How To Win Over Liberal Activists And Influence Them

February 9th, 2009 at 12:19 pm | 15 Comments |

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Being a Republican in Los Angeles County is like being a Red Sox fan at Yankee Stadium.  We get a lot of abuse and definitely know what it is like to be in the minority.  This past year I worked on Senator John McCain’s Presidential campaign. To understand where the McCain campaign went wrong here and what improvements should be made let me inform you about some of my experiences while attending various public venues.

The city of West Hollywood which has a large gay population held an annual book fair.  At the fair the Obama campaign was being represented but they refused to give the McCain campaign access, pills stating that our application was too late.  The first lesson learned:  be organized and have a paper trail. I pointed out that we were indeed on time and had the dates and times of the phone calls/emails to prove it; thereby overcoming the first hurdle.  We may have had representation at the book fair, patient but instead of having a table in the same area as the Obama campaign we were placed in the back of the event while they were at the front.  The next lesson learned:  be persistent, yet respectful.  In a calm but determined manner I pointed out that we needed to have the same access and all we wanted was to be represented in a fair and balanced fashion.  After much discussion the Obama table was moved to our area. Finally, there was the freedom of speech issue.  A comedian performing for the crowd took one of the McCain yarmulkes and said it should be used as a “prophylactic.” After his show was finished, I confronted him privately in a calm manner and told him as a Jew I was highly offended.  The head of the event came up and told me I had no right going up to one of her employees  because they had the right to say whatever they wanted (freedom of speech).  I responded by saying if that is the case I also can say what I want because I have the same constitutional rights as her employee.  The lesson learned is to stand up for your rights and what you believe in.  After hearing these stories many Republicans told me we should never go there again.  I disagreed – we made a presence by showing that we as Republicans wanted to recruit from the gay and lesbian community in such a liberal area as L.A. County.   We allowed the community to see us reaching out, emphasizing our commonalities and not our differences.

I was asked to represent McCain at the Sony Pictures Election Information and Voter Registration Fair. As I engaged people in a discussion more people came up just to listen to what was being said.  For example someone asked me how McCain could be against torture yet vote against a bill that would have forced the CIA to use the military’s interrogation techniques.  Another lesson learned: engage people in a discussion.  I pointed out that McCain held that position in 2005 and that he did not want to tie the CIA’s hands.  As more people circled around us, I asked them:  when do the ends justify the means?  If their loved one has been kidnapped by Islamic extremists; if a school bus full of children has been kidnapped; if an American commercial jet was threatened to be downed by a rocket; or if an American city was to be nuked, would they want the CIA to use interrogation techniques to find answers in a timely manner.  A lot of people agreed with me and asked other questions about McCain.  This is an example of how engaging someone might convince them and others to think about the other side’s views.  

Finally, I worked tables at different malls in the LA area.  It was very interesting to me that the same people who believe so much in civil liberties made comments such as:  “you have no right to be in this country”; “you should not be supporting that man”; and “you should burn in hell.” I responded by asking them why they did not believe in the Democratic process, and that burning human beings was tried already and did not work.  The lesson learned was that people are free to have opinions but when they cross the line don’t get flustered, but put them on the defensive.  

On the positive side, I got comments such as “FINALLY you guys (McCain people) are out here!”; “what took you so long?”; “glad you are here.”  There were two instances which made an impression on me.  There were a group of African-American teenagers that came up to me and said their parents were supporting Obama and asked me why they should not support him.  To spare the readers my detailed explanation I asked them questions about issues.  As they were leaving they thanked me and asked if they could have a McCain bumper sticker.  I responded by telling them to just think about what is being said and to do the research; don’t blindly accept the media and people’s remarks as facts.  Lesson learned:  to combat media bias people must be encouraged to make their own inquiries.  Have information from factual, unbiased websites available to hand out.  In another instance an African-American family came up to me and asked why I don’t like Obama.  I responded by saying “it’s not that I don’t like him it’s that I don’t support him; but I do respect your decision.” There were others around and they came up and shook my hand.  The lesson learned is to try to use words to deflate a situation not to inflame it.

Going forward the lessons learned from working on the McCain campaign were numerous.  I do NOT think this “phone call bank” infatuation is working here.  Having a presence energizes the base, and can get converts.  By going out into the public we can personalize people’s issues.  What is needed is to train people on the issues of a candidate and have them go out into public places.  Another lesson I learned was that the internet is very important.  Friends were telling me they got two and three emails a day from the Obama campaign informing them on issues, statements, and asking for donations as little as $5.00.  If they reached say 100,000 people that’s $500,000.  Of course any message has to be sweet and to the point, not long winded and dry.  Going forward, what should be our goals?  To energize our base with a public presence; to get undecided people to think about the issues through questioning and personalizing examples; and to deflate situations through joking and kind words.  Instead of criticizing the other candidate we should be espousing the positives of the Republican candidate. Power is in knowledge.

