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Persuading without pillorying
Want to pull a few Republican voters from their leaders? Find a way to do that
I have a reader, a friend of my father, who loves my sportswriting, but not the rest, and when he responds to the stuff he wishes I wouldn’t write, I feel his pain.
My theory is he thought so much of my dad, it’s too jarring to know it’s Phil Horning’s son who writes so stridently about the governor’s incompetence or corruption, take your pick; or how Democrats should never stop reminding everybody just one party in our state is fine with telling women, independent of age and circumstance, what they can do with their bodies; or how the governor used very young girls, way too young to have any idea why they were there, as signing ceremony props the day he saved women’s sports from his narrowmindedness.
It pains me, too.
It pains me because I think he saw my dad as forever friendly, ever non-divisive, the picture of equanimity (in non-competitive spaces, I’m sure), which he was with his friends, and perhaps non-political, too, which he only was with his right- and far-right-leaning friends.
I think it pains him to see me as one of … them. Tribal. A torch-thrower. One who makes things … worse. Or it pains him to even consider me in those terms.
Perhaps he’ll find this interesting:
I don’t see him that way.
The fact he reaches out to me with his disappointment is endearing. The anguish I project upon his notes is kind of sweet.
He invokes my dad sometimes.
That’s endearing and sweet, too.
In fact, to my mind, he’s exactly the kind of person Democrats in this state should hope might join them.
He’s thoughtful, reasonable, pained by the tribal state of our politics, wants to get along, wants to agreeably disagree.
I’m pretty sure he’d rather live in a democracy in which Democrats receive the most votes sometimes than live in an autocracy in which nobody’s vote matters.
For all but four years of college and a few months at my first newspaper job, I’ve lived in Oklahoma and I know this reader of mine is not alone. The truth is, I’m not even sure he lives in Oklahoma, yet I’m certain there’s many like him who do.
The dividing lines Democrats should want to draw should be about extremism, tactics, and the brand of politics that should have no place in our state or any other.
Trying to turn out their own vote, reaching those in the center and those whose economics they seek to improve, who send their children to public schools, who merely seek to be treated with the dignity reserved for everybody else, let it be about policy, absolutely.
One side has ideas and the other doesn’t, so make that case, of course.
But that still leaves a whole bunch of folks who might be moved by authenticity, kindness, who want to live in harmony with their neighbors more than they want their neighbors who disagree with them to leave the neighborhood.
So, it’s not that Kevin Stitt runs government like a business, but that he runs it as one it for his and his friends’ benefit, that he rigs it for the purpose of placing greater power in the hands of allies rather than running one merit based, without barriers and the proof’s all around us, it just has to be explained well.
It’s not that Republicans in our state want to steal women’s right to choose. They do, they have and they will, yes, but it’s that they’re doing it with no grace, with no plan for the economic disaster it’s bound to create for so many, with barely an exception for the health of the mother and none for victims of rape or incest, exposing their crusade for the unborn as one with no consideration for the already born, nor for the unborn once they’re born.
Tuesday, I wrote about the scandals, Swadley’s and the state’s failed attempt to disperse $18 million in federal education aid to Oklahoma families exhausted by the COVID pandemic.
What’s stunning is the number of times the characters involved in those scandals have failed to respond to inquiry.
Adulterers call press conferences, yet our Republican state leaders cannot face cameras and microphones to explain governance?
Yapping and screaming about everything they must be hiding, their visceral disrespect for women and their arrogant corruption may be on the side of the angels, but poor delivery is likely to convince nobody.
But Intelligently asking our neighbors who put these people in power if that’s who they really want their leaders to be might win some over. Because shouldn’t Oklahomans work together, be on the level, not stake out the most extreme position on each issue, nor refuse to answer questions when things goes awry?
Everybody loves a great bumper sticker but it’s not a time for slogans.
You’ve got reach people.
You’ve got to engage with them where they are, persuade rather than pillory and tell the truth.
Especially when it’s on your side.
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