Many of us in the Coffee Party USA organization preach that we must engage everyone irrespective of ideology. This Progressive politician's interaction with a Conservative during a block walk is precisely the approach to win over every kind of voter.
While it is in the political establishment's interest to divide, it is in the interest of the masses to come together and solve real problems with policies the vast majority of people want. I don't personally know Joshua Butler. A Facebook post of his appeared in my feed that every Progressive politician should heed. Here's my dissection of his self-described encounter.
CD7, this is your neighbor, Todd. I met him during my walk through his neighborhood today.
Todd was in the middle of cutting his lawn when I first walked up and stopped to speak with me. When he found out I am running for U.S. Congress, he said "now why in the hell would you want to do something like that?" We shared a laugh, because I told him, "well, I'm either motivated or crazy; or both... but I'll let you be the judge of that."
Joshua Butler did not immediately get into a political self-righteous modal explaining why this constituent should be voting for him. He was marginally self-deprecating and funny which quickly opened a channel for a comfortable conversation.
He is a down to earth, hard-working resident that was flooded out of his home just like many of you throughout the district. But his joy for life and his unbelievably positive outlook on life is what made him so great to be around. We talked about policies like immigration, healthcare and civil rights. It was amazing to listen to his genuine concern for making sure people are treated fairly, but then he was also drastically concerned about border security in the U.S.
He told me stories about things he had come through in his life and his faith that's gotten him through many tough days. As we conversed, two of his neighbors drove up to offer him help with his lawnmower, but he was more focused on introducing them to me because they're a democratic couple and he wanted to make sure they met me. Todd and the couple shared jokes about how the democrats or republicans were better from their own perspectives. But they also said they have learned to respect each others' opinions and reasons for why they believe what they believe.
It is clear that Butler did a lot of listening. Most people of every ideological persuasion want to know that the other side is at least willing to listen to what they have to say. Sometimes that requires not wincing at some of their most either inarticulate or downright ignorant statements. That either implicitly makes them listen to you or at worst when you remind them that you took the time to listen to them and would appreciate the reciprocity. It works for many.
Yes, Todd leans conservative but he told me he doesn't even know who his congressman is. He's lived in his home for 4 years and never heard of him. I asked Todd if he planned to vote in the Republican Primary and he said yes. So I educated him on both of the candidates running.
Butler understood that the man was likely not going to vote in his primary. But he showed the Conservative guy, Todd, his depth, by telling him about the candidates that would be his choices. That made it clear subliminally that Butler was not just a partisan.
By the time we finished our discussion, Todd said something that completely stomped me:
"Josh, I have never voted for a Democrat, but I really may vote for you. I'm open to doing something different when I know the person actually cares about me and my community. I can tell you do."
This statement should not have stomped Butler. When one connects on a human level instead of just on a partisan or ideological level, it leaves one open for nonguilty choices. In my encounter with people that sometimes are opposed to my very Progressive ideology, I tell them they must remember when they enter the voting booth, it is private, and their vote is only between themselves and the machine. As such, they should vote in concert with their personal economy. It gives them a choice away from the peer pressure of their ideology.
I've learned as I walk each street to never ignore or write anyone off. We're living in a time when people are fed up across the board and the vast majority of people I'm meeting are saying the same things. Just different perspectives. I gained a friend today... someone I pray I get to dialogue with in the future. Todd didn't care if I was a Democrat. He cared that I treated him like a human being and actually took time to listen to what he believes in. That's who I am and it's who I always want to be! #Empower #Together #PoliticalJAB
And this is what we have been preaching at Coffee Party USA since 2010. These are the stories one should highlight. To be clear, this isn't some naive concept. There are people on all sides of the ideological spectrum that are immutable. But most Americans given the opportunity can rationalize if one goes to their level to start the dialogue. The problem is that we usually give the boisterous a platform. It is time-consuming, but it is our only hope to have good representative governance.
Also published on Medium.