Recent Posts by Elise Cooper

15 Comments so far ↓

  • HollywoodBill

    Since GWBush, it has been a lot easier to tell people that I’m a Decline to State, which is how Independents are identified out here. McCain was never popular in CA, but with the Moose Hunter on the ticket, it was impossible to support the GOP national ticket. GWBush lost CA by 11 points in 2000 and 10 in 2004. McCain and the Moose Hunter lost by 24 points–the largest loss in almost 60 years. It is pointless to campaign or work for any candidate who is a social conservative out here. We haven’t elected any religious zealots statewide since 1986.

  • sinz54

    So how many left-leaning people did Ms. Cooper and the rest of the McCain campaign actually win over and get to vote GOP? She didn’t say. According to the exit polls, McCain got 27% of the national LGBT vote, compared to only 19% for Bush in 2004. I don’t think the presence of Palin on the ticket caused voters to think that McCain had morphed into a Christian social conservative himself. They knew he wasn’t, and that Palin was on the ticket simply to balance it. McCain had actually pulled ahead of Obama after the GOP convention and the acceptance speeches by McCain and Palin. But then, as we all know, three weeks later, the U.S. economy fell off a cliff–and with a Republican president in the White House, that was the end for the GOP. It wasn’t just McCain/Palin who lost. A lot of congressional Republican incumbents and candidates also lost, many of whom weren’t Christian social conservatives either.

  • HollywoodBill

    McCain has always been pro life, albeit not a religious zealot about the matter like the lower half of the ticket. I feel sorry for the author who worked very hard and hope she doesn’t become disillusioned about working for candidates. But certain candidates do not play in certain areas. And Christian social conservatives are not playing well in CA, OR, or WA and now NV, CO and NM. Predictions are that Montana and Arizona could tip Democratic should the GOP nominate another social conservative by 2012. Her ideas on getting people to vote for candidates are great. More Internet. But, there has to be something to work with. McCain/Palin was a bad hand to be dealt in CA,

  • sinz54

    HollywoodBill: Which Republicans would have done better than McCain in California? Giuliani? Giuliani was the closest thing the GOP had to a serious pro-choice candidate (which makes David Frum’s staunch opposition to him puzzling, BTW). But even Giuliani was caught blindsided by the collapse of the economy, presided over by Republican president Bush. And the collapse of the housing market hit California particularly hard. No Republican could have done well in California under those circumstances.

  • sinz54

    HollywoodBill: As governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin was never a “religious zealot” about Christian conservatism either. She didn’t try to ram a hard-right agenda through the Alaska legislature. Rather, she just lives by Christian values, choosing to bear a child with Down’s Syndrome rather than terminate that pregnancy. Probably most folks in California think she made the wrong decision, that’s all.

  • HollywoodBill

    The collapse of the economy probably doomed any Republican in CA. However, no social conservative has won statewide since Deukmajian in 1986. And that was against Tom Bradley. Bradley as in Bradley Effect. Palin is a religious zealot who has zero appeal in Western states which tend more to the libertarian side of the GOP. She is from the Buchanan wing of the GOP whom she championed in 1996 and actually raised funds for him. Two Western politicians on the ticket and look at the losses. That’s why Frum believes and has stated that Palin would be a kamikaze Republican in 2012. She would carry the South and the Bible Belt. And that’s it.

  • B.A.Borton

    This was a great article. Very informative and inspiring. Thank you.

  • larryo

    What lesson was learned when Sarah Palin was annointed?

  • gospelance

    fantastic; inspired by a famous radio host, I have determined to educate liberals and other victims of the Media and Left–whenever something comes up. Even if I have to repeat the words: “Barney Frank” or “Chris Dodd”– ten times during the conversation!

  • see7

    You’re a true soldier. Well written and excellent points that we can all learn from for next time.

  • shellyl

    As a McCain volunteer I agree with your conclusions. I believe we have to be in public as much as possible to show the other side that we too are Americans and that we have something to say that they might want to hear. It is true that most people have their minds made up before hand, we do, but we are trying to find those who are on the fence who really want to learn and present them with the side of our candidate that attracted us and perhaps it will do the same for them.

  • gospelance

    I’ve found that: when you talk to Lefties or so-called Independent Thinkers,” it doesn’t take long to find conservative principles in their views. I guess then you have to point that out. Then perhaps they’ll have to weigh the two sides, and see which one weighs more.

  • gerrysh

    What a surprise – the trolls are so obsessed, that they have to bring up their fixation on the governor of Alaska when the subject is California.

  • HollywoodBill

    And the Palinistas refuse to believe that the MooseHunter being on the ticket had nothing to do with the loss. As Frum has written, Palin would be on a kamikaze mission were she to be on the national ticket in 2012.

  • erasmuse

    Great post! I’d like to see more like this.

    It’s so true that going into enemy territory is important. When people hear zero from the opposition, they start to believe truly crazy things.

    Conservatives, of course, rarely are so isolated from their opposition (though it can happen).