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Jill_LenDebate.pngMy father and I had to agree a long time ago to never, ever discuss politics. The last time we tried to talk politics, it ended in a screaming match and a lot of hurt feelings. But it came up in conversation yesterday when I called to wish him a Happy 4th of July. He asked what was new, and I told him I was excited to have former Senior Faculty Fellow at the Yale School of Management, Bruce Judson, as a new contributor to my project. I really didn't want it to turn into a conversation about politics—I was just proud and wanted him to be proud of me—but it went there nonetheless. Only this time it ended with him asking me to email him a link to this website so he could read more.

The following are random snippets in no particular order (except the last one), obviously somewhat paraphrased since I didn't record and transcribe our exact words. Here's how I got my father to not only understand the Progressive position on a few issues better, but inspired him to want to find out more.

My Dad:

Progressives hate the Constitution and want to change it. They think it's an outdated document and should be completely rewritten.
Me:

What? (This, I admit, was an entirely new one to me.) Where on earth would you get an idea like that? Progressives love and respect the Constitution. Look around my site and you will see numerous references to our Constitution and quotes by our Founding Fathers. Many, if not most, of our Founding Fathers actually were Progressives! That's why they so often referred to "the common good," and enshrined the responsibility of Congress to act on behalf of the "general welfare" of all people above the interests of corporations or other interest groups, into our Constitution.

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My Dad:

I'm not going to your site. If you're planning on turning your project into a business then you must be "on the side of business," then! (Unspoken but understood: HA - Gotcha!)
Continued ...

Me:

Dad, Progressives don't hate business. How else would anyone in our country, let alone our country itself, survive or thrive without business? That's just a canard our political opponents whipped up. What we're against are loosening of the kind of rules that used to be in place to protect the public and our economy from the kind of self-serving machinations businesses, like, for instance, our banking industry, used to send us into The Great Recession. Bill Clinton was wrong to sign Gramm-Leach-Bliley and effectively repeal Glass-Steagall and we want to reinstate the kind of rules that would prevent that from ever happening again.
What we're against are major corporations spending hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby Congress to keep the minimum wage so low that they can get away with barely paying their employees little more than that, knowing taxpayers will pick up the difference between their low payroll and the real cost of living with food stamps, housing credits, Medicaid, and so forth. Why should taxpayers basically supplement corporate payrolls when they have billions in profits they could pay their employees with themselves?

My Dad:

Obama said he wants to "redistribute the wealth."
Me:
Well he didn't mean it like you're taking it. He didn't mean he wants to take money out of wealthy people's bank accounts and "redistribute" it to people who haven't earned it.
My Dad:
Well that's what he said, "we need to redistribute the wealth." He said that!
Me:
Not exactly, but I hear you. What he said was close enough that it could be taken in the context you have taken it ... which is one of the reasons why I started The Winning Words Project. My site isn't about bashing Republicans—though we point out where we disagree with their policies—it's about getting Democrats and Progressives to start using better language to explain our positions because with so many people misinterpreting and misunderstanding what we stand for, we could obviously do a better job of it.

For instance, what President Obama was talking about was how the profit pie is no longer sliced up in proportion with worker productivity like it used to be. If you look at a graph of worker productivity and wages, the lines run on the exact same path for decades, until around 1980 when productivity kept going in the same upward trajectory and wages split away—and they've stayed flat for the past 30+ years, which means that 100 percent of the billions in profits workers helped generate in this country over the decades has gone only to the wealthy owners, CEOs, and shareholders. We don't grudge anyone their own wealth, but we've earned a share of the profits through greater productivity, so that's what President Obama means when he says we need to "share the wealth" differently—have a fair distribution of wealth in this country.

My Dad:

Well he sure didn't say it that way!
Me:
::sigh:: I know, dad. Believe me, I take him to task for not saying it right on my site, too. He could definitely use a better speech writer, that's for sure.
ETA 7/6: I remembered another part of this conversation that I got agreement from him on so I am inserting it here now.

Me:

Don't forget that shareholders aren't the only people with an investment in a business. They put their money in but not their labor. Workers invest their labor, which should earn them "sweat equity" like any other business partnership.
My Dad:
Except that workers aren't "risking" anything the way money investors are!
Me:
I contend they are; they're putting their family's future security and their livelihood at risk by working for Company A over Company B, in the event Company A fails. But even if we go with your theory, which is a fair way to look at it, too, even "sweat equity" partners in a business get "shares" in the company, which earns them a portion of the profits, even if they are fewer shares, right?
My Dad:
That's true.
Me:
Well, since around 1980 the worker's share of corporate profits for the time and labor they've invested in the companies they work for has been zero. ZERO! And that's not right.
My Dad:
No it isn't.
End Edit

My Dad:

Well, if Congress is going to make us go on Obamacare, they ought to be forced to give up their plan and go on it, too!
Me:
OMG, Dad, they're on Obamacare! You have it backwards. Congress basically said, there's no excuse for us getting the kind of benefits we get in our health care coverage when many Americans don't even have access to insurance at all, let alone the things we get. So they just gave us their coverage. Obamacare is Congress' health care plan! Their plan lets them get wellness visits without having to pay a copay, so they made it part of the law that all insurance carriers have to let you see your doctor for routine checkups without charging you a copay. They get it, so now we get it, too. Congress' insurance isn't allowed to refuse them coverage when they have a pre-existing condition, so they made it the law that no insurance company can deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Congress has coverage that doesn't impose lifetime caps on their benefits, so they made it the law that your insurance company cannot cap your benefits.
My Dad:
Huh. I've never heard it explained that way. If that's true, I'd like to see that somewhere.
Me:
It is true, and I'll tell you what, I'll make that the next topic I write about, because I'm as frustrated as you are that we aren't explaining it right. And since the point of my project is to help get the message out there in the right way ... www dot the winning words project dot com. You really should read it; you might be surprised.
My Dad:
You'll have to email me a link so I don't forget it.
Me:
I love you, Dad!
ETA: Conclusion

What I did that worked with my father, and that I've learned in over 25 years in sales and marketing, is to acknowledge people's feelings as valid, even if they aren't based on my interpretation of the truth. When we validate someone instead of knocking them down, they are far, far more open to hearing what we have to follow up with. "I'd feel the same way if that's what I'd heard." "You're right, President Obama doesn't always explain things very well and it's easy to be misunderstood."

When we do this, we allow the other party to "save face," when they concede a point to us, because we've already conceded points to them, even if our concessions were simply "I'd feel that way too, if ..."

Now read contributor Elizabeth Wilke's plea to her Conservative friends: "We Can Do Better"  »


 

2:43 PM PT: Thanks so much for getting this bumped up to the Rec list! You guys are awesome!


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