Shortly after the last election,
“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.”
Perhaps the bigger problem here is that Democratic strategists are looking at the American electorate as a bacterial population in a Petri dish, or, at best, a primitive South American pygmy tribe to be viewed and analyzed from afar. As a Swing-Voting, ticket-splitting, American who enjoys Applebee’s (actually, I’m more of a Chili’s man, myself), who follows the blandly designated “sporting events,” and who watches (some pretty bad) TV, I’m going to be the first to say that these guys don’t have a clue about what we want to see out of our leaders.
Notice to local candidates: I don’t give a damn about what you watch on TV or who your favorite team is. Neither “The Apprentice” nor the Red Sox keep me up at night, so why should I care how my leaders feel about them? I worry about paying the mortgage, finding a new job if my current one goes sour, affording college for my son, and what on earth I would do if someone in my family had a health-care emergency not covered by insurance. I need a representative who understands these issues not just in an academic sense, but as a result of either personal experience or natural empathy. Call it the “yeah, I’ve been there too” factor. This principle is exquisitely understood by Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln from
…what mattered to
Thank you, sweet voice of sanity.
Issues vs. Image
One thing for which I will credit Sosnik, however, is the imagery he conjures by invoking the “Applebee’s” illustration. That analogy was brilliant; it was just misused. The Applebee’s title isn’t about issues, it’s all about image. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that no American politician will capture the White House without the ability to project the aura of being at home in every American’s local Applebee’s (or Chilli’s, Friendly’s, Denny’s, Bennigan’s, Cracker Barrel, TGI Friday’s, etc).
Our President is our Brother (or Sister), and we want – scratch that, we need – our Brother to be able to sit down with us in the places where we feel comfortable. Imagine John Kerry (not as Senator or candidate, but just as the man he is) walking into Applebee’s with some of his working buddies, sitting down, ordering a Sam Adams and a cheeseburger with mushrooms, and generally kicking back, taking it easy. Kinda ridiculous, huh? Now take that same scene, and replace it with Bill Clinton. Quite a contrast, isn’t it?
We don’t just want leaders who we can relate to; we want leaders who can relate to us. Even better, we want leaders who are one of us. The principles of our country are based on moving away from exclusivity, and moving power into the hands of us common folk. Never mind that George Washington was one of the richest men in America, he crossed the Delaware shoulder to shoulder with hungry farmers on that cold Christmas Eve while King George was reclining in Buckingham Palace.
We need that type of solidarity with our president, be it real or perceived. Deep down inside, all of us believe that, given two hours of exclusive conversation with the President of the