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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's a tough slog appealing to the whole brain (0+ / 0-)

    of people who don't have a brain to begin with.

    I get the drift of the point, but the far-Right voting block we're dealing with is beyond subtle strategies.  

    I'm not seeing any principle on that list that would have pre-empted the way-too-long political careers of Jesse Helms or Michelle Bachmann.  

    "How can we know the dancer from the dance?" (Yeats)

    by Remediator on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:21:44 AM PDT

    •  So Quit With the Subtle Strategies Already. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sun dog, k9disc, AJayne, Eyesbright

      Recipients aside, the US public square has almost no bandswidth available for education, informing, and debate. Trying to cram a persuasive argument through the US mainstream media is like trying to copy the Mona Lisa with telegraphy.

      You have a system that distributes only emotion and you have recipients who respond mainly to emotion.

      There are people who would regard that as a roadmap; they shouldn't be found exclusively on the evil side.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:24:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What, winning votes for Democrats? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vatexia, Eyesbright

    What are you going on about?!?  ;-)

     Tipped and rec'd.  This is a very good perspective to keep in mind.  

    When truth is only a matter of opinion, advantage goes to the liars.

    by Sun dog on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:24:02 AM PDT

  •  Health and well being are great frames for us. (0+ / 0-)

    They are currently only used with markets and money, but it's a natural fit for progressive policy.

    I might have to pick up Westens book.

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:38:44 AM PDT

  •  This works well on a personal level (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DiesIrae, Eyesbright

    When I have been able to remind myself that the person I'm speaking with is not an idiot, is not stupid, sometimes I can plant a seed of doubt - sometimes with a word or two, sometimes with just a look.

    In two cases, people with whom I'd had a previous conversation rekindled the discussion with questions. That told me two things: 1) They had been thinking about it, and 2) they respected that I am also not stupid.

    I don't think I convinced either of them to change their patterns of voting - yet. But I do think they will listen more critically to what they hear from other sources. Eventually they will understand. As I said, neither is stupid or an idiot.

  •  Or, fuck 'em, and beat 'em with GOTV (0+ / 0-)

    and then let them go Galt or leave or go in a corner and whine about how it isn't their country any more.  

    There are a lot of intransigent pricks who WANT to hold on to GOP "values."  They need to be defeated at the polls, mocked remorselessly, and held up to pubic scorn so they can never influence public debate in any fashion.

  •  Westen is not the first to notice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright

         that it's all about the fee-fees.

        The broad masses of a people consist neither of professors nor of diplomats. The scantiness of the abstract knowledge they possess directs their sentiments more to the world of feeling. That is where their positive or negative attitude lies. It is receptive only to an expression of force in one of these two directions and never to a half-measure hovering between the two. Their emotional attitude at the same time conditions their extraordinary stability. Faith is harder to shake than knowledge, love succumbs less to change than respect, hate is more enduring than aversion, and the impetus to the mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times consisted less in a scientific knowledge dominating the masses than in a fanaticism which inspired them and sometimes in a hysteria which drove them forward.
        Anyone who wants to win the broad masses must know the key that opens the door to their heart. Its name is not objectivity (read weakness), but will and power.

                                    Mein Kampf, Ch. XII

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 11:12:37 AM PDT

    •  Oh wow. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Eyesbright

      Well that is the canonical example isn't it?  Well before the turn of the century and through WWII Germany was the most advanced society -- by far -- in the world.  The bulk of the world's greatest scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, musicians, etc. were German.  And yet, through will and power, all that intellect and enlightenment did not prevail.

      (And yes, I know we an debate who was greatest, but even if there is room for debate, the fact is German society was very advanced at the time the Nazis came to power.)

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