All In with Chris Hayes along with Senator Bernie Sanders visited Kenosha Wisconsin where they had a town-hall-like meeting. Bernie Sanders with patience brought a Trump supporter to her senses and at the end had her supporting all of his positions.
Bernie Sanders shows how to win over Trump voters
In this year of change this type of exchange with a Trump voter, is the reason many believed Bernie Sanders could reach the Mid-Western voters. Chris Hayes placed four Trump voters on the stage at the town-hall-like forum next to Senator Bernie Sanders. One woman, in particular, had the stereotypical attributes of a Trump voter. It was magical seeing her transformation as Bernie Sanders was able to reach her.
Gail Sparks was not psyched about either candidate in 2012 but felt strongly about voting in 2016. She wanted a change. In her mind, politicians are talkers and the country needed a businessman.
"Trump seemed more of him being a businessman," Sparks said. "What is this country for; business or talk?"
It was evident Sparks bought the narrative of running the country like a business, something anathema to government's purpose. Senator Sanders changed the messaging in a manner that she understood in the gut that quickly overcame what she believed.
"I think you make a good point," Sanders said. "What you are really saying is people are sick and tired of establishment politics. Right? And they want somebody who says he is going to do something and cut through a lot of the crap."
That felt true to Sparks.
Later on, a Muslim woman got up and spoke about the fear in Muslim communities and communities of color because of Trump's rhetoric. Sanders asked the panel if indeed Trump was running on bigotry by turning one group against each other. Three of the people on stage thought it was all rhetoric, but it would never come to pass. Most disappointing is that they never addressed the bigotry as a disqualifying factor at all.
Then Sparks chimed in again. Her distorted view of immigrants made her want some of Trump's deportation rhetoric to be true.
"To some extent, I am hoping it is," Sparks said. "Being 'one' that works in a factory, and I have tried to finish my college degree to be in this factory to do the job I am doing. But because there are so many illegals in there, I can't get the pay I should get."
She went on to make other stereotypical statements about undocumented workers. Sanders closed out the immigration topic by pointing out the obvious.
"I find it interesting what three out of four of you are saying is 'Yes he talked about that stuff, but it will never happen,' Sanders said. "Why do you vote for somebody who in a sense then is lying."
After a few more exchanges, it was evident that Sparks was doing some soul searching.
"I am sitting here, and I am listening to all this," Spark said. "And she says, 'Who is paying for this?' Who is paying for the Medicaid? Who's paying for the Social Security? Who's Paying for the Medicare? Who? We are. Now, have any of you seen down on the streets that it seems like we have become the silent minority and not the majority? How much have we been listened to, really?"
Chris Hayes asked her to clarify who the 'we' is, sensing she might be talking about just a particular group. She explained by stating it was everyone that need social services and education.
Sanders then came in for the kill, not the kill but the final persuasion given our reality.
"I am assuming that you believe, -- correct me if I am wrong -- that we should not cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid," Sanders asked.
"Do you know who is now working very hard to try to do that?" Sanders asked Sparks. "Republicans in Congress have a plan under the guise of saving Medicare and saving Social Security, making devastating cuts. That's what the Republicans are now trying to do. The other point that you made which is ... whos is going to pay for this stuff? That is a very fair point. What all of us should know is that over the last twenty-five years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth in this country from you to the top one-tenth of one percent. In other words, the middle-class has shrunk, and trillions of dollars have gone to the top one-tenth of one percent. Do you think it's inappropriate to ask those people to start paying their fair share of taxes so we can adequately fund Medicaid and make public colleges and universities tuition free? Is that an unfair thing to ask?"
She did not only answer in the affirmative, but she got the point; they are screwing us.
"I don't think it is an unfair thing to ask," Sparks replied. "They got rich off us. So it is 'time' they put back."
Bernie Sanders did three important things. He listened intently and early on he gained her respect because he was not always trying to make his point. She knew he was listening because he paraphrased her when necessary. When she made her racist comments, he knew it was not the time to address her directly but he addressed it through his attack on Donald Trump. One is not going to eradicate metastasized racism in an election cycle and as such one cannot hold an election hostage or paralyzed by a long term problem. It is not an excuse for ignoring racism. It is a pragmatic approach that must be situational for the best outcome. Lastly, Sanders used Sparks needs and wants to show that it was anathema to Republicanism/Trumpism. By the end, she was just as mad at the plutocracy as good progressives are.
This approach takes time because the narrative must be designed for American micro-cells. It is the same message but it has to made within the reality of the recipient which is different from town to town, city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, culturally, racially, and otherwise. That is how we win again.
Also published on Medium.