The 2016 election cycle was virtually unprecedented in the fact that it was riddled with so many controversies and abnormalities that seemingly defied the opinions of many. Allegations of corruption in the election process and a substantial rejection of mainstream party icons in favor of bold new options by both sides of the political spectrum are both examples of activities that systematically confounded public opinions. Despite all the controversies we were presented with over this past election cycle, it is important to note the implications of our decisions and understand how we as voters can act in order to ensure prosperity and security for future generations.
Comprehending that millennials will be the largest voter block is an imperative thought, since this means that the politicians we elect in this time period will be our legacy. We owe it to future generations to make America the best place it can be, in addition to ensuring these future generations greater opportunities than we ourselves had, just as our parents attempted to do for us. To do so, we must find allies where we previously saw opponents, and end the deep divisions currently plaguing American politics. As a result, I believe it is crucial to understand Bernie Sanders’ supporters in an effort to identify similarities between them and the right; an undertaking that will allow us to either convert them to our point of view or work with them in places of agreement.
The core principle I want to establish is that, on many issues, it is impossible to tell certain candidates apart because Americans basically agree. Imagine this description of a candidate for a second:
They believe Washington is rigged against the little guy, corporate welfare is destroying America, America must provide opportunities for future generations, the establishment is the source of political problems, and Americans should mostly be left alone by the government unless they pose a significant threat.
If this is a candidate you would support, I would like to extend my congratulations because you just voted for any of the following: Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, or countless others that ran during our past presidential election. The only substantial difference between any of these candidates is the mechanism they would use to accomplish our shared goals; a mechanism they genuinely believe will make America greater than it ever was.
As a result of this brief and rudimentary experimentation, we should conclude that if we all want the same end goal, then we should begin a dialogue starting from a place of respect as opposed to our current one of hostility. When one readily converses with a Bernie Sanders supporter claiming that, “socialism has killed millions,” they are instantaneously creating tension and conflict where there need not be any, despite the factual accuracy of the statement. The reasoning behind why starting a conversation with a confrontational statement like the one above is simple: you have now demonized their point of view and ultimately nobody is willing to listen to those that insult them. Essentially, you have morphed into a perfect representation of Hillary Clinton calling them “deplorables,” and I would urge you to remember how interested you were in dialogue after her statement.
If you instead speak from a place of compassion and actively acknowledge your shared goals, they are much more likely to listen. Consider how the following sounds to begin a dialogue about the mutual goals we established above: “So we both believe that the system is rigged, and that we need to fix it, but I am concerned about how you would go about doing it, since establishment politicians have created this mess. If government is the source of corruption, how is increasing government power the solution?”
From here, you have acknowledged the Bernie supporter’s intentions, and allowed a dialogue to begin from a position of respect and civility. After listening to their response, you can proceed to identify your issues with their position, and attempt to persuade them in a calm and friendly manner.
In closing, I will tell you a story of a Sanders supporter who became a libertarian: Chuck from Pittsburgh. When we first started talking about politics nearly 12 months ago, he was a hard-core Sanders supporter. Through our conversations, I discovered Chuck’s real concern: how would the poor be able to care for themselves without government assistance? To Chuck, the only way to ensure the standard of living that an American deserves was through social welfare programs. However, through civil and respectable dialogue with Chuck, I was able to present fundamental flaws that exist in this system of support, and therefore Chuck was able to accept some of the problems which flowed from Sander’s inclinations for a socialist regime. Over time and persistent conversations, Chuck realized that a libertarian society could alleviate his concerns, and subsequently he became a Gary Johnson voter.
I ask you this: how many people like Chuck exist in our country that are alienated with the current rhetoric being proliferated around? How much easier would it become to obtain your goals, if you were able to turn just 10% of your “enemies” into allies? These are all valid questions that one should intensely meditate over, but I know unequivocally, from my own perceptions and experiences, that harsh rhetoric has a place in consolidation, but that it is also utterly worthless for conversion.