This is the Introduction to our brand-new edition of Voicing Our Values:
Politics is the art of persuasion. But persuasion is hard and getting harder. Today, facts are rationalized away and lies are ubiquitous. Without a grasp on objective truths, how can we get Americans to even comprehend what’s in their self-interest, much less what’s best for our nation?
It’s a challenge. As you will see, facts and logical arguments, by themselves, are not particularly persuasive. You need to be aware of your listeners’ preconceptions and biases, start from a point of agreement, articulate your progressive values, and show listeners how they benefit—all while using language that nonpolitical Americans are willing to hear.
It’s important to note that, while much of the guidance provided in this book is to help you with your interpersonal communication with constituents and colleagues, through one-on-one or via speeches, it can also help inform your mass communications, such as emails, newsletters, constituent letters, websites, etc. Simply take some time to think about who you are communicating to—what do you know about them, what have they written in their email or letter to you, what problem are they trying to get you to address? Then, the same rules apply: 1) start from a position of agreement (“I agree that…”); 2) articulate your progressive values (I believe that…”); and 3) show them how they will benefit (I hope you know that I am trying to…for you and your community”).
In every case, you must communicate, over and over again, in words they understand, that you are on their side.
Throughout this volume, we offer suggested language to demonstrate what progressives should and shouldn’t say. We hope it makes this volume easy to use. 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 your own knowledge and experience. Similarly, when given the opportunity, tell a story that helps your listeners picture the problems you seek to address and the goals you seek to achieve.
Messaging is not a silver bullet. In politics, it’s just one tool of many. But if we combine better messaging with problem-solving policies and bold advocacy, we can mobilize the majority of Americans who agree with us, win our electoral and policy campaigns, and change the world.