Saturday, June 9, 2012

Who Do You Want to Talk To? Teabaggers or Eligible Voters That Stayed Home (HINT: Which Group is Larger?)

As difficult as things have been in Wisconsin since Scott Walker "dropped the bomb" with his "divide and conquer" strategy, it has been rewarding to see people pull together and fight back.   I've met wonderful people, great writers, videographers, and multi-media specialists.  There are many wonderful bloggers that keep the protest scene vibrant.  This post, titled "No More Mr. Nice Liberal," last Friday at Publius No. 9 got me thinking...

Anyone that has attended more than a few rallies/events in Wisconsin may has seen someone being noisy, boisterous, or rude.  This upsets some.  Personally, I choose to live and let live, not take my eyes off the prize, and accept diversity of all types as GOOD.

Evidently, some feel that we can't convince republican voters to come over to our side if we are not extremely nice to them.  This writer accepts that perspective, doesn't see it that way, but tries to "live and let live".  Here at VOICES, we want to encourage more people to get involved which means:
  1. Giving others room at the "table" to express themselves and take ownership of their role in the movement
  2. Never ordering someone around, confronting people on "our side", demanding strict conformity on anything.  If someone is truly a problem, there are other ways to deal with this including politely talking to people that are approachable, initiating conversation and, if there is a mutually respectful dialog and agreement on the larger issues, politely sharing different ways we might work together for positive change.
I don't want to judge anyone, though I have to admit, sometimes I perceive that someone steps in front of the parade and proclaims to be the leader, confronting and even yelling at others to do what they are told instead of what they are doing.  This bothers me, but I try to bite my tongue and walk away.  We can lose people when this happens.

Please read No More Mr. Nice Liberal to learn more about the excellent points Publius No. 9 shares.  Why should someone consider not being nice?  Don't we need to be extremely polite and civil to convince people to come over to our side?

Perhaps - I would support anyone that believes this is so.

My perspective is this:  In most cases, we are not going to get republican voters on our side in any significant numbers or in meaningful ways and even if we did for one election cycle, we cannot expect them to continue to vote in a manner that will result in positive change.  Talk to the righties all you want. 

Me - no thanks, I believe it's not where we will make a difference.  Please let me explain why (but feel free to disagree!) .

Walker actually "won" (if anyone can actually verify the votes, right?) his recall election and about 55 percent of eligible voters cared enough to vote - only a little more than half of Wisconsin citizens that could have cast ballots.  Despite what you may have heard about "record" numbers, this is actually a low turnout.  Low turnouts undermine democracy in many ways.

And America has some of the lowest turnouts of any country that proclaims itself to be a democracy, doing just barely better than South Korea.  I don't know anyone that considers this country a thriving democracy, so being essentially like them is not something to be proud of.

The republican party, acting on a Koch brother sponsored ALEC agenda, thinks TOO MANY Americans vote!  Evidently, they want us to have a democracy that is even MORE dysfunctional than North Korea - please tell me again why anyone would consider that patriotic.

So, in fact, if you do some rough math (we don't need to be precise to make this point), we can see that if Walker got a little more than 1/2 of those votes (remember, only about half the eligible population voted) and Barrett got slightly less,  Walker is actually proclaiming a "mandate" with the consent of just under 1/3 of the voting population - about 30 percent.  Barrett got something just under that, closer to 25%, and about 45 percent stayed home!

And the teabaggers?  Not only is this a fake grassroots movement, it is a very small percentage of Americans - 18 percent and shrinking.

Chasing the minority that voted for Walker is the "long route".  About 70 percent of Wisconsin voters did not indicate consent to Walker's rule - this is the shorter path to success.

There is a population of about 45 percent of eligible voters (much bigger than Walker's base) that, if we could motivate them to get to the polls and vote in their own economic best-interests, would create a landslide against corporatists like Scott Walker.

Now let's be clear, I am not suggesting in any way we should be rude and loud with anyone.

But we need to understand that the biggest reason people don't vote is because they don't like their choices at the polls.  They don't feel they have a dog in the fight.  The next biggest reason is that voting is inconvenient for their schedules (or so they say).

Want to beat back the teabaggers and the current wave of republicans?  Let's find ways to get more people engaged and let's make it easier to get to the polls and vote!  This will be much easier than chasing right wing-nuts.

People drop out of politics because their life experiences suggest voting does not matter.  We need to bring those people back to the polls.  We need to find candidates that will run on platforms that support the needs and aspirations of those that are currently so unhappy they stay home.

Remember, people will stay engaged and accept losing some battles as long as they know they have a dog in the fight - then they are willing to come back and fight for their rights in the next battle.

