Friday, July 27, 2012

The Answer? Stay Out of the Weeds

No. Not that weed!

Recently I posted a blog asking for your ideas on answering someone who says he or she doesn't know how to vote and may stay home in November. This segment of voters say they voted for Obama in 2008 but now believe that "he's no different from the other one."

First of all, don't get discouraged by the attitude of these folks. Obama won super big in 2008 partly because these people got fired up and voted even though in an ordinary election they probably would have stayed home. If they now can't see the huge difference between Obama and Romney, they are likely to be low-interest voters. They don't really care enough to be informed, and in 2008 they probably just got swept along by the Obama crowds in what used to be called "the band-wagon effect." Fortunately, Obama had enough margin in 2008 that he can afford to lose some of them this time.  Let's face it. The election in 2008 was an extraordinary one, more like a movement than a campaign. You will likely never see such an extraordinary election event again in your lifetime. So perhaps we just shouldn't worry about the maybe-won't-vote folks.

That being said, we don't want to forget the immortal words of the immortal Fats Waller:  "One never knows, do one?"

We may need every last one of these formerly-Obama voters. Sure, the voters on the far-right aren't enthusiastic about Romney, but they are deeply driven by their hatred of Obama. Count on it. They will show up in huge numbers on election day. Oh, yeah.

So we may need our own wobbly folks very much. Therefore, what do we say to answer their weird belief that there's no difference between Obama and Romney?

Since they seem to be ill-informed even in this "information age", they probably aren't open to us preaching to them the true facts. Nor will they likely respond to arguing. By personality type, they probably have a streak of "I'm exceptional, I'm so cool, and I know better." These people can get very stubborn because they are actually defending their self-image. So it's probably better to stay out of the weeds and not argue on the basis of Obama's record and the contrasting idiocy of Romney.

You might want to try what I used in talking with a guy named Alan at my satellite TV provider. (I'll grab a voter wherever I can find one). We got into talking politics because I had called up to "cancel" my service since I can't afford the price hike that had arrived with my bill. (The satellite company and I play this game every few months.) So Alan solved my problem by waiving the increase for a year. And from there I slid into "what tough times these are".  He agreed. (The first thing in making a sale is to get someone to agree with you about something.)

Now Alan and I are on the same side. And it's the side of the "little folks",  not the rich or even the comfortable among the middle class. He knows I'm a little old lady living on Social Security (that's why I need the lower TV rate), and I know he's working for piss-poor wages because he works answering phones for a TV provider. He likes little old ladies and has just given one of them a break. This means he may open up and talk to me and listen to me. Really listen.

So I ask him if he plans to vote in November. (NOT whom he is supporting. That's too nosey.) And that's when he tells me about how he has fallen away from Obama, seeing him as no different from Romney. I don't argue Obama's record because that's as good as saying that Alan is a fool and ill-informed. Instead I keep it to the common ground we share:  being "just folks".

"Well, you know, Alan, I look at it like this after living a long time. I ignore all the blither-blather  TV and just look at where the guys came from. What is their story? That way I can get a pretty good idea of whose side they're on." Then I mention Obama being raised by a single mom and the struggle they had and her fighting the insurance company while dying of cancer. And him being orphaned and raised by his grandparents. "So he knows what it's like for us folks."

And the other guy, the rich one? Well, rich guys can be okay, like FDR. Because FDR had trouble in his life too, what with being a cripple with polio. He knew what it is to have it tough. We know a guy like that has good stuff in him, some real steel and some heart.  "But Romney seems to have had it soft the whole way."

All along, Alan has had a chance to agree with me as I paused after each point about Obama's background. (Who except birthers can deny Obama's biography?) So when I get to the last point  - essentially, that Romney is not on our side  -  Alan again agrees with me. He's formed the habit by then of agreeing with me.

Will Alan vote for Obama in November? We don't know. But the chances now are better that he will. For a moment I had taken him back to those glory days of 2008 when Obama's story touched millions of low-interest voters, before the push-and-shove of actual governing clouded people's perceptions.

Was I being manipulative? No. Because everything I said was true, including the conclusion that Obama is on our side and Mitt Romney definitely isn't.

Now go out there and sell Obama! Just remember to reach your audience where they live, the ground where they stand. Don't get into the weeds of arguing the policy facts. (Unless there is one issue that this one voter has a big stake in.) Don't razzle-dazzle and show off. Keep it simple and go for the core, remembering that PEOPLE VOTE FOR THE GUY THEY LIKE! Just ask Ronald Reagan.

And if you do this often enough, then maybe Fats Waller was wrong. Maybe "One never knows, do one" should be modified to "Sometimes one knows, don't one."

Can we know we can make that difference?  Yes, we can! Oh, yes we can! And we do know, don't we?



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