How Do We Encourage US & NC Swing Voters Not To Hate?

RFK Talks With Miners

Yup. Started off tendentious. Let’s continue. At the moment, the body politic in the US and North Carolina generally votes right of center. No-one really believes this is because the Republicans are the party of aspiration. It is because they allow their supporters to hate. Democrats, mind you, aren’t the party of aspiration, either. They have become the party that asks swing voters to support issues and people with which those voters are demonstrably uncomfortable. Hence, the current political landscape in the US and North Carolina.

So, how do we win over enough swing voters to regain a natural voting majority for Democrats? I don’t have a gameplan as such. I have some thoughts though:

1) Stop preaching. Start asking. Democrats do not know best just because we are educated and intelligent. We know what is best for folks because we ask them. Enough of which we do not do at the moment. And don’t be asking a fellow progressive. Ask the people who are going to make a difference. The middle-of-the-road, likely working voters, who voted Republican in 2010, 2012 and 2014, at local and state level. Who preferably might have contributed to Obama’s two landslides.

2) Stop telling folks they are wrong just because they don’t vote the way we do. They are different. Not wrong. You win with candy. Not a stick.

3) A lot of folks in the center vote by herd instinct. I’ve lived around. Dallas, Atlanta, Carrboro, Providence, Boston. The mountains of western Carolina. Low income housing in Fort Worth and Carrboro. I’ve found single mothers with three kids on food stamps in the mountains voting Republican because it’s the cultural thing to do there. I’ve found truck drivers in Carrboro who are progressive because that’s what we do here. Find a way to make people comfortable being progressive, and it can become the mob mentality.

4) We excoriate Republicans because they promote prejudice. Wrong. Just find better prejudices. It’s the herd instinct thing. We want to make people feel good about voting our way. In the long-term, you don’t always achieve that by appealing to intellect. Somewhere along the way, you have to appeal to gut, too. I have made the journey from right-wing British Tory to left-of-center Democrat. I don’t hate. Don’t know how to. Always see the other point of view. But I have been surrounded by people who do hate. Foreigners, immigrants, the poor, people of color, people of different religious or gender orientation. But here’s the thing. And it’s important. Beneath the skin of every reasonable conservative beats the heart of a liberal. They actually want to love. Simple as that. It’s a good feeling to reach out and make people happy. And we don’t stress that enough.

5) Now, as a general rule, learned from some years spent in political public relations, on both sides of the political aisle, you don’t lead with morality or feeling when beginning the quest to change people’s minds. That comes later. You have to start with intellectual argument. And you have to use their language. We have to understand where they are coming from. And explain how where we are at offers something better, in terms they can understand. And often that requires some correction on our part with respect to policy and approach.

Let’s start with where I am politically now. I am a fiscal conservative. You can’t do anything if your economy and the public finances are in a mess. And, until something like mutualism really takes a hold globally, the bottom line is that economies derive their drive from folks who are rich. So, stop fighting it.

People do not aspire to be poor. They aspire to be rich and famous. So, stop punishing rich folk. Stop trying dramatically to re-distribute. Make ‘em pay a fair share. And concentrate on equality of access to all the levers, bells and whistles that allow everyone to aspire to the limits of what they are capable.

And I emphasize equality of access, of treatment. Not equality of outcome. We are not all born equal. We aren’t. We are who we are. We all have different levels and types of capability. Accept it. Be proud of it. Glorify it. What we can do is ensure that everyone receives the same treatment, has the same access and the same opportunity. After that, inequality is what it is. Every time anyone attempts to legislate equality of outcome, it ends in tears. Addressing one seeming inequality with another only feeds the hate.

At the same time, there are folk who will never be able to swim in the capitalist sea that we have created. Socialism does not work. Not in practice. So, it is some form of capitalism we are stuck with. But let us, with dignity and respect, create a proper safety net, that fully cares for those who are unable, through no fault of their own, to look after themselves.

That was my political journey. Accepting the second part of the financial and social equation. It is not a political sin to want to build a working welfare state. However, Democrats too often sound as if it is a sin to want a thriving economy based on a realistic business outlook.

You don’t win people over with the morality of Obamacare. You tell ‘em a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. You don’t win over folks to feel comfortable with gays. You win them over to same-sex marriage by telling ‘em that marriage of any kind is a better home for kids than a foster home. You don’t win over people to the citizenship path for undocumented workers by quoting the Statue of Liberty (one of my favorite things to do, I have to admit!). You win ‘em over by talking about 11 million new taxpayers, who want to build new businesses.

Then, you can wax lyrical how all of this helps to make our fellow man and woman happier. Trust me, you want to create a better prejudice than hate, it is the feeling you get when you make a sad person smile.

In 2011, after Republicans regained the US House of Representatives, and made huge gains in statehouses, I wrote a political song, called ‘Song of Solidarity.’ In my promotion I talked about Republicans who had stolen the mantle of patriotism. And how we needed to win it back for working people. Not Democrats. Working people. Democrats stopped being the party of working people a long time ago.

I talked about working folk who fought our wars, to escape poverty back home. I talked about true patriots being the people who ran our companies and our country. Who worked the shopfloors and fixed our roads. Who owned responsibility not just for their immediate dependents, but for the wider family of their friends and neighborhoods. I talked and still talk about shared responsibility.

How it is no good berating the police, when we don’t ask communities to take responsibility for those among them who break the law. How it is just as important for pastors, preachers and activists to educate the young about healthy social interaction, as it is for the rest of us to understand those at risk. Balance. Responsibility. Prudence. Compassion. And common sense. In equal measure. Not one to the exclusion of others.

One final example. I bought my car from a used car dealer, whom I will call Frank. He was a light Republican. Owned the car lot. Started by his father. Going to leave it to his daughter. We got talking. He wanted to support Obama. Really did. But he put it to me like this. Geoff, he said, I’m a good man. I don’t hate. I run a business. I look after my family. Take care of my ailing dad. Go to church. Pop around and help out neighbors who have fallen on hard times. I don’t mind digging a little deeper, and helping folks I’ve never met, if they genuinely need help. But I keep finding myself asking myself, he said, where are those folk’s family and friends?

Frank, good question. In my simple view, going forward, being a more successful Democrat means not only listening, understanding, changing ourselves and reaching out, it not only means being right, and making folks feel good about making other people happy, it also means asking some very tough questions of the people we want to help, the very folks we are asking swing voters no longer to hate.

Not exactly comprehensive. But it’s a start.

Published in: on February 6, 2015 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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