There are a lot of contestable senate races and I think that my comment on Oregon's race speaks to a general principle. I assert that Obama's brilliant use of nonviolent communication tactics has more general applicability. I'd like for us to begin brainstorming narratives that would have traction with him at the top of the ticket.

My sample argument is against Sen. Gordon Smith here in Oregon. I might be in too deep here, out of touch with regular folks, but I think that the Democratic nominee could hit Gordon Smith hard over telco amnesty. I tested this on my Obamacan mom, a Euro-American middle class retiree who has worked on campaigns for Smith, and she found this persuasive:

Sen. Gordon Smith is a good man with strong morals. As a conservative, he places a strong emphasis on the moral sphere of group loyalty, and I respect that. Unfortunately, his actions show that his loyalty is misplaced, given to the Republican party instead of to the American people.

(continued) As shown by his signatory status on retroactive telco amnesty, Smith has been acting as a Bush/Cheney patsy, rubber-stamping their authoritarian whims. Imagine, a legislator disrespecting equality under the law! That is not an Oregonian value. Smith has already stopped representing our interests, and so we must vote for someone else. It's time to turn the page.


I wanted to get the argument out there first, and then the questions: What do you think of it? And, do you have any Obamaist arguments of your own to share?

Now, for perspective on where the Republicans here are coming from: we still have lots of farmers here in Oregon. Out in the country, land is plentiful (therefore cheap) and people are scarce. So, low-value activities (such as home canning) are nevertheless economically worthwhile, and there's always more productive work that could be done if only there were more time or hands to do it. Those factors are reversed in the city, but because of their visceral experience of the opposite, country folk have no sympathy for people who are out of work.

By cultural tradition, they tend to be deeply religious and socially conservative. They're unhappy about the dilution of their culture by the growing population of Latinos; yet they're the ones causing it by their dependence on migrant workers, so isolationism doesn't have traction either. They tend to be clannish and care about the future. They like orderliness but not authoritarianism; mostly they want government to leave them alone and provide good schools for their kids. They're big landowners, but it's just working capital for a small business, and they don't consider themselves part of the ruling elite.

I don't think that we will get anywhere with them by saying that the candidates that they have an emotional connection to are bad people. I share your anger at what the Republicans have done to this country; it's why I left the GOP a few years back; however, yelling at people won't change their minds.

Besides, the world is such that people don't have to have bad character to believe and do the wrong things. The Republicans' policies have clearly been bad for America, and we can show that while still showing respect for the voters' values. I'm convinced that this is how we will build a liberal majority to last a generation or longer: not by making people feel bad, but by giving them an option for feeling better.

Originally posted to SciVo on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 11:22 PM PST.

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