Last week, I spent a few days knocking on doors back in my hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin. I was telling people about their early voting options and, where possible, engaging them in discussions about why I support Hillary Clinton for President (and Russ Feingold for WI Senate). I was particularly surprised by the number of women my age or younger who indicated a deep hatred for Hillary, a determination to vote for Trump, or both. This got me wondering — how to have the last minute conversations about Hillary to try and win hearts and minds?
In my limited, not-at-all-statistically-reliable sample, I saw these women break down into three general groups: millennials pissed about Bernie not getting the nomination, young moms, and older women who identified as life-long Republicans. Notably, the young moms I saw would also qualify as millennials.
Although these are by no means guaranteed, here are some tips on broaching your last minute conversations about Hillary with folks in these camps not already on the #ImWithHer train.
Pissed About Bernie
In this group, there were more than a handful of people who told me they were either “definitely” voting for Russ or were “likely” going to vote for Russ. But, they also expressed varying degrees of animosity for Hillary. I’m sure that the latest on Donna Brazile has not helped dispel the sense that Hillary secured the nomination illegitimately.
Here, trying to defend the nomination process — or any of the behind-the-curtain antics revealed by Wikileaks, seems futile, both from a tactical and substantive perspective. Even if this is the way politics works, that doesn’t mean we should have to defend it. And even if the “insider information” that Brazile passed along would have been helpful only to someone completely unversed in politics (really? that there’s going to be a question about lead in the water at a debate in Flint is a surprise?), it was shady. Everyone should have to play by the same rules.
For these last minute conversations about Hillary, I’d try and refocus the conversation to the policy priorities that drove people to Bernie…or even away from Hillary. Trump certainly isn’t going to do better on things like background checks and assault weapon bans, equal pay for women, or paid sick and family leave, things that polls suggest more than 60% of millennial women say are the most important issues in decisions about voting. So, even if they believe she is a corrupt dirtbag, they are also probably paying enough attention to believe the same about Trump. Ideally, this would lead them to vote for Hillary, but at a minimum, it should mean they don’t want to vote for Trump.
And remember, no vote on President is better than a vote for the Donald. But really, they should vote for Hillary. Because no vote for President is effectively a vote for Trump.
This group’s even trickier. While it’s impossible to detail exactly what the predominant concern is, based on the interactions with the young moms I met, I’d say that a good portion of this group is worried about abortion. For many people of faith, this can be the single issue on which they vote. And, in this election, where the makeup of the Supreme Court is on the line, that single issue becomes all the more pressing.
Here, trying to argue them out of their faith, trying to argue the science, or trying to point out what a God-awful human being Trump seems to be isn’t likely to work. On that last point, though, you may ask the question about who they think is more likely to have personally taken advantage of the availability of abortions — Trump or Hillary. But this seems like a last ditch grab, not the thing to lead with.
Instead, I’d recommend pointing them in the direction of people of faith who identify as pro-life but still have decided to vote for Hillary. Depending on the nature of their faith, their pro-life positions may well extend to the death penalty and to concerns about life and welfare outside of the womb. This essay by Shannon Dingle is an excellent example of what I’m talking about. As a person of faith myself, I’d caution that this conversation has to be handled with respect and a lack of absolutism. Nothing will torpedo this last minute conversation about Hillary like condescension or sarcasm.
I’ve saved the hardest for last. I met more than a few of these when knocking on doors — and when talking to my own family. This last minute conversation about Hillary will cause undeniable stress for both you and your dialogue partner. We all have a tendency to back our teams through thick and thin, and for some families, being a Republican is almost religion. Case in point: I had an aunt demand that I “not blaspheme the name of Ronald Reagan” in her home.
With that in mind, there are two routes you can consider. First option is that you could dig into what part of being a Republican is key to how they define their allegiance. Odds are, unless it is the “I hate D.C.” or the “I have a gajillion dollars” brand of Republicanism, Trump isn’t really going to actually represent their GOP. But, like we know, loyalty — especially when the going gets tough — is revered as a particularly American virtue. So don’t hold your breath.
The second option is to highlight the defections and the criticisms levied against Trump from within the RNC. The problem is, that won’t be exactly news to your lifelong Republican; Hillary’s been running the ads. Plus, the press has widely covered both:
Honestly, the lists are too long to capture here. Just use this handy guide or this handy guide to find the people most likely to resonate with your favorite lifelong Republican. And feel free to quote heavily from this letter from GOP leaders which closed with the following
“This is no longer about our party; it’s now about America. We may differ on how we will cast our ballots in November but none of us will vote for Donald Trump.”
This gets to the whole team loyalty point. And it’s just a damning letter. Honestly, if that isn’t enough for your last minute conversation about Hillary, nothing will be.
Good luck. God speed. May the stars align. May force be with you.
Get out there and have those conversations. Volunteer. Vote.