Most people, including family and friends — sometimes especially family and friends! — don’t like to talk politics. Many simply refuse to talk politics, fearing a possibly acrimonious argument, or having to endure what they would view as an assault on their dearly-held unassailable beliefs.
On the other hand, it seems that Americans love to complain and quite freely carry on about personal problems, things which annoy them or thwart their pursuit of a decent life.
Now consider this . . .
Just as all politics are local, all politics are personal.
That is, what happens in the remote, unfathomable corridors of power affects people every day of their lives on a very personal level.
Cut Social Security and Medicare, grandma must choose between medications and buying nutritious plum pudding.
Keep the minimum wage low, both parents have to work two or three jobs and there’s no one home to watch the kids. Families disintegrate.
Keep the country at war, there’s no money to fix to potholes which rattle the car when you drive to the funeral for your son or daughter who got sent back from the battlefield in a body bag.
You get the point.
There’s no reason to “talk politics” per se with people. There is very good reason to talk about problems we’re all to one degree or another victims of — specifically the problems which are NOT BEING REMEDIED by our elected representatives. These are personal problems which happen to be the direct consequences of political action and inaction on the part of these elected officials. There is no need to argue politics here. We are all just human beings facing often unnecessary trials and challenges. We’re all in this together.
Even so, because political campaigns have become so contentious and divisive, and politicians themselves so ruthlessly manipulative, government at the national level so full of melodrama and confrontation, even the slightest suggestion of “politics” creeping into a discussion can be off-putting and shut down a conversation.
Admittedly, bringing up “issues” is something of a minefield.
First off, what to avoid: There should be no reference to ideologies or ideological leanings or loyalties — conservative, liberal, socialist, libertarian — nor any discussion or mention of political parties. Period!
The labels don’t matter. We live in the same community. We’re all Americans.
Second: Stay away from generalities. “All politicians are crooks.” Like Abraham Lincoln? “I believe in America and the Constitution.” So what? “Our congressman is a good man.” He probably is, but he is still not doing his job. “My family has always voted Democrat.” Right. And there are people who always eat ice cream for breakfast. That doesn’t mean it’s a very smart thing to do.
These broad, sweeping exhortations may be satisfying in some way, and may even be true. The truth is, in terms of getting anything of substance accomplished they go nowhere. They lead directly to resignation and apathy.
Stick to tangible predicaments, the stuff that puts people in a bad mood everyday! This usually means bread-and-butter, life-and-death concerns. These are things which because of rotten public policy cause growling stomachs, empty savings accounts, astronomical credit card debt, sickness and the difficulties of getting medical treatment, disappointment, despair, heartache, disillusion. A troubled or battered citizen is not impacted by philosophical differences or observations about the human condition. They are feeling pain. Neglect. Abuse.
Third, and perhaps most important: DO NOT TALK PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS — unless of course the person insists on it. Yes, the presidential race is exciting, dramatic, baffling, entertaining, frustrating, infuriating. But just leave it alone for now. In the first place, it’s in 2020. We have a more immediate challenge right now, and that’s halting the destruction of our democracy and the looting of our country. We need to focus on 1028! So even if you agree with the person you’re talking to about Trump or Sanders or whoever might be running for president in 2020, discussing it is a distraction and a dead end.
And if you don’t agree about presidential politics, the potential for constructive engagement will be totally destroyed. Conversation over!
Remember this . . .
We need to talk about problems and solutions, not add to the deafening din of discord and division.
At the end of the day . . .
We all face the same opponents and challenges.
We all have identical, similar, or related problems. If those problems are not solved, then we will all — with the exception of the very rich and powerful who will move someplace else or start a colony on the moon — suffer. Individually and collectively we will pay a heavy price.
So what do you talk about?
Remember the percentages we cited elsewhere on this website:
63% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
75% of voters want fair trade agreements protecting jobs, workers, the environment.
76% of voters want a cut back on military spending.
76% of voters want the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan.
79% of voters want no reductions in Social Security; 70% of voters support expanding it.
79% of voters want no reductions in Medicare.
80% of voters oppose the “Citizens United” U.S. Supreme Court decision.
68% of voters think taxes on the wealthy should be increased and corporations should be required to pay their fair share.
71% of voters support massive infrastructure renewal.
65% of voters want laws to combat climate change.
62% of voters want tuition free public colleges and universities.
Notice first the incredible level of agreement we share on many issues.
If those percentages are correct, there are very good odds that whoever you are talking to is already negatively impacted by our elected officials not addressing at least one, but more probably several of the items listed above.
Just talk about life, the obstacles, the difficulties which increasingly plague all of us. It will all come to the surface.
Then, when it’s apparent that the person is in sync with any or all of the above, putting it in your own words, you say . . .
“I’m with you 100% on this. And actually, I decided to do something about it. I just signed a voter pledge for something called a CFAR. I won’t vote for anyone who hasn’t signed this thing called the Contract For American Renewal, because it guarantees just what we’re talking about will get done. No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’ or ‘buts’. If everyone signs it, it just might work. These crooked politicians will start taking orders from us, from now on.”
They’ll probably shake their heads and growl or snort or laugh. People understandably have become jaded. So then you say . . .
“Hey, what have we got to lose? It can’t hurt. We can’t be any worse off than we are now. Sign it. Let’s see what happens.”
What could happen? If we get 70 to 80 million people on board?
Nothing short of a revolution!
You can invite your friends, family, and neighbors over to celebrate!