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I'm a fan of their half price appetizers. My mom and I like to meet there early on Sunday evenings for Oriental chicken salad and cheese sticks.

Why is this funny and why the heck am I writing about this?

First, a few other things about me.

I work for a Fortune 500 company.

I like hockey and sports. Particularly the Buffalo Sabres even though they didn't make it to the playoffs this year.

I have a girlfriend.

I was happy that Yuengling came to Ohio.

I own a house. (Well, technically the bank owns it, but this only gives me more in common with the average American.)

I'm a liberal.

Why am I telling you this?

Because you hear so many lies about me.

You hear that I'm a socialist, communist, Marxist, Weather Underground-loving terrorist.

Or a lazy, dirty, out-of-work, Patchouli-wearing hippie.

Or a hip-hop loving, New Black Panther-crazed, tattoo-covered, hoodie-wearing gangsta.

Or a six-foot-six, Amazon, man-hating lesbian dyke femi-Nazi.

Or a dirty, shiftless, back of a pickup truck, illegal immigrant.

I think you get the picture. There's a marketing campaign to brand me as fringe. Don't believe me? Turn on AM radio. Someone is spending a lot of money on anti-liberal programming.

How does it work?

Have you ever watched the television show Cops?

I don't. But my mom is a huge fan. Most evenings you can find her TV tuned to Fox for Cops. When I call, I often hear it in the background turned up a little too loud.

If you watch Cops and only Cops, you'd think that crime is everywhere. Especially in big cities. Your view of reality becomes skewed because all you ever see is crime and people being arrested.

Then, when you hear about a crime being committed in the city, it reinforces your belief that crime is rampant in the city.

You don't see the more statistically important calm.

For example, I've lived in the city for over 20 years and never experienced a crime. Is there a TV show about that? No.

I think that this is why my mom is a little afraid to visit. She's heard about a crime in the city and sees nothing but crime on TV and even though she's never experienced any crime when she's visited, her perception of the city is "scary".

Even though bicycles have been stolen right out of her garage in the suburbs, her perception of the suburbs is "safe".

This is perception. This is marketing.

So back to the subject. How does this pertain to liberals?

There's a marketing campaign to stereotype liberals as "fringe". You hear it on AM radio. You've seen the books and read the pundits. There is a $50 billion network devoted to marginalizing liberals. You hear the "jokes," you know the stereotypes, and you know how to talk to a liberal.

The marketing campaign is designed to make conservatives appear "normal" and liberals appear "radical". It's well funded and on the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you don't believe me, turn on your television, or your radio, or open a paper. Try to find an example where liberals or a liberal idea are portrayed as the voice of reason. You can, but you'll find far more examples where liberal ideas are marginalized - called socialist, communist, radical, or scary.


So why all the name calling? Why all the liberal bashing? Why all the books about arguing with idiots?

Quite simply, it's about voting. More accurately, it's about identity politics.

When you have ideas you want to pass which primarily benefit large corporations and are hugely unpopular with the voting public (tax breaks and handouts for corporations, cutting Medicare and Social Security, defunding the government), you have to find another way to get those you want elected.

That way is identity politics.

What would your chances of getting elected be if you stood up and said "We stand for paying people less, making them work more, and reducing their benefits"?

Zero. So you focus on branding yourself as "good" and your opponents as "evil" and focus on culture because research has shown that people tend to vote for candidates they like and candidates that are like them.

So when someone tells you that they're all baseball and apple pie and that their opponent is a Muslim socialist who wasn't born in America, ask yourself, why?

And beyond that, why are they attacking the person and not the person's arguments?

So what can you do?

If you've ever had to dispute a stereotype, none of this comes as a surprise. You know the frustration.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, by and large, the people you are talking to, your friends and family, may have bought into the marketing.

Remember, that your real fight is not with them. Your real fight is with the people behind the marketing.

Remember this as your temperature rises. If you feel yourself about to burst, remember you can always agree to disagree and walk away.

Remember that people, your friends and family, are your natural allies. Even if you think of yourself as the leftiest liberal and the other person considers himself a diehard conservative, you probably share 95% of the same beliefs.

Save your anger for the advertisers and the people behind this marketing campaign - I'll call them the 1%. With your friends and family, show them how similar you are and what you have in common.

An example

On the news the other day, a farmer in Ohio was interviewed about health care.

He talked about how he didn't like the idea of being "forced" to pay for health care.

The temptation would be to see him as a conservative because of his stated framing of insurance as a mandate. The temptation would be to start an argument and try to tell him that he's wrong and that the Affordable Care Act is right. The temptation is to get into the Right vs. Left argument.  

Yet at the same time, this farmer stated his belief that too many people were without insurance.

Like most people, he has conflicting beliefs. And the beliefs he's sharing are beliefs shared by almost everyone. No one likes to be "forced" to do something. No one likes to see people suffer or go bankrupt because of a medical problem.

So how would I approach this person?

I'd approach him as I would a friend and share what I agree with him about.

Then I'd ask him how he thinks we could cover everyone. What might a good plan look like?

At this point, you're not talking about Right vs. Left, Democrat vs. Republican. We're just talking. As friends would talk. Friends who share similar beliefs.

This conversation can then lead in a number of directions. You can:

  • Come up with an ideal solution that the two of you agree on
  • Find some areas of common ground
  • Agree to disagree

At the very minimum, what you are doing is breaking down any predefined stereotypes. And you are stating your values, what you believe, rather than telling the person he/she is wrong.  

But isn't this obvious?

Read a few blogs. Read how most liberals respond to conservatives. Then come back and tell me its obvious.

Here's a good (or rather a bad) example from the Huffington Post:

Folks need to recognize that voting for the Regressive party means you will live your life according to their twisted and irrational morals, not your own.
The author implies that anyone who has a differing opinion lives according to twisted and irrational morals. If you identified yourself as Republican, wouldn't this condescending tone make you angry?

A much better approach would have been to state what the author believes, succinctly and clearly, and help inspire the audience to want to believe the same.

This is the approach I take with my friends and family.

Applebee's, my love

Many people I know laugh when I profess my love of Applebee's. My liberal friends make fun of me because it's a chain restaurant. My conservative friends laugh because it goes against stereotype (I thought all you hippies were Vegan).

It doesn't make me angry when my conservative friends laugh though. Laughter is good and this also gives me a chance to help reach them.

I'll say something like this:

All the liberals I know believe in capitalism. We just believe that it works best when people are well informed, when the markets are fair, and when it's well regulated.

Here's an example. Would you trust purchasing meat if it wasn't regulated by the USDA? Don't you think that many corporations would try to sell substandard product if they could turn a quick profit?

I like Applebee's. But I also like independently owned alternatives.

Am I arguing that you need to like Applebee's?

No. I'm simply making the case that if you want to convince people and win people over to your side:

  1. You have to like them
  2. You have to break through the marketing
  3.  And, you have to sell your beliefs

Having better ideas is not enough, we have to do a better job of selling them.

And, we have to do it without constant corporate backing and many media channels so we need as many people working within their immediate circles as possible.  

Originally posted to akadjian on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:12 AM PDT.

Also republished by DFH Local No 420.

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