To change the minds of republicans we need to communicate in ways that will be effective -- in particular we need to understand the emotional impacts that their messaging (and ours) have on different people. I would like to get a conversation started here about how to reach the hearts and minds of even right-wingers.
By now everyone at Daily Kos knows about Julie Boonstra and her response to being confronted by facts which contradicted her misleading Koch-funded ad: "It can't be true.... I personally do not believe that." But this is just the most visible instance of a problem we've all encountered -- right-wingers who won't be swayed by the facts. "How can they be so stubborn?" we ask. "How can they be so stupid?" "How can people vote against their own self-interests?" And alot of us know people that we actually like -- family members, co-workers, friends (current and former) -- who we ask this about.
Rather than wringing our hands about how stubborn and stupid "they" are -- if we are going to combat this problem and actually change peoples' minds and more importantly their votes -- it is critical that we instead understand the actual reasons that these people won't be swayed by facts. This is a hugely important problem -- if facts don't matter, just using more of them is not going to help. Rather, we have to identify the real source of the problem and attack it in a way that will be effective. Some time ago I read The Political Brain by Drew Westen that examines how political opinions are formed, taking into account the whole person -- neurology and physiology.
The problem is this. Some people -- many people -- make up their minds based on how certain messages make them feel. It doesn't have to be a positive feeling -- and often it is not. But the republican messages are well-tuned to engender powerful emotional (and the related physical) responses. Those responses become automatic and short-circuit higher thinking. The responses are so powerful that people want more. Yes, these things are often based on lies, hate, bigotry and other base human qualities -- but those are powerful emotions and people will continue to accept lies, hate, and bigotry if they keep getting an emotional charge from it. It can even become addictive -- consider how many people listen to faux news or rush limbaugh for hours on end.
It is no wonder we can't communicate with right-wingers -- no matter how much we might like them personally -- they and we are communicating in two vastly different ways. We have to learn how to communicate however -- despite the obvious treachery and ill-will of the right-wing, they are still able to garner almost 50% of the votes in this country. It shouldn't even be close -- the right-wing should only be getting 1% of the vote -- from the people they represent.
So what is to be done about this? Some thoughts below the emotionally neutral orange thingy.
There are some enormously difficult challenges to the poisonous emotional manipulation being carried out by the right wing. For one thing, the very vocabulary we use for discourse has been corrupted. Terms like "liberal," "tax and spend," "socialized," and even "progressive" are immediately viewed as negative -- they are "bad words."
Westen discusses these issues in significant detail in his book -- and addresses various wedge issues (gay rights, abortion, second amendment) in particular. I highly recommend it to all Kossacks. However, in brief, Westen recommends the following principles.
1. If you don't feel it, don't use it.
2. Frame messages for emotional impact.
3. Pitch your message at the right level.
4. Appeal to the whole brain.
These all come down to winning hearts and minds, in some sense. It could also seem like "fighting fire with fire." In some sense it is, but Westen also makes the case that it is possible to appeal to hearts and minds while maintaining one's integrity. It is only emotional manipulation if you are trying to get someone to accept a lie. If you are appealing to hearts and minds in a principled way, you are just making your communication more effective -- speaking the language of the listener.
Again, I would like to get a conversation started here about how to win the hearts and minds of our right-winged sisters and brothers. What do other Kossacks think? Can we develop particular and effective responses to some of the formulaic emotionally-laden republican talking points? I think this is where the battle will be won or lost.
I can also do a more detailed diary reviewing the Westen book -- but if your interest is at all piqued, I highly recommend reading it in full.