Pull out your address book. Identify how many friends you have in red states. Recruit them to call their members of Congress.
In the past, OTYCD has asked you to call friends and family in red states to urge their Republican MoCs to vote against cabinet nominees and legislation. Today, we’re asking you to take some time to sit with your address book, identify who your friends are in red states, and see who among them you can call, email, or nudge on social media to push back against nasty things the Republicans are trying to do.
Living in a solidly blue state is a double-edged sword. Your MoCs agree with you, but it’s the Republicans who own everything at the moment. Republican MoCs in other districts and states won’t listen to you (and rightly so) because they need to concentrate on their own constituents.
The next-best thing you can do, once you’ve done what you can do directly, is urge friends in red states to call their MoCs and speak out.
So, step one: Pull out your address book, or Christmas card list, or whatever database or master list you keep of friends and their contact info. Ideally, this info includes street addresses.
Step two: Identify who lives in red states.
Step three: Rank the red staters in order of how strong your relationship is.
Step four: Now, think. Who have you talked about politics with on this list? How did it go? Reshuffle the list to move those who share your politics, and those who may not share your politics but who seem sane and like to talk politics with you, toward the top of the list.
Those with strong bonds and who share your politics should be on top, followed by those with strong bonds who show an interest in politics, but who might not always agree with you 100 percent. Then come the people with more distant relationships but who share your politics, followed by more distant relationships with politically aware people who seem sane.
Also, be alert to sharp exceptions. You might have someone in your orbit who’s largely apolitical except on a specific issue that damn near consumes them. Many mothers of school-age kids who didn’t care about politics or were only mildly interested got pretty damn interested right quick when Betsy DeVos was nominated to run the department of education.
Sift these single-issue red state folks out and rank them below the broader-interest folks. If you agree with their outlook on their single issue, make a point of engaging with them on that issue alone and sharing action items that would interest them.
Step five: Look at the first group–the people you have strong bonds with and who you share the same political outlook with. How often are you talking to them? Can you invest more time in them? These are the people you want to cultivate first.
And when we say ‘invest more time in them,’ we mean overall. Do NOT make it all about politics! Work on maintaining and strengthening your bond first and foremost. Use the 80/20 rule that social media mavens tout: For every action that serves your goals (in this case, urging your friend to call their Republican MoCs), perform at least four other actions that have nothing to do with your goals. (Bonus points if most or all are in service of your friend. At least half of the four should be.)
Once you feel like you have things humming along with the first group (and take as much time as you need to reach that point–never rush it!), then turn to the second group: the people you have strong bonds with, but who you don’t really talk politics with.
In the course of strengthening and maintaining your bonds with them, try dropping mentions of how you feel about something that the Republicans are trying to do. Don’t be angry, do be factual, and make it clear that you are stating an opinion.
Pay attention to how they react. Stick to the 80/20 rule. Keep watching how they react. If they show a pattern of changing the subject, showing annoyance, or actively shutting down, lay off for a few months and try again. If they ultimately ask you to quit it forever, then quit it forever. It’s more important to show that you’re able to listen to them and honor their requests.
If they show a pattern of reacting positively or even neutrally, stay alert to political events that are happening locally that they might like, and encourage them to go. Maybe it’s a Town Hall meeting with an MoC. Maybe it’s a protest. Maybe it’s giving them a ride to the polls. Think about what they would like best, tell them about it, and if you live close enough, offer to go with them.
Future posts will elaborate on cultivating the more distant red state friends and family on your list. But overall, remember:
Friendship comes first. If you wouldn’t want to invest time in this person if they lived in a blue state, then don’t bother. Just don’t. Don’t treat fellow human beings like a 10-point buck you’re dying to bag and mount on your wall. People can smell that crap a mile away.
Remember the 80/20 rule. For every time you talk about politics or ask them to do something political, you should be doing at least four other things that aren’t about politics, and at least two of those four should be things your friend enjoys.
If they complain that you’re talking about politics too much, back off. Again, see points one and two above. Don’t completely stop talking about politics, mind you, if talking politics is part of who you are. But listen to your friend, give it a rest for a time, and keep your talk to venting rather than you asking them to do something.
This is soft activism, and no form of activism yields results overnight. This is gardening. This is exercise. It takes time. Remind yourself that it takes time, and that it may not pay off as spectacularly as you hope it will. But you will have succeeded in deepening a relationship with another person who you care about, and you will have gotten them to think about and care about making a difference. That’s worth it. That’s always worth it.