Sunday, November 9, 2014

When All Else Fails

The morning after the election, the first person I saw to speak to was my orthopedist's assistant.  As she set up the paraphernalia for the shots I was getting to renew my knees for awhile, I asked her if she had voted Tuesday.

She looked abashed, apologized and said, no, she hadn't.  She was busy, she worked all day....  "If you had voted, would you have voted Democrat or Republican?"  She hedged, saying she really didn't know who was running.  This was probably true, but given my Hillary tote-bag, my guess is she was trying to avoid telling me she would have voted Republican, because that's the way her family has always voted.  Just guessing.

Alexandra Pelosi is a documentary film maker.  She interviews people in malls and parking lots, asking them what they know and what they think about what is going on in politics.  What she does is brilliant in its simplicity.  In September, on Real Time with Bill Maher, she talked about what people didn't know about the upcoming election.  People did not know who their congressman was or who was running in various races.  What they did know was that if they voted they were going to vote "R."  Please go to the above link and watch (around minute 2'30") the interviews.  It is far more informative than anything our Democratic leaders have come up with to explain why they lost last week.

Since November 4th, we have had panels and meetings, interviews and discussions of all sorts, with different kinds of experts trying to explain why the Democrats lost.  What has been missing  -- WHAT HAS BEEN MISSING -- is asking the voters.  I don't think knocking on doors before the election does much to raise the chances of a person voting for a candidate; it seems that they usually agreeably promise to get out and vote for whoever is asking.  But now that the election is over, wouldn't it be a good time to knock on doors, stop people at the mall, have conversations at local meetings?  And this time, wouldn't it be a good idea, instead of telling people why they should vote for a Democrat, maybe it would be a good idea to not just ask them whether they voted and who they voted for, but to ask them what is important to them.

One of the things the Republicans are really good at, is pretending they are your friend.  If you didn't know better, they would really seem to be listening.  I can't get Jim Clyburn or Vincent Sheheen to answer an email, or even snail mail, but Nikki Haley not only signs her letters (typed on very nice stationery) but adds a little personal "Thanks for writing!"  We laugh at Haley and commiserate with state employees forced to answer the phone by telling the caller that "It's a great day in South Carolina!" but isn't it shrewd to even force her employees to present her personal happy face to anyone who calls.  She may not have given a hoot what a visitor had to say, but most of us know that she opened her door and met with anyone who wanted to speak with her (maybe she doesn't any more, but she sure got a lot of publicity when she did).

Our Democratic Party invites us to send money, and occasionally come to meetings and fundraisers, but send an email and ask them to give you a call.  If the Democratic Party doesn't have anybody there that wants to know what I think (and I am very free with my opinion), what about all those Democrats that don't get out to the polls because they just don't think anybody cares?

We Democrats know what is best for you, the voter, and it really pisses us off that you don't think it's as important as we think it is.  Maybe that's what we are doing wrong.  Maybe we need to spend some time, before the next election cycle, asking and listening.  And resisting the temptation to jump in and lecture and explain.

Here's one last thought.  Most of us are tired.  We work hard, we pay our bills, we do our best to be there for our families, and then we try to enjoy some of our free time.  Why would we take time to plow through all the politics -- and politics can be boring, meaningless, or just mean -- when we could be doing something that feels good?  When Barack Obama ran in 2008, he gave us something different, something special.  He really did give us hope and the promise of change.  He reached people that we are no longer reaching.  Our candidates seem to be scrabbling to promise high school graduates technical jobs rather than the opportunity to reach for the moon.  Our opponents are the ones promising the tech jobs.  Maybe we should be working harder to promise the moon.

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