporting events are, the music they listen to, the celebrities, the television programs, it’s just not what the East Coast leadership (watches) — it’s not quite where we are.”

"Talk about Applebee's, we don't even go to the Cracker Barrels and the Denny’s as well," added Donna Brazile, who served as Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000.

Sosnik said, “We can’t figure out a better way to sell to those people — we’ve got to be more like them.” Being “more like them” requires finding Democratic leaders from small-town and rural America.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who won a second term last Tuesday, the only Southern Democrat to win a Senate seat, fits the bill. [...]

While Applebee’s was the one-word key for Sosnik, another Democratic strategist at Tuesday’s DLC panel discussion, Will Marshall, personified the party’s woes in a name: Michael Moore.

“Let’s let Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival fawn all over Michael Moore. We ought to make it clear he sure doesn’t speak for us when it comes to standing up for our country,” Marshall said.

“Democrats have to make it very clear to the electorate that we believe that America is essentially a force for good in the world,” he argued.

“Sometimes in our zeal to condemn Bush policy, we can go overboard in ways that really make them wonder whose side we’re on,” he said. “It is one thing to say the war in Iraq was a mistake; that’s a legitimate position held by many thoughtful people. It’s another thing to say it’s an expression of some grasping new American imperialism, some kind of plot to grab Middle East oil or, even more ludicrously, all just about putting more money into Halliburton.”

Marshall added, “We’ve got to make it real clear to folks that while we believe true patriotism means acknowledging our country’s mistakes and being willing to change course when things are going wrong, as they are in Iraq, we’ve got to repudiate the most strident and insulting anti-American voices out there, sometimes on our party’s left.”

It looks like Ben Nelson may be the only sitting Democratic Senator more conservative than Ms Lincoln.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 10, 2004 11:59 PM

Given their nature, the Democrats would probably like Logan's Roadhouse over Applebee's -- free pails of peanuts if you're sitting at the bar...

Posted by: John at November 11, 2004 12:04 AM

Applebee's? What, you think I'm made of money?

Posted by: Timothy at November 11, 2004 12:20 AM

Ok, Ben, here's the deal: You can either

1.) Switch and get with the winning team


2.) Run against Mike Johanns in 2006

OR, if you're REALLY unfortunate

3.) Run against Tom Osborne in 2006

Like a Simpsons character once said: "A blindfolded chimp with a pencil in his teeth" could figure this one out.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 11, 2004 5:01 AM

First we invite them to Applebee's, then we kidnap them and force them into Chick-Fil-A, then we kill them and take over the world.


Posted by: Peter B at November 11, 2004 7:24 AM

I thought Michael Moore,, represents the heart and soul of America to them.

Posted by: Dave W. at November 11, 2004 8:43 AM
"weve got to be more like them"

Hey guys, new recruits.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at November 11, 2004 9:21 AM

Someday, someone will produce ratings that would weigh votes by "meaningfulness". Pols are often allowed "free votes" by their leadership so that they can spin their ratings closer to their constituency's state of mind. In Lincoln's case, could not she have managed to vote once to break a filibuster? (I noticed this survey does not include judicial nominations.)

Posted by: Moe from NC at November 11, 2004 9:26 AM


If Kerry wants to run again, this time he's going to have to eat that Wendy's hamburger. Or mollify the press by giving them his vindaloo.

We could really punish him by forcing him to go to Whatta-Burger.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 11, 2004 10:56 AM


When I see Kerry at a White Castle downing some sliders, then I'll be impressed.

Posted by: Bart at November 11, 2004 1:33 PM

I hate Applebee's.

Ate there 1x not by choice.

Posted by: Sandy P at November 11, 2004 1:38 PM

But Al Gore just ADORES Shoney's.

Posted by: AC at November 11, 2004 1:45 PM

Applebee's? *looks blank* I've never eaten there...I don't like apples.

Actually, when I eat out I prefer Golden Corral (all-you-can-eat steaks, yum). Not a place you'd expect to find the tonier sort of Democrat, either.

Posted by: Joe at November 11, 2004 6:34 PM

I tend to prefer little hole-in-the-wall places with big portions.

* This little roadhouse on the Interstate near Kutztown, PA
* Biggerstaff's between Dillsburg & Gettysburg, PA (Dillsburg has a used bookstore and good eatery next to the Rodeway Inn for a three-fer)
* Lone Pine, CA, has two rural-portion eateries and two steak houses within a block of the only traffic light
* There's another good steak house outside Inyokern, CA with a brewery next door
* Santiago Canyon Cafe (little roadhouse in the backwoods of Orange County, CA) has Taco Night on Tuesdays
* Busy Apron (near East & Lincoln in Anaheim, CA) has the best basic coffee-shop sitdowns for the price in the area
* And if you really want to bust your belly on some good Barbeque: Central Texas Bar-B-Q, Castroville, CA (near Monterey)

Posted by: Ken at November 11, 2004 8:29 PM

In NJ, we have Arthur's Tavern, a chain that serves a 24 oz porterhouse for $16.95, that is as good as you'll get at Ruth's Chris or Morton's of Chicago, although not as good as Peter Luger's.

In Jacksonville, on Beach Blvd. there is a small place called the Homestead that serves about the best fried chicken I've ever had. A large half chicken and two sides for $9.95.

As for Golden Corral, I love the steak buffet. For like $8.95, it's all you can eat sirloin.

I remember my dad, our accountant and I used to go out to a Chinese buffet when our quarterlys needed to be done. It was all you could eat for $6.95 and included shrimp with lobster sauce, with good size shrimp. The three of us together were a good 800 lbs, and I always anticipated the owner coming up to us after our sixth plate saying,'You go home now! You eat enough!'

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 6:48 AM