News & Politics

The Quarantine Questionnaire: Democratic Operative Symone Sanders

The Biden 2020 adviser talks about ditching her fake lashes, taping audio for her new book, and steering clear of TikTok.

What’s the best thing you’ve streamed? Most useful thing in your freezer? Dream day when this is all over? In search of inspiration—and, let’s be honest, a bit of voyeurism—we’re asking Washingtonians (current and recently former) how they’re passing the time and getting through quarantine. Here’s Democratic political strategist and former CNN commentator Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to presidential candidate Joe Biden. During the last presidential election, Sanders—at age 25—became press secretary for Bernie Sanders. Her new book, No, You Shut Up, on sale May 18, recounts how she landed the gig, and why she migrated from Sanders 2016 to Biden 2020. (If the book’s title sounds familiar, maybe you saw former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tell Sanders to “shut up” during a 2017 cable TV segment.) Sanders will discuss her book with Politico’s Anna Palmer on May 19 at a Sixth & I virtual event.   

Photograph by Jonathan Hebert, courtesy of Harper Collins.

Best book I’ve read: Obviously my book, No, You Shut Up—I hope everyone will go out and buy as it is available everywhere books are sold ;). I recorded the audio book myself and recently listened to it. I never really thought of myself as a writer, but am so glad I made the decision to actually do the book. I think my literary contribution is right on time for this crazy, uncertain turn of events we are all collectively experiencing.

Best thing I’ve streamed: Ozark was literally amazing. I had not watched it before, so I read many primers and recaps for the first two seasons and let me tell you I was READY. What are my thoughts? Well, without any spoilers: I thoroughly dislike Wendy and I just don’t think she is as strategic as she thinks she is. Also, the next season cannot come soon enough.

I cannot leave this question without talking about Homeland. Just when you thought it was over, BOOM here we are with one of the best seasons ever. I loved it. It was a perfect ending.

Best podcast: I say this understanding my boss also has a podcast (“Here’s the Deal with Joe Biden”) that is quite good, but “The Daily” is one of the best podcasts out there! “The Daily” is the New York Times’ 30-minutes (or less) podcast moderated by Michael Barbaro. The podcast covers everything!!! I have listened to episodes on the predictions on the coronavirus from Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter for the New York Times. As well as an episode on the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a young African American man murdered in a suburb of Georgia by two armed white men. “The Daily” content is always digestible and right on time. In February, I met Michael Barbaro while holding court with a few friends in the lobby of a Des Moines hotel and it was the highlight of my day. I am a fan. Michael: Please continue to bring us A1 content. I appreciate your service!

Best meme I’ve seen or shared: That would have to be the memes of Michael Jordan reading the iPad during The Last Dance interview segments and laughing. I have it saved in the favorites section of my photos, and I have already used it a few times. Michael Jordan truly is effortlessly giving us quality content.

Most useful thing in the freezer: Aside from the ice? Well I would have to go with the wine I throw in there daily before dinner. Casillero del Diablo is the brand. I buy the sauvignon blanc and it is delicious, but I can only find it at my Safeway (shoutout to the SW Safeway!). Early on during my shelter-in-place journey, I went to the grocery store in search of the usual: frozen pizza, chicken breasts, and a 7-layer dip. While at the store, I stumbled upon the sauvignon blanc section and my partner, Shawn [Townsend, DC’s “Nightlife Mayor”], told me the Casillero del Diablo was a good brand and I should try it. I was like, “Good has to be a relative term because this is Safeway,” but he assured me I should just buy it. He was so correct. Now, I buy the bottles four at a time.

Least useful thing in the freezer: Frozen salmon that was once fresh, but we did not cook it right away so we froze it. I do not foresee me ever thawing it out, but almost daily I move it around in search of something else.

Song/album on repeat: Savage remix by Megan thee Stallion and Beyoncé! I even downloaded Tidal. Now, I have a whole playlist of Beyoncé and Megan with a sprinkle of Rihanna. Basically the song is literally the hottest thing out right now. Definitely something that will carry us into the summer.

For the record: I do not know the dances to the song the kids (lol) are doing on TikTok because I don’t have one (and I do not intend to learn the dance or get a TikTok).

Best purchase: We just bought a bunch of things for our apartment. A new couch, bath caddies, more candles, a mirror for the wall in the living room, a bunch of pillows and more. I am OBSESSED with CB2, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Frontgate. Literally, I feel like in the next reiteration of my professional life, I want an HGTV show.

Favorite takeout: I am in love with the taco salads in the shell from Burrito Brothers on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Hill for lunch. For dinner, my favorite takeout is from Hot N Juicy in Woodley Park. I know you want to know my order: one pound and a half of headless shrimp, two clusters of crab legs, 12 sausages, four eggs, and four pieces of corn. I get the Hot N Juicy seasoning and I get MILD. (This is for the household!!!)

Go-to at-home cocktail: White Hennessy and Martinelli’s apple juice. We are on our last bottle of White Hennessy. Dear Lord, please let the lockdown end soon, so my friends in the Bahamas can replenish my supply.

Best part of the day: Shawn is going to read this so I have two answers 🙂 1) Waking up next to him! (Awww) and 2) Going to get my Starbucks!!! I have a Nespresso, but I regularly get dressed, get in my car, and go to Starbucks to pick up my mobile order. Starbucks is doing curbside service if you did not know. It’s literally the best thing ever and I usually end up taking at least one meeting from the car, sitting outside the store, sipping, feeling blessed and in bliss.

Favorite quarantine activity: Dinner with Shawn. I used to be on the road 22-25 out of the 30 days in a month, so having dinner together is not something we used to do very often. It has been a blessing to be able to sit down at our dinner table, pour libations and just talk about our virtual work days, the news, and catch up on our favorite shows.

Most surprising self discovery: I mean I guess I do not need those lashes I used to pay for after all. In the beginning of quarantine, I was a little beauty maven and filled in my own individual lashes. That did not last long. Now I am lashless, but still very fabulous.

Dream day once this all ends: I will wake up and run to the airport, barely make it, and settle in for my flight to Omaha, Nebraska. Because the thing I am looking forward to the most is hugging my mother. Never knew I would miss the ability to hug someone so much, yet here we are.

Kristen Hinman
Articles Editor

Kristen Hinman has been editing Washingtonian’s features since 2014. She joined the magazine after editing politics & policy coverage for Bloomberg Businessweek and working as a staff writer for Voice Media Group/Riverfront Times.