How not to talk to Progressives during the campaign.

Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for president, and because this is a crucial election year it is only natural for Democrats to try to win over progressives — especially the disaffected variety turned off by your candidate’s hard right turns.  If you plan to do this, choosing to ignore Obama’s strategy of pandering to right-wing and bigot voters who’ll never cast ballots for him, good for you.  But there are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind as you venture forth.

1.) Whatever you do, don’t threaten people with a McCain victory if they don’t vote for Obama.  For one thing, people don’t like to be threatened; for another, if a voter isn’t convinced that your candidate will govern any better than McCain, it’s a fairly useless thing to do anyway.  It’s best if you avoid doing this altogether.

2.) Whatever you do, do NOT bash Ralph Nader or any third party candidate.  Criticize if you will, but do NOT attack.  The reason for this is that true progressives, while partisan in a broader ideological sense, are not so in terms of supporting specific political parties.  More often than not, we vote for individual candidates who have the records to back up their rhetoric than we are to vote along party lines.  If you must criticize Ralph Nader, focus on this argument: “it takes an organized political party to win power, starting from the ground and working up, and though I respect Ralph I don’t think he’s going about this the right way.”  Don’t mention ego or stealing Democratic votes (ballots belong to no political party), even if that’s what you think, because neither argument is true and it has a tendency to turn people off who might otherwise consider your candidate.

3.) Listen to what people’s concerns.  Remember, Obama is running as the pseudo-change candidate.  Even if true progressives feel compelled to vote for him out of misguided notions of pragmatism, they still care about the issues that matter.  Don’t brush them off or try to convince them that once Obama is elected they needn’t worry, because they have every reason to worry.  Don’t be condescending; listen to people.

4.) Finally, talk about the issues, know them by heart, and have solid responses to questions — especially those coming from Nader or McKinney supporters.  Obama MUST be able to address their concerns.  If he can’t, and if you can’t, you’re better off not bothering.

That’s pretty much it.  If you follow these steps, you might succeed in swaying a few progressives.  If not, don’t complain when you receive the proverbial cold shoulder.


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  1. If “progressive” is defined, as in this diary, as someone who is capable is believing that:

    if a voter isn’t convinced that your candidate will govern any better than McCain, it’s a fairly useless thing to do anyway.

    … then it would make far more sense to not talk to them at all.

    Take Clinton, for example. A major obstacle to progressive change in this country during the 90’s … no progress on the burgeoning problem of Energy Dependence, because with cheap oil they could “let the next administration worry about it” … undermining the social safety net with the right wing balanced budget dogma and the draconion “welfare reform” … fighting hard for and signing into law the NAFTA corporate wealth agreement.

    And, on the other hand, the Republicans have shown there is a massive difference between a corporatist Democrat representing the moderate wing of the Corporate party and a corporatist Republican representing the radical reactionary wing of the Corporate part.

    If someone has such a black and white world view that in their view, there is no difference between a McCain on the one hand and an Obama or Clinton on the other, it really would make sense to seek out someone who can at the very least distinguish shades of grade … and ideally, someone who can perceive the full spectrum of colors of the rainbow.

  2. “How not to talk to Progressive Populists during a campaign”.

    And I was so cheesed off by the Naderite grab for the right to dictate who is and who is not a progressive that I wrote a diary of my own on those lines.

  3. who would think that there is no difference between McCain and Obama, in fact even some Republicans think McCain is a walking disaster. “Misguided notions of pragmatism” seem to give your bias away. The hypothetical voter here sounds more like a winger or a Reagan Democrat then a progressive.  Strange to be called a misguided pragmatist after years of being called a purist. Even the centrists have enough sense to recognize that in this race we really don’t want to lose.  

    • k9disc on July 28, 2008 at 15:09

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