The Blog

I'm a liberal. I eat at Applebee's.

People laugh when I profess my love of Applebee's. My liberal friends make fun of me because it's a chain restaurant. My conservative friends laugh because it goes against stereotype.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I'm a fan of their half price appetizers. My mom and I like to meet there early on Sunday evenings for Oriental chicken salad and cheese sticks.

Why the heck am I writing about this?

First, a few other things about me.

I design training for Fortune 500 companies.

I like hockey and sports. Particularly the Buffalo Sabres even though they're the worst team in the NHL right now.

I'm married.

I was happy that Yuengling came to Ohio.

I'm a Presbyterian.

I own a house (well, technically the bank owns it).

I'm a liberal.

Why am I telling you this?

Because you hear so many lies about me.

You hear that I'm a socialist, communist, Marxist, Saul Alinsky-loving terrorist.

Or a lazy, dirty, out-of-work, Patchouli-wearing hippie.

Or a hip-hop loving, New Black Panther-crazed, tattoo-covered, hoodie-wearing gangsta.

Or a six-foot-six, Amazon, man-hating lesbian dyke femi-Nazi.

I think you get the picture. There's a marketing campaign to brand me as fringe. Don't believe me? Turn on AM radio. Someone is spending a lot of money on anti-liberal programming.

How does it work?

Have you ever watched the television show Cops?

I don't. But my mom is a huge fan. Most evenings you can find her TV tuned to Fox for Cops. When I call, I often hear it in the background turned up a little too loud.

If you watch Cops and only Cops, you'd think that crime is everywhere. Especially in big cities. When you hear about a crime being committed in the city, it reinforces your belief that crime is rampant in the city.

You don't see the more statistically important calm.

For example, I've lived in the city for over 20 years and never experienced a crime. Is there a TV show about that? No.

If you don't believe there's a marketing campaign, turn on your television, or your radio, or open a paper. Try to find an example where liberals or a liberal idea are portrayed as the voice of reason. You can, but you'll find far more examples where liberal ideas are marginalized or non-existent.

So why all the name calling? Why all the liberal bashing? Why all the books about Arguing with Idiots?

Quite simply, it's about voting. More accurately, it's about identity politics.

When you have ideas you want to pass which are hugely unpopular with the voting public (tax breaks and handouts for corporations, cutting Medicare and Social Security, defunding the government), you have to find another way to get those you want elected.

That way is identity politics.

What would your chances of getting elected be if you stood up and said "We stand for paying people less, making them work more, and reducing their benefits"?

Zero. So you focus on branding yourself as "good" and your opponents as "evil" and focus on culture because research has shown that people tend to vote for candidates they like and candidates that are like them.

What can you do?

If you've ever had to dispute a stereotype, none of this comes as a surprise. You know the frustration.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that many people you know may have bought into the marketing.

Remember, that your real fight is not with them. Your real fight is with the people behind the marketing.

Remember this as your temperature rises. If you feel yourself about to burst, remember you can always agree to disagree and walk away.

Remember that your friends and family are your natural allies. Even if you think of yourself as the leftiest liberal and the other person considers himself a diehard conservative, you probably share 95 percent of the same beliefs.

Show them how similar you are and what you have in common.

Applebee's, my love

People laugh when I profess my love of Applebee's. My liberal friends make fun of me because it's a chain restaurant. My conservative friends laugh because it goes against stereotype.

This doesn't make me angry though. Laughter is good and helps me reach them.

I'll say something like this:

All the liberals I know believe in capitalism. We just believe that it works best when people are well informed, when the markets are fair, and when it's well regulated.

Here's an example. Would you trust purchasing meat if it wasn't regulated by the USDA? Don't you think that many corporations would sell substandard product if they could turn a quick profit?

Am I arguing that you need to like Applebee's?

No. I'm simply making the case that if you want to convince people and win people over:

  1. You have to like them
  2. You have to break through the marketing
  3. And, you have to sell your beliefs

Having better ideas is not enough, we have to do a better job of selling them.

And, we have to do it without constant corporate backing and many media channels so we need as many people working within their immediate circles as possible.