On Closing the Deal, Or, Preaching Beyond The Choir
With roughly 50 days to go, we find ourselves more or less tied in the Presidential election, if the national polls are to be believed.
We have succeeded in motivating our base, and Republicans have, as of today, done the same.
What we are not doing very well is bridging that gap and effectively spreading the discussion to the other side...which is the point of today’s conversation.
Where can our conservative friends be found?
Your friendly fake consultant has been on a mission...and I have some answers.
First, about the “mission”: for the past several months I have been posting and commenting at the Pat Buchanan website. This follows up on a similar mission I undertook in 2006 and 2007 to post and comment at RedState.
It has been an educational experience, indeed...but also a hopeful one.
Right off the bat, let’s talk about the culture. As you might expect, the tone and tenor of the discussion is far different than what you see on many progressive sites...although there are Conservatives (and Maryscott O’Connor) who will remind us that we are not always as high-minded as we wish we were.
As an example, the Buchanan supporters, among other things, are particularly distressed about the impact of World Zionism and the International Jewish Conspiracy that has created Neo-Cons who...
Well, the point is that you will have to deal with this stuff.
My advice: for the most part, you are not going to be successful with frontal attacks on the local belief system. If you want to move minds in this environment, look for the areas of agreement...and look to the disconnect between what the candidates say and the reality of what is happening daily—and down the road.
Another piece of advice: show respect, even in the face of provocative language.
I can tell you it works for me...in fact, today, hardly anyone calls me a deluded bleeding-heart liberal—and that’s progress.
In this same vein, try to avoid personal attacks in these conversations. These are citizens who we are trying to speak to as people—and we are trying to show them that the Republican Party is acting against the best interests of all of us.
Which leads to my next point: the primary goal here is to reduce the personal identification of these voters as Republicans—and remind them of their own Conservative associations, which diverge considerably from the Bush/McCain/Rove Republican orthodoxy.
Another thing about Conservative culture that should be understood is that John McCain is not exactly as huge a hero figure as you might imagine. Remember the Neo-Con Jewish Conspiracy stuff? Many Conservatives see McCain as an extension of The Conspiracy...and many are just as upset about the Neo-Con vision and the Iraq foolishness as we are.
Evidence of this is found in the Sarah Palin selection, which was clearly intended to “lock those voters in” with someone who could be sold as “one of your own”.
(For those not aware, Conservatives are upset because they feel underappreciated by Republican “management”, who never seem to appoint “True Conservatives”, Antonin Scalia notwithstanding...and evidence of that is found in the size and enthusiasm of campaign crowds before and after the Palin selection.)
Beyond that, it’s a good idea to bring solutions to the discussion. Obviously, you won’t do that every time you speak, but on balance, you should be promoting workable ideas against unworkable ideas. People I talk to on the site seem to recognize (most of the time) that I’m not there to destroy the Nation, or crush anybody’s hopes or dreams by imposing Godless Communism upon them—instead they are beginning to acknowledge that we and they are both trying to make our country work better...even if we are trying to do it in different ways.
So let’s tie all this together by walking through a conversation from a visit to the No Quarter website. The topic under discussion was Obama’s use of the “lipstick” metaphor...and feelings have been running high. I came in after these this comment...
“Clearly the Obamabots are scared. Hence they’re going on offense and making an all out assault in the blogosphere in a desparate attempt to dig up a few bleating sheep they can bring back into the fold.”
“Full panic/meltdown mode, for our late-night amusement.”
To which I offered this rejoinder:
“obama supporters are scared?
What came back was this:
“ ...Four years ago?
Followed by this:
“uh...you do know that Bush is not running for President again don’t you?
Now notice, in my reply, how I do not personalize the issue...while still addressing facts:
“we do know democratic members of congress took impeachment off the table, and if you take a quick jaunt to dailykos you’ll quickly discover that it was not appreciated.
Notice how we disconnected the Republican Party Establishment from these voters and Traditional Conservative Values...and you notice how neatly we were able to transition to a discussion of actual issues?
As of this writing there has been no reply, suggesting the weakness of the Republican position is something of a problem for these voters...and that it’s a problem for which they have no response.
This process is far from perfect, however.
First, not me:
“I just watched the national forum on service–did I hear Senator Obama correctly, did he say that it was more difficult for him to get a job as a community organizer than it was for him to get a job on Wall Street? Is that true? is there any evidence he interviewed for banking jobs?”
Followed by me:
“how about another question?
Followed by one of those responses we talked about earlier, from a third party:
“I think that what Obama meant was — it is difficult for a mulatto to get a job in the Stock Market. These jobs are mainly reserved for Jews.
This exchange actually brings me to another point I’ve been meaning to address: we are not writing between two people. Instead, we are writing for ourselves, the people to whom we respond...and also to the people who will read but not comment.
There will be curious voters who are not yet decided who visit Conservative sites who will read this and feel repelled by this kind of thinking...which can only help us. As we talked about earlier, it’s to no one’s advantage to attack the local belief system directly. Instead, I’m going to hang back, see what other responses appear, and try to again return the discussion to who is making the most sense...and who is looking foolish.
Here is an exchange in which I did not participate that demonstrates the doubts that Conservatives have about Palin:
“Stop worrying about McCain dying. He is not. He is just getting started.”
...the original poster responds...
“Oh I’m not worried about McCain dying. I’m just concerned about this being the broader foreign policy of his first-term administration.”
...a third person appears...
“Remember Palin will be Parroting McCains policies.”
...the third person adds a comment...
“Wait till she gets going on amnesty. It will make you puke!
What we can learn here is that these voters do not trust McCain in the first place, and as Palin begins to lose her “Goddess of All She Surveys” status they become less and less likely to vote for this ticket.
When you hear that Ron Paul and Bob Barr may siphon off McCain voters, it’s these voters you’re hearing about.
This is a superb time to go out and meet a few disenchanted voters of your own...and the more we remind them that the reality does not match the rhetoric, and do it truthfully, the more effective we can be.
So, you might ask, where can these voters be found?
A few suggestions: obviously, there’s the Pat Buchanan site, the aforementioned No Quarter, which seeks to link “anti-anti-Hillary” voters to the Republican movement, RedState, the largest of the Conservative spaces, and Little Green Footballs, which at the moment is quite upset with Charlie Gibson.
So that’s the story: the time is exactly right to go out and do this work, and there is a potentially receptive audience, but these voters speak in a language to which we have to adapt; and they believe things we don’t.
That said, by showing some respect and allowing a fair amount of insanity to roll off your back...and offering a few solutions that make sense...you can begin to show these same voters that McCain is not going to be the right choice for them—or their kids.
If you go and comment one day a week, that’s 7 visits between now and Election Day...and it’s seven chances to preach beyond the choir that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
So go out and preach.
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Related Links+ Maryscott O’Connor
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