“Fighting Back” starts with winning over “Heart & Minds” this Thanksgiving with people who live outside “The Bubble”
Most people at the RootsCamp conference for progressive organizers this past weekend get it…but my friend was kicked out because too many inside “The Bubble” that SNL parodied don’t.
For all those ready to protest Trump at every turn, it is a good time to remember that we can throw wrenches into the works over the next four years but we also need to throw out hands of friendship to non-voters and non-Democratic voters if we’re ever going to earn their support and actually take back the seats of power in America.
As we discussed at a session at RootsCamp this past weekend, one thing we should learn that has practical benefits for our roles as evangelists for our causes in the future, is how to talk to family and friends who voted for Trump to avoid nuclear exchanges over the holiday dinner table. We talked about avoiding name-calling and labels like “racist” that are sure to end any civil conversation as well as creating dialogue with open-ended questions that start with “What” or “How” instead of “Why” which can feel kind of accusatory.
Aside from some heartwarming typical post-mortems on what went right and wrong, there was also a “Trump Voter” session where The Analyst Institute discussed some feedback they received from talking to Trump voters in Virginia. Similar to the previous session, someone mentioned the advantage of talking to voters by asking them about their opinions on the election and specific issues rather than labeling them too soon by leading with “Who are you voting for?”
Surprisingly, the session started off with an African-American woman declaring that we need to listen to people better and also admitting she voted for Trump….so the election was complicated and we need to admit that.
As I shared in my initial commentary that offered “10 Rules For Democrats” moving forward, I did feel arrogance was a big factor in the Democratic failure and the most obvious neglect that i asked here about how voters reacted to the lack of a strong Democratic closing argument for the American people that focused on the three biggest issues for the average voter: 1) Jobs 2) Jobs 3) Jobs (or Standard of Living) while reminding people who is obstructing progress on those issues.
Instead, we got a Katy Perry feel-good video and not much more in the Rust Belt states like Wisconsin especially because Hillary made ZERO appearances and few other investments there after the DNC Convention.
According to the Pew Research Center’s July report, the Economy was officially #1 with Terrorism and Foreign Policy were close behind. Although we might hope that offensive attacks on women and minorities might automatically end the debate, the reality is most people aren’t voting primarily on social issues and many of the voters who abandoned Democrats live in dying blue-collar communities where those issues aren’t as relevant and somewhat understandably if you live in a rural area with little diversity.
But at RootsCamp these discussions that the rank-and-file are having are not lifted up high enough and sometimes the reaction to attacks on diversity is attacking OUR OWN diversity. Sessions that tackle “big picture” issues of how to build movements and create unity were sidelined while a complaint about the influence of “whiteness” and “masculinity” was retweeted as if a huge bloc of event active attendee allies are elements that need to be stamped out of American politics not just complemented with other people and perspectives.
And sadly, a long-time DC activist who is close with several progressives of color was banned from RootsCamp by a volunteer facilitator after being mildly-insulted in an exchange at a session where he violated the event’s Code of Conduct because he was being human not deliberately flaunting the rules to suppress people’s ideas. In fact, since he was offering himself as a resource and was rejected you could argue that the person who insulted him was showing more bias against his fellow participants at the time.
The fact that a Wellstone Action staffer rubberstamped this action within minutes was inexcusable. Fortunately, another event organizer wanted to create a dialogue when I requested one later but it was too late.
Apparently the leadership style of Barack Obama hasn’t rubbed off on enough people but this is a reminder that we cannot stop Hate with more Hate and Anger. All that was accomplished here is that a potential ally who tried to work with the Movement now feels ostracized.
It’s time to go home for Thanksgiving to start building bridges and skip throwing the mashed potatoes at each other…..otherwise we all are going to create a mess that is even harder to clean up.