Thursday, October 27, 2016

I'm Not Speaking To You

So Anita Lynch, a Bernie Sanders delegate to this past summer's Democratic National Convention, tells NPR's Audie Cornish:

I actually met with two strong Hillary people after the convention 'cause I wanted to hear what they had to say. I wanted to hear their perspective. I really wanted to try to understand. And one of the things I said to them was, convince me to vote for Hillary and two things I want you to leave out the conversation - the word Trump and the words Supreme Court. And then tell me why I should vote for Hillary.
When Ms. Cornish asked Ms. Lynch if they'd been able to pull it off, the answer was "Not totally, no."

And so, in the next segment, Ms. Cornish puts the question to one Roz Wyman, a lifelong Democrat and superdelegate who is firmly in the Hillary Clinton camp. Ms. Wyman's answer?
Well, I can certainly be happy not to mention that man's name, but the Supreme Court is obviously very important. And if somebody doesn't care about who's going on the Supreme Court, they're not probably a very good Democrat.
And this leads Ms. Cornish to remark that the potential to name nominees to the Supreme Court is the most important thing for her. Ms. Wyman then says:
Well, it's not the most important thing. I - you know, I balance a lot of things. But the Supreme Court is absolutely important beyond belief. And they're there for, you know, 30, 40 years. And some of the issues - I mean just imagine getting rid of Roe versus Wade. That's one of their prize things. Or we might get Citizens United - get rid of that. The court is absolutely important if you're Democrat in my opinion.
Ms. Wyman's unwillingness to put forth another argument for voting Mrs. Clinton stood out for me. And, yes, I'm saying unwillingness. I'm taking her at her word when she says that the Supreme Court is not the most important thing for her, in spite of the fact that she describes it as "absolutely important beyond belief." And if we take her at her word, she understands that she has other priorities than defeating Donald Trump or being able to seat Supreme Court justices. But when given the opportunity to make the case to someone who might be persuadable, based on those priorities, she refuses to take it, and her response left me with the impression that she considered it thoroughly wrongheaded for anyone to even want to focus on them.

And this is why I consider many everyday Americans to be poor salespeople for the candidates and the policies that they support. Because they can't bring themselves to understand other people's priorities, and instead insist on framing things as a responsibility to their own priorities. Whether one is a very good Democrat or not, a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for Hillary Clinton, and if Mrs. Clinton is elected to the White House, she'll be able to nominate justices to the Supreme Court whether that was a given voter's first, second or twenty-fifth reason for voting for her. When given the chance to advance Mrs. Clinton's chances to name justices to the Supreme Court, Ms. Wyman seemed to toss it away because she couldn't bring herself to ignore the lack of ideological purity that such an act would entail. And while it may make some sense to have a litmus test for the people you vote into office, it doesn't make much sense to have a litmus test for the people whose votes you would court on their behalf. Yet, this strikes me as a common habit.

It's often said that politics are a way for people to express their identities as members of a particular ideological community. And people will self-segregate based on those communities. And while it may make sense to not talk to people who are of an opposing community, with whom one has so little in common that it seems difficult to carry on a worthwhile conversation, once the borders of community preclude speaking to potential allies, simply because they live outside the lines, it becomes counter-productive.

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