Democrats must learn how to speak to more conservative voters


As a Canadian, and one of libertarian bent, I hope I have a better perspective on the two parties in the USA. What I see does not bode well for the Democrats. I think they understand the Republican side poorly, worse than the Republicans understand them. And, over the last two elections, they have shown little willingness to learn about it.

I think George W. Bush is the worst president in living memory, perhaps the worst ever, and that this was clear by 2004. Yet more democrats voted for Bush than republicans voted for Kerry. Why was that? Many republicans also reported holding their noses and voting for Bush -- they knew he was a bad President but couldn't stomach Kerry. Why was that?

Something that played a larger role than people think was attitude. I may get a bias because I hang around with democrats more, but they exude an attitude of complete derision. It is not that Bush doesn't deserve derision; it's just that it is a terrible marketing strategy. "You haven't just supported the wrong candidate, you're a complete idiot because you've supported a stupid candidate, one whom anybody with any brains can see is a complete fool." This approach doesn't win votes. Quite the reverse, I think it causes the other side to close ranks and distrust the messenger. Nobody believes themselves to be a fool. If somebody tells you what a fool you've been you don't say "oh my, what was I thinking?" You say "screw you, asshole." And you don't listen further.

People change their minds when evidence comes in through their own lens. Over time, more conservatives have turned on Bush and documented the problems, and his approval rating is extremely low, even among former supporters.

Now, as a practitioner of comedy, I fully feel and understand the temptation to engage in ridicule. There is great political comedy, but there really are two broad classes of it. One class is mean, and really only works on the already converted. It just offends the rest and causes them to ignore its message. The much better class of political comedy is not so bitter and can work on at least independents. We don't get enough of that. Political comedy should be used, but with care.

(Indeed, with care it is one of the most powerful tools. I remember how Reagan, asked about his age, used the line "I refuse to let my opponent's youth and inexperience be an issue in this election" and the age issue rarely troubled him again.)

Election-winning comedy must be able to stick in the minds of all voters, and it must not be bitter to do that. For example, when Guliani over-used 9/11 in speeches, and comedians satirized this, it played a large part in sinking him, which he didn't understand. But it's a joke his people can get and not find vicious.

Democrats need to do two things if they want to win:

  • Keep the attacks civil and less extreme. Consult with good comedians to stay on the right side of the line. Encourage the troops not to be bitter no matter how tempting.
  • Hire wise former (or mercenary) republicans and learn from them how to sell the message to conservatives and independents. Listen to them.

As I said, we're coming off a Republican administration that the public knows was horrible for the country. Even the conservatives know that. Changing power in the White House should have been a true slam dunk. Making the conservatives close ranks by insulting them rather than talking to them in their own language is the way to undo the slam dunk.


As a Canadian, and one of libertarian bent myself, I am a little perplexed why you wish to offer the Democrats support in getting elected. I can't say the Republican ticket is much better this year, but what I've heard of the Democrat platform seems entirely based on ideals of wealth redistribution. It's hard to pick which one really is the lesser of the evils, just like in our own upcoming election.

I agree with the rest of the article. I tend to read more conservative blogs, and even there they decry attack ads from the Democrats and then demonize left-minded thinkers in the same breath.

In the USA, the Republicans advocate smaller government, but when they are in power seem to increase it just as much as the Democrats do, or pretty close. Add that to their anti-freedom social agenda (mostly pushed by the religious component of their party) and it's hard to support them.

But in this case, it's all about the war. The war is unforgivable. All who voted for it, Democrat and Republican, should resign from office in shame. Perhaps I would give a little more sympathy to those who, when the signs became clear, reversed themselves and admitted their mistake, but that's few of them. The Democrats did that more than the Republicans. McCain did not, though in many other ways he is one of the better Republicans.

In Canada, like in the 1993 election where the tories when from 196 seats to 2, a party which had done a war like this would have been effectively destroyed. If the Republican party does not deserve destruction and reconstitution for this war (and the other associated destructions of U.S. civil rights) it is only because the Democrats joined in with them too easily.

Isn't that the difference between Obama and Clinton -- Obama is running a civil campaign and Clinton would have slugged the mud, such as Keating, Bridge to Nowhere, Troopergate, etc.?


Yes it is good to know how to speak to conservatives. I think it is
more cost effective to activate new voters who will vote your way.
If you must change someone I reccomend reading George Lakoff a Berkeley linguistics professor
because changing someones values and asumptions about the world is not easy.

Republician the party of "borrow and spend"
the RE in republician stands for redistrubting wealth from future generations
who are presumed innocent and have done no crime but are given a
heavy burden without their consent

And I am surprised more democrats don't listen to him.

If you look at elections, where the democratic candidate in the 20th century has only twice gotten more than 51% of the vote, and look at the swings, you realize there are a lot of voters in the "tend to vote republican but can be convinced to vote for an impressive democrat." More of them than in the "tend to vote democrat but can be convinced to vote for an impressive republican" camp.

So convincing them is more worthwhile than activating new voters.

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