How to turn trolls into your best friends

February 23, 2017 at 9:40 am

In the movie Thank You For Smoking, the main character Joey Naylor, a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, has a great scene with his son that talks about how he wins.

His son asks him what happens when he’s wrong. Here’s the quick transcript of the scene:

Joey Naylor: What happens when you’re wrong? Nick Naylor: Whoa, Joey I’m never wrong.
Joey Naylor: But you can’t always be right…
Nick Naylor: Well, if it’s your job to be right, then you’re never wrong.
Joey Naylor: But what if you are wrong?
Nick Naylor: OK, let’s say that you’re defending chocolate, and I’m defending vanilla. Now if I were to say to you: ‘Vanilla is the best flavour ice-cream’, you’d say…
Joey Naylor: No, chocolate is.
Nick Naylor: Exactly, but you can’t win that argument… so, I’ll ask you: so you think chocolate is the end all and the all of ice-cream, do you?
Joey Naylor: It’s the best ice-cream, I wouldn’t order any other.
Nick Naylor: Oh! So it’s all chocolate for you is it?
Joey Naylor: Yes, chocolate is all I need.
Nick Naylor: Well, I need more than chocolate, and for that matter I need more than vanilla. I believe that we need freedom. And choice when it comes to our ice-cream, and that Joey Naylor, that is the defintion of liberty.
Joey Naylor: But that’s not what we’re talking about
Nick Naylor: Ah! But that’s what I’m talking about.
Joey Naylor: …but you didn’t prove that vanilla was the best…
Nick Naylor: I didn’t have to. I proved that you’re wrong, and if you’re wrong I’m right.
Joey Naylor: But you still didn’t convince me
Nick Naylor: It’s that I’m not after you. I’m after them. [points into the crowd]

This scene illustrates one of the greatest issues that I see liberals struggle with in the public sphere:

We think we win when we win a logical argument.

Professionals like Nick Naylor understand that you win when you win someone over.

Overcoming objections: A short process to help you address emotional need

February 15, 2017 at 6:44 pm

1965 Rambler Marlin by American Motors Corporation (AMC). A sporty “personal-luxury” two-door hardtop fastback. (Chrostopher Ziemnowicz/Wikimedia)

People who work in sales have known for a long time that buying is an emotional decision.

Think about someone you know who recently made a purchase—like a car. Cars make a great example because people frequently buy cars that express their identity.

If people want to be seen as caring about the environment, for example, they might buy a Prius or a Chevy Volt. If they want to be seen as rebellious or free, they might buy a Corvette or a convertible. People hate minivans because minivans are a practical vehicle. Minivans express that you have kids. Enter the sports utility vehicle—you can be practical and still express yourself!

You get the picture. People buy based on emotions.

In Customer Centric Selling, Michael Bosworth and John Holland sum up what good sales people know:

When a buyer decides to buy from a particular seller, it is an emotional decision. Equally, when a buying committee decides to buy from a particular vendor, it is an emotional decision. When a buyer decides to pay an asking price rather than holding out for a lower price, it is an emotional decision. When a buyer decides to buy from a person he or she is comfortable with, rather than shopping for the lowest possible price, it is an emotional decision.

Yet when you talk to people about their car-buying decision, they often say things like:

  • “I got a really good deal.”
  • “My old car was about to die.”
  • “It gets great gas mileage.”
  • “It will increase in value.”
  • “No one else makes engines like this.”

Research by folks like Drew Westen, George Lakoff, Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler, and others has illustrated that more often than not people also make political decisions based on emotions and beliefs, and then rationalize their decisions after the fact.

We’ll consider Gorsuch after you consider Merrick Garland

February 6, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. (Whitehouse.gov)

Neal Katyal makes an eloquent case for Neil Gorsuch in the New York Times this week as a highly qualified candidate.

I believe he has strong experience.

Democrats shouldn’t vote for him though. Not yet. Instead, they should demand a vote on Merrick Garland first, because of his similar qualifications.

Why?

Because this fight is bigger than Gorsuch. This fight is about democracy and our Constitution. It’s about fairness under the law, and Garland deserves a Senate hearing and a vote.

Democratic capitalism: Freeing people from the corporate special interest definition of ‘corruption’

January 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Monument to the victims of capitalism in Montreal. (photographymontreal/Flickr)

This week someone asked me if I’d heard any questions about IDEA, the federal law protecting students with disabilities (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings.

I get these types of questions a lot because I write about politics. It’s kind of funny because I don’t think I know much about politics—at least not when it comes to policy details. I’ve had people tell me in response, “But I love listening to you talk. You know so much.”

Here’s a secret: It’s more important to know what you believe in—and how to talk about what you believe in.

The problem is that corporate special interests “get” this, and all too often we don’t—especially many of us who come from academic backgrounds, where arguing is the accepted way to flesh out ideas and learn.

Let me demonstrate by showing you how corporate special interests redefined “corruption,” why this is so important, and how you can help break people out of this trap.

Using populist Trump against GOP Trump

January 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

On Tuesday, Jan. 3,  Americans woke up to news that Republicans were going to gut the House Ethics Committee. The first thing I did was post the news to several groups, with a short ask for people to call their member of Congress.

I called Republican Steve Chabot’s office here in Cincinnati and actually reached someone. I told Steve’s aide I was calling to urge him to vote against gutting the Ethics Committee and commented that it seemed like a funny way to #draintheswamp. She was quick to tell me that Steve had opposed the committee vote and would vote against it.

The attempt at gutting the committee ended up going down like the Hindenburg.

More importantly though, it made something clear: The people who voted for Trump believed him when he said he was gonna fight for the little guy.

Here’s why this matters—and how to use Trump against Trump and the GOP Congress.

Indivisible: A short guide for the resistance by former congressional staffers

January 2, 2017 at 12:23 am

If Trump’s cabinet appointments are any indication, the Republican agenda is going to be selling off the remainder of the country to private interests. Betsy DeVos at Education is a proponent of privatizing schools. Tom Price at Health and Human Services is an opponent of the ACA. Scott Pruitt at the EPA is an oil lobbyist. Rick Perry, the candidate for the Department of Energy, has proposed scrapping the Department of Energy. Corporate raider Carl Icahn is going to be advising the president on regulations. Paul Ryan has plans to privatize Medicare.

It seems pretty obvious what’s coming: Republicans and the Trump administration are going to try and realize the corporate special interest dream of selling off the country to the highest bidders.

I think the way to stop this is to oppose everything loudly. As the authors of “Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda” write:

The hard truth of the next four years is that we’re not going to set the agenda; Trump and congressional Republicans will, and we’ll have to respond. The best way to stand up for the progressive values and policies we cherish is to stand together, indivisible — to treat an attack on one as an attack on all.

This is not what we’re used to. We’re used to talking about what we believe in. Unfortunately, Republicans are going to control all three branches of government so if we have any hope of keeping the country in the hands of “We, the people,” we’re going to have to resist. This guide is well worth sharing for its outstanding practical advice. What’s in the four sections of the guide:

  1. What we can learn from the tea party: How the tea party targeted individual representatives of Congress
  2. How members of Congress think (Hint: re-election, re-election, re-election)
  3. Identifying and organizing your local group for action
  4. Four tactics that work

I’m not going to go into the detail, but I thought I’d talk about some highlights.