Thursday, November 11, 2004

What Chicken Fingers Can Teach the Democrats

The Democratic Party's navel-gazing has come up with some interesting theories as to why this election was lost, but it may have finally stumbled on an answer that could lead to a solution to their electoral woes.

According to one Democratic Party operative, the answer lies in their leadership's dining habits: they don't eat at Applebee's.

If the Washington elite, the theory goes, ordered more chicken fingers and chocolate fudge brownies, they just might get in touch with the values of those Red State voters.

Close, but no cigar.

Yes, Applebee's does hold the answer to their problem, but not in the way that these pundits suggest. Applebee's - (I prefer Chilis, and even Ruby Tuesday's with their low-carb menu) - does an outstanding job of meeting customer demands for convenient, low to medium priced American-cuisine meals with a friendly atmosphere and good service. Strategically placed near Marriott Courtyards and Hilton Garden Inns, they are the business travelers' staple for a quick bite after a long flight the night before the business meeting. And they take AMEX.

What these strategists are missing is that this business model was strategically planned, thoroughly researched, operationally designed, and ruthlessly executed to bring the customers those crunchy chicken fingers in a cost-effective manner. I bet that Applebee's also outsources some elements of their business so that they can focus on their perceived core competencies. And some business person had to put their capital at risk to get the whole enterprise off the ground.

These are the businesses that make America tick, and Americans are running them with pride, including the purchasing clerk who insures there is enough ketchup at each restaurant, to the truck driver who delivers the food and supplies, the manager who staffs the waitresses and cooks, the corporate quality control manager who insures consistent levels of service, and on and on. Each one of these employees tries to add value by lowering cost, improving service, and generating more customers. They understand competition.

Democrats see the business landscape as a rigged game with fat cats exploiting the workers at the bottom. Recent corporate scandals certainly show that this indeed occurs, and these excesses must be stopped, but the rule is more of people coming together to make business work.

So. . . instead of dining at Applebee's, the political strategist should GO TO WORK at Applebee's.

He would see that Americans want businesses to flourish, they want to keep more of their take-home pay, they want a dynamic job market so that they can switch jobs if they don't like the boss, and they generally don't want to be beholden to a union.

Mr. McAuliffe, can I have another Diet Coke?