Some good political advice from the non peer-reviewed internets

nast-donkey.jpgHow to talk to non-supporters about Obama” is an excellent primer that explains very effectively how to get other Democrats on board for November.  The author, demoinesdem, was a precinct captain for Kerry in 2003-04 and for Edwards in 2007-08 (in Iowa), so this wasn’t her first rodeo, and it sounds like she’s a very patient, practised, and effective campaigner.  (Her website is Bleeding Heartland.)  She’s got a lot of great scripts for comments that people who didn’t vote for Obama in the primary might throw at you, and examples of both ineffective and effective replies. 

Much of her advice boils down to this:  “Remember that voter contacts are not about winning an argument. They are about finding ways to get on the same side as the person you are talking to.”  In other words, you don’t have to bring people to a Road to Damascus moment about Obama so that you can bask in the warmth of your shared enlightenment.  You just need their votes.  Some people will never warm to Obama or see him as the Democrats’ best bet, and it’s not prima facie evidence of a character flaw that they won’t, so don’t annoy people with your Testimony.  (Do you really want to be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses?  Think about it.)  She’s got some great anecdotes about how some Obama supporters lectured her when she was an Edwards supporter.  One person actually wrote her an e-mail that started, “I actually feel bad for you, I really do, and I do NOT mean to be even the least bit demeaning, or snooty (no matter how it may sound — I really don’t.)  Because I think you are missing out on a unique time in US political history…”  What can you say about a guy like that?  (That reminds me of an anonymous note left on someone’s windshield, which was equally ineffective in its evangelizing.)

There are only two major points in her essay that I’d quarrel with.  One is a simple factual error.  About Clinton supporters, she writes: 

These people are just as disappointed by the way things turned out as you would be if the superdelegates had handed the nomination to Clinton after Obama earned it. They liked Bill, they like Hillary, and they thought she would do a great job. They are frustrated that millions of voters picked the hot shot over the smart, hard-working woman. In their minds, Hillary deserved the nomination, but voters picked someone less prepared for the job.

No, the voters didn’t pick Obama by “millions.”  (I know she’s not claiming that his victory margin was in the millions, but her phrasing here obscures the millions of votes that Clinton won.)  This race was a photo finish to the end.  Even the most generous interpretation of the popular vote totals for Obama (and the least generous for Michigan!) puts him ahead by only about 151,000.  And other entirely reasonable ways of counting up the popular vote put Clinton ahead by 48,000 to 287,000 votes.  That’s something that Clinton voters may still be sore about–because it clearly wasn’t “voters” who “picked someone less prepared for the job,” it was the Superdelegates who picked Obama.  Addressing people still unsettled about the popular vote is the one major omission in demoinesdem’s excellent scripts.  (Perhaps acknowledging that the popular vote was indeed essentially a tie, and expressing regret that only one candidate could emerge the victor would be the way to go with this one?) 

Secondly, demoinesdem’s frequently suggested tactic for getting Democrats on board with Obama is to invoke the spectre of a Supreme Court with two, three, or four new Associate Justices appointed by John McCain.  This strikes me as a little weak and a little desperate–if you’re canvassing for Obama, you should give people reasons to vote for Obama, not reasons to vote against McCain.  It may come down to that for many loyal Dems, but that should be a reason of last resort.  At this point (June, people!), citizens who didn’t vote for Obama may not be familiar with his overall record–try to surprise them with an impressive detail or clear policy position that will make them feel better about their vote. 

All in all, however, demoinesdem is on the money in acknowledging the power of emotions in this primary, and in suggesting some ways to find common ground. 

0 thoughts on “Some good political advice from the non peer-reviewed internets

  1. Hmmm. This looks like something I may need to pass along to a certain Obamaniacal commenter over in my happy little corner of the blogosphere. Interestingly, he has also invoked the specter of McCain appointments to the Supreme Court as a way of trying to force us up on our unity ponies, complete with super-scary references to wire-hanger abortions. Note to Obama boys: Women HATE it when men use OUR bodies to try to score cheap political points. Fear-mongering and brow-beating are no more appealing when they come from the left than they are when they come from the right.


  2. The cynical response to the last talking-point would be to observe that all it takes is 60+1 senators willing to go to the mat to foreclose the Supreme Court problem. But that would just raise the inconvenient issue of how the arrogant Netroots in Connecticut went into their ass-shaking, self-congratulatory endzone dance about five yards and a few months short of the endzone last game. Leaving Democratic control of the Senate in the hands of a guy who spent last winter waltzing around Baghdad with McCain, keeping him on-point about which Al-Quaeda was which Al-Quaeda. And that analog might be a bit touchy with some of the Obamaniacs.


  3. This is a great link. . . I’ve sent it to my Hillary-hating friend.
    Oh, and as a resident of Connecticut, I apologize for my senator.


  4. I’ve been reading demoinesdem since before the Iowa caucus, nice to see her acknowledged here. She has been by far one of the most steady and patient partisan voices (an extraordinarily difficult task at times) out on many of the political(Netroots) blogs were she guest posts.


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  6. Thanks for the link and the comments.

    I certainly did not mean to imply that Obama’s winning margin was by millions of votes, or that he won the nomination because of a popular vote victory.

    What I meant was that 17 to 18 million voters selected Obama over Clinton, which to many Clinton supporters is a frustrating reminder that less-qualified, charismatic men often triumph in a competition with an older, highly qualified woman.

    I like your suggestion about acknowledging that the popular vote was basically a tie.

    In my experience, some people are so resistant to Obama that they simply will not be receptive to any argument in his favor. That’s why I think the Supreme Court is a good point to raise. Literally two days ago I was talking to a cousin in Florida who said the Supreme Court was pretty much the only reason he will vote for Obama (although it would help if Obama picked a VP he liked, such as Biden).


  7. Hi desmoinesdem–thanks for stopping by and commenting! I understand your point about the SC–that it is an argument of last resort. I’m hopeful that Obama will give us lots more reasons to support him as the campaign unfolds this summer and fall. I think Clinton’s strong concession speech and Gore’s endorsement suggest that the Dems will have no trouble pulling together for November.

    Most of us Clinton supporters will pull the lever for Obama, but still wish that we didn’t have to. Thanks for acknowledging that it’s a “frustrating reminder that less-qualified, charismatic men often triumph in a competition with an older, highly qualified woman.” But, someone had to win the primary, which means that someone else had to lose, so them’s the breaks.


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