Most Americans are progressive on most issues. By margins of at least two to one, our fellow citizens agree that the U.S. economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful; think wealthy individuals and corporations pay too little in federal taxes; favor a major increase in the minimum wage; want to require businesses to provide paid sick leave to their employees; believe prescription drug costs are unreasonable; favor restricting carbon emissions from coal power plants; want health insurance to be affordable for all Americans; say we should require background checks for all gun buyers; oppose the deportation of unauthorized immigrants; support federal funding for Planned Parenthood; say that LGBTQ people should be protected against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing; and do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Progressives will cheer and conservatives will grumble about those facts. But persuadable Americans, the people who swing advocacy and political campaigns one way or another, don’t particularly care. They are not focused on a list of issues. When they engage in politics, they’re mostly asking themselves a much broader question—who is on my side?
The purpose of this book is to suggest how to communicate to those undecideds, over and over again, that you and your cause(s) are on their side.
As you will see, facts and logical arguments, by themselves, are not persuasive. You need to be aware of your listeners’ preconceptions and biases, start from a point of agreement, declare your progressive values, show listeners how they benefit, and speak in a way that nonpolitical citizens can grasp.
Throughout this book, we suggest specific language that illustrates how you can apply our advice. As long as you understand the reasoning behind our recommendations, we encourage you to adapt the examples to your own voice. Make the language authentically yours, fully integrating it with the knowledge and experience that you bring to any issue.
Message framing is not a silver bullet. It’s just one tool to help win political battles, albeit one that progressives could use a lot more effectively. Still, if we combine better messaging with a lot of other hard work, we can mobilize that majority of Americans who agree with us, win our campaigns, and change the world.