Strategies for Communication
I thought about this question:
At first, it seemed the answer would be easy: List facts. Then, after Romney’s piece of absurdity, I realized the answer is a bit more complicated.
It’s obvious from Romney’s comments (addressed here) that using facts to back up arguments won’t work with true MAGA people—meaning the 33% of the population that makes up Trump’s hardcore support. If you try, you’ll just wear yourself out.
We need to reach what I think of as Trump’s soft support. In the 538 aggregate, Trump has been as low as 36% approval. Mostly Trump tends to rest (on the 538 aggregate) at about 40-42%. To me this means about 6-8% of his approval is soft.
If you’re talking to hardcore MAGA people, the strategy should be to decrease polarization and prove wrong the FOX caricatures of liberals. Presenting facts won’t work because most (not all) Trump supporters know Trump (and GOP leadership) are lying and they cheer the lies.
I wrote here about why Trump supporters believe all of his lies. If people are gleefully spreading misinformation as a deliberate strategy, arguing with them will energize them.
Our efforts are better spent finding out how local elections are conducted and monitored and getting involved. If you’re talking to the 8% or so of those who “approve” of Trump and who can also be persuaded, talk about the facts.
You can walk them through the Mueller report. I have a series here that might be helpful. It begins here. One study shows that when Trump supporters learned Trump wasn’t actually self-made, he lost some support
Or you can talk about the evidence in the NY AG action alleging that the Trump’s stole from charity. If the person says something like, “Hillary [or Obama] did worse,” I’d suggest a single follow up question: “What did HRC do that was worse?” If you get a bizarre answer, there isn’t much you can do other than resort to the strategies for hardcore MAGA supporters: For example, persuade them you’re rational and you don’t want to take away their right to eat hamburgers (or whatever the latest silliness happens to be).
If you’re talking to people who are critical of Trump (fortunately, a majority) the strategy should be to talk about what people can do to help. If everyone pitches in, we can do a lot. (History teaches the power of decisive majorities.) Most people who disapprove of Trump are fully aware that we are in perilous times. Panic isn’t a bad thing if it motivates people to get involved and get busy. Too much panic can paralyze people. You can’t move forward if you’re in a spin.
It’s not a good idea to terrify people into believing we are already in an autocracy, that democracy isn’t working, and that all of our elected officials are corrupt. Remember that a goal of Putin’s Active Measures is to persuade people that democracy can’t work.
When enough people give up on Democracy, it fails. (History teaches us the power of decisive majorities). A point of How Democracies Die is that democracy is slow, grinding work.
It’s easy to lose patience.
Democracy also requires compromise and flexibility. “My way or I burn the place down” isn’t democracy. Despair and panic aren’t productive. I did some research: Did you know that the National Transportation Safety Board says that 95% of people in flight accidents survived?
So even in an actual plane accident, a cool head can save lives. If you want to know what you can do, click here.
I take my own advice. I turned down an opportunity to write another book this year so I can volunteer. If everyone does a little bit, we can turn it all around.
May 20, 2019