This is my first, and perhaps only, diary here at DKos, but I was prompted to write this in response to the rising tone of diaries and comments that I've seen over the last couple of weeks. I don't know if this tone is new or it's always been here and I've only started to notice, but either way, I find it disturbing. It seems that more and more I'm hearing the voices of people here who feel there is no room to negotiate with the other side, no room for diplomacy with them. I think we should always be talking to the other side and always trying to change their minds. They are not the enemy.
Currently, there is a front page entry by Kos about the GOP just waiting with baited breath for the new Dem leadership to give some ground. Some of the comments are of the "wait and see" variety, but so many more are vehemently opposed to our leadership doing anything but pushing back as hard as possible. The comment that finally got me to write this diary was one that said, in part, "These people would happily sell their children as sex slaves to Osama Bin Laden if it meant keeping their majority." Really? Is that really what people here think of Republicans?
In another recent diary about guests on Joe Scarborough making comments about Bush's incompetence was full of comments about this being only a ratings grab by Scarborough and he's still basically a lying scumbag. Really? Isn't it possible that he is as disgusted with Bush as we are? Or perhaps even more so, since he was suckered into voting for Bush and is only now realizing he was played for a fool?
Now let's look at Virgil Goode and Keith Ellison. Goode made some really ugly comments about Ellison, but in response, Ellison chose the high road. I'm sure Ellison was pissed off at Goode's bigoted personal attack and would have loved to punch Goode in the face, but instead of pushing back just as hard, Ellison chose to play nice. He used it as an opportunity to remind people about the true American ideals and in this way, people got the message that Goode was in the wrong. Most commenters about this exchange wrote that Ellison did the right thing here. In this case, most here agreed that playing nice was the way to go.
"Playing nice" to me means not treating those who don't agree with us as the enemy. It doesn't mean backing down, but rather standing firm. There's no reason to push back. Playing nice is being compassionate about opposing points of view. I refuse to believe that Republicans (even those serving in office) are evil. Not even Bush. (For Cheney, though, the jury is still out.) Bush and his administration have made some horrible decisions that have done real damage to our country, but I honestly don't think it was a malicious attempt to hurt the American people. I just cannot believe Bush wakes up in the morning and wonders to himself how he can screw us one more time today. What a horrible place we would live in if truly half of the voters in this country were evil. People come to their points of view through their life experiences. I believe these voters and elected representatives are doing what they honestly think are the right things to do. Chances are, most people who vote Republican have just never heard a well thought out argument for why they shouldn't. Certainly, the MSM isn't going to give them that information, and during campaigns, all we hear are sound bites and mud-slinging ads with almost zero content. How is the average voter supposed to figure their way through all of that misinformation? Only with our help will they see the light.
I believe it is our job to work on everyone we know who didn't vote for Democrats last time to get them to do it next time. Frankly, nothing else matters unless we can get Democrats elected and keep them in office. In my experience, the only way to do this is to play nice. I go to lunch every day with two guys, one is a Libertarian who votes Republican (because voting Libertarian is just throwing his vote away, as he says) and the other is as red a Republican as you can get. You know how Cheney is down to something like a 12% approval rating? Well this guy would be in that 12%. I've seen that referred to elsewhere as "baby punching followers." In other words, Bush could punch babies on live TV and this guy would still approve of the job he's doing. Anyway, we talk about current political news nearly every day (although around November 2004, it was really hard to remain civil and we had to talk about the Mets or something for a while there.) I believe I am making progress. The Libertarian and I now agree on most things except economics. I count it as progress that for these 2006 elections, the Libertarian stayed home from the polls rather than go vote Republican. For 2008, I bet he'll be voting for some Dems! Most recently we were talking about the idiotic surge idea and the Republican finally admitted that if Bush went with this surge against the advice of JCOS, he would have to reconsider his support of this administration. Progress! In all (ok, most) of these discussions, I calmly talk about why I feel the way I do, and calmly respond to why I think he's wrong in thinking the way he does. There is no name calling or personal attacks.
I've had much more success with others who were more on the fence than entrenched in the Republican mindset. For these past elections, I know of four people who voted Democrat instead of Republican because of my efforts. I know, I know, four isn't that many, but if we all did that, wouldn't it be wonderful? None of those or future conversions are possible if I don't play nice.
When Pelosi goes up against the Republicans starting next week, I think the best approach for her to take is to give no ground, but don't push back hard either. In other words, take the Ellison approach. The American people will respect her, and by extension the rest of the Democratic party, more for it and it will make it easier for these one on one conversions to work.