So passion, creativity, and strategies other than debating republican voters has their place.

The teabagging movement is loud and obnoxious as it comes.  If we can trust the exit polls from Wisconsin (and there is very good reason to believe they were corrupted and misused) we can see that the "in-your-face" juvenile antics of the bogus teabagging rallies motivates some people - perhaps people that would stay home without the rabble-rousing.

We are NOT saying that progressives and liberals should be rude and act like adolescent teenage boys on their bad days.  We are saying that getting people that don't vote now to get back into the political process will not be easy until we can touch them emotionally.

Once we get their attention and interests picked, we can have a dialog and go forward.  So what follows are a few points we would like you to consider:
  1. Talk to all the republicans you want - debate until you are blue in the face and be polite as you deem fit.  This may work for you.  You may win some minds and hearts.  But please remember, there are more people on the sideline not voting and this is really where we may have more success.
  2. Even if we can convince a republican to vote for a progressive candidate in an election cycle, one has to wonder if they will actually support progressive ideas.  Frankly, this writer is sick of blue-dog dems and the gridlock they create.  Absolutely nothing positive will happen and this disenfranchises voters.
  3. Energizing people may be the first step to getting people engaged - especially those that are disconnected.  This will take different approaches - more buckets catch more rainwater.  Being respectful is important, but we can carry messages in many different ways.  
The republican party does not respect diversity and demands ideological conformity.  Traditionally, dems have called themselves a "big tent" and perhaps this can undermine sucess at the polls.  After all, once elected, if the "big tent" doesn't agree on policy; everything falls apart.

Which brings us back to the choice:  Is the best strategy to convince republicans to vote progressive or should we be bringing new faces to the party?

We respect your choice.  We only hope that those that want change are respectful of the choices others make, because there is no one right answer.

We will win when we convince more people to vote in their economic interests.

A simple mathematical analysis demonstrates that it may be easier to recruit the 45 percent that stay home to join us in the fight for freedom and economic justice rather than trying to peel off Walker/republican/teabagging voters.

And when we bring new people to the table, we bring fresh ideas.  We may be able to minimize or avoid creating a "big tent" that will not agree on a political/economic agenda and endlessly fights amongst itself - the circular firing squad.

In this writers experience, it is much more fun and much more effective to get out and rabble-rouse in a non-insulting way, targeting and energizing casual or non-voters.  We don't have to actually change their minds, we just need to get their attention, arouse their spirit, and open their minds.

1 comment:

Publius No. 9 said...

While turning out more voters is good for Wisconsin and could negate the far-right lies, statistics and polls tell us that without changing opinion, they will vote in nearly the same percentage as voted in the recall election. IMNSHO, we must work to convince everyone of the truth by aggressively repeating short and emotional talking points, just as the right does. But instead of lies, our talking points must wholly consist of truth.

You are right on, the likelihood that we can convince Walker's base that they are voting against their interests is very low. However, Walker's base is not all those who voted for him last week, it's much more like 20 or 30% of those voters. So, there's a lot of convincible people who voted for Walker, and many more who didn't.

In order to win a majority, Walker had to dupe these people into voting against their interests and the truth, and he successfully did. So, how did Walker dupe them? That's the ultimate question.

As far as being "nice," my point wasn't so much that we should be rude but aggressive. Liberals' niceness often prevents us from being aggressive. But if we can't match the vigor and aggressiveness of the Tea Party, especially when rights have been taken away, we will continue to lose the argument. People believe the urgency of the Tea Party because of their aggressiveness, and people didn't believe the urgency of the recall because we didn't seem as upset. Yes, there were tens of thousands of protesters, but we seemed to be less upset than enjoying ourselves. When two people are upset, the one screaming more loudly is given more attention. That's just a fact of psychology that we better learn quick.

We used to be much more aggressive. Unions didn't get to where they were by being "nice" and passively explaining their views to people. Many people gave their blood, sweat, tears and lives to get there. My first day at the protests last year, I met a friend who was involved in the protests in the '60's, and he said he would be the last person there even if it meant he'd be arrested. The only way he felt that we would prevail is if things got nasty. Guess what happened. Things didn't get nasty, and Walker prevailed.

We don't have to be rude to be aggressive. By aggressive, I mean more people need to speak up and do it with more emotion. Loud, in this case, doesn't mean the volume of one person, but the collective volume of all of us. Some will no doubt be louder than others, and I believe we need more of those, too. We must also make sure that we elect politicians who will speak loudly and emotionally about our values. It's time to show everyone how much this really means to us.

This is turning into a great conversation on how we convince voters, a very important conversation. Thank you very much for taking part and keeping it going.