Convincing The Unconvinced: The Tactical Effects Of Voting

As prelude, I fully intend to vote for Clinton, even though I was a Sanders supporter in the primary (so, for Intelligent Designer’s sake, don’t yell at me by proxy). What I’ve noticed is that there are quite a few Clinton supporters who are trying to ‘encourage’ former Sanders supporters (along with those who align with neither) to vote for Clinton. I put encouraged in scare quotes because many of these Clinton supporters are going about it completely wrong.

One of the advantages of having been a Sanders supporter is that you have a much better understanding of why someone would not want to vote for her. Instead of hectoring Sanders supporters, giving them positive reasons to vote for Clinton will work much better (boldface mine):

Okay, in this country, we like to treat voting as some sort of higher calling/higher power, the prime form of exerting ideology and power any citizen can take. Maybe this works for the general population, and maybe it doesn’t. But for our non-voter, this is a huge obstacle. If voting is the exclusive or primary source of political power that they have, then casting a vote for a candidate that they dislike feels like a betrayal of core political values.

So if you want to convince talk about voting not as something they have to do in order to be good citizens, but as a tactical move made in order to make life a little bit better. For example, I might have been fairly unenthused by Obama’s fairly centrist candidacy in 2008, but if you’d told me that in 2011, as a freelance writer, Obama’s election would help give me health insurance I otherwise couldn’t afford at all, that might have changed matters.

It doesn’t have to be so selfish, of course. Whatever the non-voters personal or political goals might be, figure out what they are and how Hillary or your preferred candidate will, very specifically, make those better. And in this election, Trump’s white supremacy is so clearly god-awful that an argument can be made that there is a straightforward strategic benefit to having him be defeated by a big a margin as possible. But again, treat this as a question of proper tactics.

One thing to tap into is something from Sanders’ convention speech: Clinton has supported a massive expansion of community health centers. This will provide affordable healthcare to many millions (probably tens of millions) more people. If they choose not to vote for Clinton, they do have to own that. And that brings up another point–opposition to Clinton might not always be due to misogyny (boldface mine):

At their core, many of the most offputting, unhelpful arguments for voting for the Democrats are about browbeating the nonvoter into realizing they’re wrong. Here’s a rather famous example, called “I’m Voting For The Democrat In November Because I’m Not A Human Tire Fire”. It’s a funny and direct title, perhaps, but calling someone a human tire fire when you want to convince them to take your recommended action isn’t a good opening move — especially when the problem is that the anti-voter believes that voting for Democrats is a moral issue on its own! (I don’t know why they might believe that….)

The net effect seems to be that most arguments about anti-voters are much more about making the conventional Democratic voter feel good than they are about actually convincing anti-voters. Maybe that has its place. But if we’re already talking to stubborn motherfuckers, yelling at them that they’re horrible wrong people probably won’t make them less stubborn. Look to convince, not to convict.

To do that, well, follow this advice. Understand the anti-voter’s point, point out straightforward tactical benefits, and avoid making it sound like the fate of a galaxy hinges on a single person’s ballot.

The goal here is to gain votes, not converts. So do that, and, as Kaiser notes, don’t bring up Ralph Nader*. Give them a good reason to vote for Clinton–and if you’re doing so, you should have some.

*There were over 300,000 Florida Democrats who voted for Bush in 2000. They bear as much culpability for the loss as Nader supporters do, yet, oddly enough, they are never discussed. Voting for the Republican is also a ‘wasted’ vote.

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8 Responses to Convincing The Unconvinced: The Tactical Effects Of Voting

  1. Gingerbaker says:

    My problem is not with Clinton, but with the DNC. A vote for Clinton is now supportive of an actively anti-progressive DNC. I’m not in a swing state – what would you do?

  2. Felicis says:

    I would point out that if you are in a safely blue or red state, you can vote for a third party without jeopardizing Clinton’s chances. For example – in Oregon, Clinton is currently up by 11 in a state that is pretty solid blue. A vote for the Socialist Workers Party Kennedy/Hart ticket isn’t going to hurt her.

    Similarly, Trump is up by 24 in Oklahoma – a deep red state that Clinton is not going to win. Your vote for Castle/Bradley on the Constitution ticket won’t hurt her (or Trump).

    However –

    Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Georgia (?!) – a third party vote is a real risk of shifting that state to Trump. Ohio is in a statistical tie – your third party vote there is a definite help to Trump. Even in Iowa, North Carolina, and Mississippi – vote Clinton instead of a third party.

    Luckily, I can vote for a third party as a protest against the Clinton policies I dislike without the worry that she will lose my state. However, if I see polls showing Trump behind less than 5 points, I will not take a chance and vote for Clinton. It’s not *likely* that will happen, but I also don’t want her claiming a ‘mandate’, when what she had was a bunch of people who didn’t want a lunatic in charge.

  3. RJ says:

    I’m not a politician – obviously – and I have to say it is very difficult for me to find a positive reason to support Clinton. As usual (always?) with the mainstream donkeys, it’s that their candidate is not as bad as the other guy. Been this way since 1973.

  4. Felicis says:

    Oh – and a comment on Clinton supporters tactics for getting those of us who are not thrilled with her to vote for her instead of a third party candidate:

    Saying that I am a bad person for not wanting to vote for your candidate, and putting up a bunch of reasons you think I am not voting for your candidate that do not address any of my concerns (like, my privilege, I am going to hurt minorities with my vote, I’m sexist, I’ve bought into media lies about her, etc. – while ignoring my concern with her hawkish attitude towards military force, her like of Kissinger, how she had to be *forced* to the left, etc…) – that’s not going to get me to vote the way you want me to. Even if you addressed my concerns, but still had the attitude of contempt that Clinton supporters have been showing everyone else for the past several months – you are still pushing voters away instead of attracting them.

    It’s really starting to piss me off.

    • albanaeon says:

      Totally agree with you.

      The closest I’ve come to deciding not to vote for Hillary have come because of her supporters. Rewriting history to “correct” everything she did to being right, acting like no smoking gun of corruption is the equivalent of being squeaky clean, using the word “bias” as proof of me being wrong, being told I’m not a liberal or progressive if I’m not enthused by Hillary while not knowing what those ideas actually mean, being told that using “neo-liberal” or “warhawk” is unfair because of the negative connotations towards her even if they are accurate, double standards of how they’d believe the worst about Bernie while getting miffed over people doing the same with Hillary, being attacked and accused of wanting Trump to win for not being totally and completely in love with Clinton, being told to shut up with any criticism, and of course “sexist.”

      None of this helps win me over more, but certainly makes me resent that I’m giving my vote to Clinton.

  5. Net Denizen says:

    I’ve been saying something like this for years!! When you consider that a “good” turnout is still in the low 60% of voters, the dems should be finding ways to reach those 40-something% of voters who don’t bother to turn out at all rather than spend (and waste) time brow-beating people who mostly agree with their positions.

  6. Laie says:

    “Tragic but distinguishable outcomes”, be it ever so accurate an description, as an argument it doesn’t win hearts and minds. Not then, not now.

  7. Pat Greene says:

    Just a comment about Nader and Florida in 2000: I never felt that any of the Republican voters were allies. Quite a number of the Nader voters I knew were. (And at least some of them are Bernie supporters turned Jill Stein supporters.)

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