There was the following statement in October 29 New Yorker’s article that came under the title, “Why the G.O.P. Candidates Don’t Do Substance”:

Did any of the candidates detail how they would pay for their huge tax giveaways? Of course not. Relying on the discredited arguments of supply-side economics, a few of them did say that reductions in tax rates would produce a much higher rate of economic growth, which would boost tax revenues. ...

It was left to John Kasich, who is seeking to position himself as the voice of sanity in the asylum, to state the obvious: “You know, these plans would put us trillions and trillions of dollars in debt…. Why don’t we just give a chicken in every pot, while we’re coming up with these fantasy tax schemes.”

What does “Give a chicken in every pot” mean? Why should it be chicken, not egg, bread, pork, or turkey? Is this a common idiom?

Additionally, is the phrase, “Don’t do substance” used in the headline a common expression as well? How different is it from “Don’t have substance,” which I feel like being more comfortable with?

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    – Jim
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 3:02
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    Don't do X is a common idiom. I believe it started with cleaning ladies who said they would do cleaning, "but I don't do windows".
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 3:26
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    Another possibly relevant catchphrase that "G.O.P. Candidates Don't Do Substance" may echo here is the longtime Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan, "We Do Chicken Right"—meaning we cook it the right way. Any such allusion would certainly extend the chicken metaphor a bit, though it would also take it out of the pot and put it into the bucket.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 5:09
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    The idiom, “Give a chicken in every pot” reminds me an old story I would hear from a female taxi driver I used to ask for a ride to the airport, when I was studying in a Beijing university more than 20 years ago. China was still at the developing stage then in contrast to today’s prosperity after going through the Culture Revolution. Her husband happened to be a staff of the same university where I studied. She used to brag me during the drive that she can afford to serve an egg to (the pot of) every member of her family every morning, because they are of double-income family. Time changes. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 8:12
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    "A chicken in every pot" is a very old expression, and last gained popularity in the US during the Great Depression. Frankly, most people in the US, though they would recognize the expression, would not understand what it connotes, politically.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 11:21

3 Answers 3


This is attributed to King Henry IV of France, who reigned from 1589 to 1610, and was reported to have said he wished for the peasantry

Un poule au pot le dimanche, A chicken in every pot on Sunday

Henry picked chicken, and it's been chicken ever since.

This is reported to be a slogan of Herbert Hoover's 1928 Presidential campaign:

A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.

But apparently the candidate never said it. It appeared in newspaper ads bought by Republican supporters.

Huey Long, the Louisiana populist (or demagogue, depending on your point of view) is supposed to have adopted the slogan for his 1932 campaign for governor:

A chicken in every pot, and every man a king

Given the fact that Hoover presided over the start of the Great Depression, the slogan is often used ironically to comment on politician's overblown promises of prosperity that never materialize. In your example, one of the Republican candidates is criticizing his fellow candidates for their economic plans, which consist mainly of cutting government spending and cutting taxes. Since they never say what programs they'll cut, it's unlikely they have any real plans to do so. They do have details about their tax cuts. The result would be to reduce revenue without reducing expenditures, a recipe for a disastrous increase in debt. Kasich is saying these plans are fantasies that would never be implemented, just like the promises of chicken for everybody.

"I don't do ," (where X is a noun) is a common, slangy locution for "I don't do the activity concerning X":

I don't do drugs (I don't take drugs.)
I don't do mornings (I'm not effective at anything before noon.)
I don't do relationships. (I don't get emotionally involved.)

And so on.

  • @BCdotWEB Done. Thanks for catching that (and for reading that closely).
    – deadrat
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 8:43
  • @Ricky Well, not every family.
    – deadrat
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 8:44
  • @Alizter Fixed. I blame the drugs. Same thanks to you.
    – deadrat
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 10:38
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    @Ricky, I'm not going to even try to defend French [or any other] kings, but in those days European peasantry had a mostly-vegetable diet, and any kind of meat would be a treat. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 12:17
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    Incidentally, a poule is a hen, not a chicken, and the phrase has another more subtle meaning. What Henri promised was first and foremost peace because in war time roaming armies would confiscate anything they could take and letting chicken grow to become mature birds was risky.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 22:46

The exact quote is "If God keeps me, I will make sure that there is no sharecropper in my kingdom who does not have the means to have a chicken in the pot every Sunday!" King Henry IV brought a period of peace and prosperity to France, partly because he instituted policies that benefited farmers and the common people.

The use of the word chicken simply gravitates more towards the time period and circumstance for which the phrase was coined.

To answer the second portion of your question: The phrases "Don't do substance" and "Don't have substance" aren't really different at all. The reporter/writer is simply referencing the fact that it appears all too common, among G.O.P candidates, to not have substance in their debates. In short: One is acting out - voicing out -"something" with substance and the later is more of a description.

Source: American Thinker


During the Hoover period, chickens were a luxury meal MAYBE served for Sunday dinner but not often, Chickens were expensive and NOT mass produced as they are today, A promise of an expensive meal to voters by the govt was an enticement when the enconomy was where it was at the time. ANOTHER empty promise by pols again Same ole promises that are meant to get votes. But are more smoke and mirrors.The RICH got RICHER and the poor starved. My parents described their requirement to not get married and start a family until war was on the horizon which meant war factories jobs. And employment again.

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    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 14:45

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