"Daily Dose": There is no silver bullet

July 17, 2017

This article from the Associated Press caught my attention over the weekend: "Dems still strive to tell voters what their party stands for"



The article quotes DNC Chair Tom Perez (pictured above) as saying “The Democratic Party needs to up its game...What I hear most from people is, ‘Tom, we not only need to organize, but we need to articulate clearly what we stand for." 


This comes as the DCCC announced that it's 2018 slogan will be "Have you seen the other guys?" Not even the House Democratic Caucus Chair, Joe Crowley, knows what to tell his constituents about the Dems core message:


“That message is being worked on,” the New York congressman said in an interview this past week. “We’re doing everything we can to simplify it, but at the same time provide the meat behind it as well. So that’s coming together now.”


The article underscores the Dems fundamental problem: 


"The admission from the No. 4 House Democrat — that his party lacks a clear, core message even amid Republican disarray — highlights the Democrats’ dilemma eight months after President Donald Trump and the GOP dominated last fall’s elections, in part, because Democrats lacked a consistent message."


Here's the reality for Dems that virtually no one wants to admit or address. As the article points out, most discussion about message strategy is a "tug of war" between hot button issues for Democrats - health care and impeaching Donald Trump. The problem is, as we've seen over the past decade (at least), people aren't voting on a set of issues, much less the facts on those issues! People are voting for a belief system, who best represents the dominant belief system that aligns with their hopes and dreams, and an authentic leader. 


Most Democratic strategists are completely missing the fact that progressive values are completely absent from political discourse - even though the vast majority of people are capable of empathy (feeling a moral responsibility towards other people's well being as their own). In the quest for a silver bullet on a hot button issue, Democrats are missing the most important point - that people can connect and be brought together simply by feeling a moral responsibility to act on their empathy for other people! While people will always takes sides on some issues (even within their own party), people can be brought together through empathy. 


There is no silver bullet for Democrats. There never has been, and never will be. I believe that people like George Lakoff (and myself on a more local level) are being looked to after the 2016 election because Dems think that there is a silver bullet turn of phrase that will magically turn the tide. Many Dems don't want to think that they must fundamentally change their approach to how they communicate with people. This lack of core message is a cognitive problem decades in the making. What it will take is for people like us to make caring for others the centerpiece of everything we do and say in our communities.


The key for progressives is empathy. Watch this excellent, short video by Brene Brown on why empathy really is so important:



We'll get to specific issues in future days. For now, let's focus on something cognitively fundamental. Authoritarians WANT people to think only in their own self-interest. If you're only thinking of yourself, you're more likely to be affected by fear. After all, if you believe you're on your own and that self-reliance and discipline are necessary for success; then you are more likely to fear a future without a strong, authoritarian father figure to lead the way and set the example for success - like Donald Trump. This makes it easy for conservatives to get people to think about themselves, and keep them disconnected from others: "well, at least I've got a job", or "at least I've got my facebook friends", or "at least I've got all these entertainment choices to distract me."


There is an effective way to counter that cognitive frame. If you are thinking and acting on empathy towards others, you CANNOT be thinking in your own self-interest. Your brain won't let that happen due to a thing called "mutual inhibition." Two opposing systems can be present in your brain (which they are in most people), but only ONE can be active at any given time.  Activate empathy in people and make a REAL connection, and you suppress AND weaken the authoritarian, self-interest worldview.


Before anything else, this ought to be progressives FIRST priority. Connect with people by evoking and acting on the fact that being progressive means authentically caring about people's well being. Most importantly, progressives need to act on their own empathy in their communities. In today's political environment, that's easier said than done. 


As progressives (and Democrats), we need to focus on actually caring about people who we may not agree with (Republicans), and showing them that through empathy, we can all have better lives. To be effective, we need to get out in our communities and show everyone that we are guided by our moral responsibility to live by the Golden Rule (or whatever you wish to call it) of DOING unto others as we want for ourselves. 


Create community by your actions and what you say. And by the way, doing so is not showing "weakness" for your opponent. Quite the contrary, caring for others as yourself and acting through empathy requires strength of character and courage. It means opening yourself up to people you don't agree with, and showing them that you actually care about them as human beings - and that you share something deeper, that can't be subverted by issues.


The bottom line for your first "Daily Dose" - get out of your social media bubbles, get out in the community, and start organizing events and activities that show people what progressives are really about: caring for others. It also means taking a different approach on social media. Try some things like this when you post about progressive ideas:


#Democracy means caring for others, not just yourself @RealDonaldTrump


It's not about "you" and "me". It's about all of us in a #Democracy


No one is free if they are alone. #Freedom means caring for others, and having others caring for you. #ThisIsWhatDemocracyLooksLike


Caring about our family, friends and neighbors is a #Wisconsin value. And it's the #American way


I'm sure you can come up with more - feel free to share in the comments and share your posts on my facebook and twitter (@bdgrdemocracy) pages!


Tomorrow - healthcare and progressive values.