The art of finding common ground
Political evangelism, like gospel evangelism, is the art of finding common ground with a person who doesn’t agree with you—then leveraging what you have in common to demonstrate why what you believe is better news for him than what he believes.
- It’s risky (you have to give him the opportunity to convert you).
- And hard (you have to invest a lot of energy into understanding where he’s coming from, why he came to where he is, and where he ultimately wants to go).
- It’s inefficient (you can’t just plow through his prejudices on some pre-ordained schedule).
- But it’s effective (in fact, it’s the only approach to deep body persuasion that ultimately works).
Reminder to journalists and political apologists:
You can’t close a sale you’ve slammed the door on.
Sadly, and not for the first time, my friend Ron did this today.
It’s not the tweet that’s the problem. He was trolling us and, besides, he also trolled Democrats.
Well, okay, his Democrat trolling isn’t on the same depth of offense as pulling the race card (again) on the whole right wing.
It’s what he said in the piece that’s the problem.
Ron Fournier, National Journal: This Is How Millennials Roll—
At the same time, the report says the average monthly participation in the food-stamp program grew nearly 77 percent. The cost of the program climbed to $71.8 billion in 2011 from $30.4 billion four years earlier.
Grab your racial dog whistles, folks, and cue the right-wing outrage. This is the Obama welfare state gone wild!
This isn’t Ron’s first trip to the Dog Whistle Rodeo.
Why and How Romney is Playing the Race Card (August 29, 2012):
Working-class whites, in other words, are already more prosperous and secure than working-class minorities, but they’re less optimistic because they don’t believe they’re climbing anymore. They’re simply trying to hold on to what they’ve got, and see others grabbing at it.
Thanks to Romney, they see minorities grabbing at their way of life every day and all day in the inaccurate welfare ad. It opens with a picture of Bill Clinton (a man obsessed with Macomb County and Reagan Democrats) signing the 1996 welfare reform act, which shifted the benefits from indefinite government assistance to one pushing people into employment and self-reliance.
A leather-gloved white laborer wipes sweat from his forehead. “But on July 12,” the ad intones,” President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send your welfare check and “welfare to work” goes back to being plain old welfare.”
Sweaty White Laborer = That’s Me!
“You Wouldn’t Have to Work” = Blacks Wouldn’t Have to Work
“They Just Send Your Welfare Check …” = They Just Give Your Pay Away to Lazy Blacks
“Plain Old Welfare” = Remember Those Welfare Queens? They’re Back.
As I go back in time to the event Ron is describing, he helps me hugely here by describing his thought processes—the context of his repeated claim:
Knowing all this, and with deep personal roots in Detroit’s racial maw, I felt on firm ground Tuesday asking Ron Kaufman, a Romney adviser, why the campaign was playing the race card in places like Macomb County.
“I couldn’t disagree more,” Kaufman replied.
“You know an ad like that touches a racial button,” I said.
“No it doesn’t,” Kaufman replied. “I don’t agree with you at all.”
Kaufman who I’ve known and respected for years, accused me of playing the race card – a fair point, strictly speaking, because I raised the question in a public setting: a joint interview with CBS’ John Dickerson before a large audience and live-streamed.
Still, Romney and his advisors stand by an ad they know is wrong – or, at the very least, they are carelessly ignoring the facts. That ad is exploiting the worst instincts of white voters – as predicted and substantiated by the Republican Party’s own polling.
That leaves one inescapable conclusion: The Romney campaign is either recklessly ignorant of the facts, some of which they possess – or it is lying about why (and how) it is playing the race card.
Romney playing the race card.
Boggles the mind.
In the same piece, Fournier cites an AP study:
In the final months of Obama’s history-making 2008 campaign, The Associated Press conducted a series of polls and surveys that uncovered deep-seated racial misgivings costing Obama significant votes. The study, conducted with Stanford University, suggested that the percentage of voters who might reject Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the difference between the margin of President Bush’s 2004 victory – about 2.5 percentage points.
I checked back copies of the newspaper and was shocked to discover that Obama won that election.
Also the 2012 one.
I guess the racist Romney couldn’t get his racist message out to enough racist voters to swing the election his way.
Fournier would have none of it.
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf, speaking in bureaucratic-ese, told Congress that Obamacare “creates a disincentive for people to work.”
Cue the outrage. Republicans initially twisted the analysis to suggest that Obamacare would throw 2 million people out of work. Quickly proven wrong, they shifted their attack. They warned that millions of lazy, unmotivated Americans would take advantage of the law to live on the government dole.
The GOP argument takes a dim view of Americans. It assumes that the only reason millions of people work is for company health care insurance—that there is no inner drive to ascend economically and socially. Give me a government check and to hell with the American Dream.
That may be true for some Americans, but certainly not for most. The GOP argument has more than a whiff of Reagan-era racial “welfare queen” politics.
“Cue the outrage.”
Sweet guy. And, no, I’m not being sarcastic.
He just can’t see that’s it’s wrong to say what he’s saying.
Over and over.
With no proof.
Negatively branding everyone who disagrees with him on these policies.
And winning no converts in the process.
You can’t close a sale you’ve slammed the door on.
To switch metaphors:
You can’t find common ground with somebody you keep voting off the island.
As for how dog whistles really work, I like the way Taranto says it (Mitt Bites Dog):
Ruff stuff! The thing we adore about these dog-whistle kerfuffles is that the people who react to the whistle always assume it’s intended for somebody else. The whole point of the metaphor is that if you can hear the whistle, you’re the dog.