War of The Words

War of the Words

Bobbie Kithcart

Edited by Erica O’Neil

We often hear the call for bipartisanship, but the game plan for that seems like a stretch amid such polarization—and it may even be impossible for some on the extreme right or left that lack the neurological wiring. But there’s a vast middle ground that we can activate as PCs!

How do we activate that middle ground? Cognitive linguist, George Lakoff, investigates how we develop our moral frames and worldview in his research, stating that, “most people are morally complex and, there aren’t as many thorough-going conservatives as one would think.” In short, there’s hope! And skillful framing is the solution.

I practice Lakoff’s framing daily. I’m guessing most of you don’t roll over in bed and kiss your Trump-supporting spouse good morning? Or have to reframe political landmines throughout the day as you navigate conversation across ideologies? It’s what I’m learning and what we all need to do as PCs!

Even if you aren’t butting heads with a loved one over politics, you regularly speak to people from across the political spectrum. As PCs, our job is to engage our neighbors who don’t specifically share our values. It’s best to start with the low hanging fruit, Independents who vote Democrat.

To do that successfully, we need to learn how to activate Progressive frames in this group. (Check out my March 2018 blog post if you’re not familiar with framing) It seems odd to state the obvious. Activating frames is a critical basic skill to cultivate so why haven’t Progressive Democrats mastered this?

Lakoff has warned us for some time that the Democrats suffer from hypocognition or a lack of ideas. He reminds us, “frames are what we use TO think. They are OUR neural structure. This isn’t spin, words, persuasion, marketing or propaganda. Ideas come first, and they are tied to our progressive moral perspective.” Apparently, we think we have all the ideas we need–but in reality, we don’t.

Hypocognition results in that empty feeling and a struggle for words when explaining our position to others. It’s not talking points or spin, instead it should be a stunningly clear phrase depicting our mission. Conservatives excel at this. They have their unifying command: Personal Liberty! Everything they say and do is relevant to this frame.

What is ours? *Crickets chirping.* We don’t have one and developing one takes years. But a strong beginning would be to phrase our frames using empathy.

Empathy is the foundational value of our progressive, “nurturant-parent” morality. Husbands and wives share equally in the care of their children. Parents are attuned to their child to provide for them as they need. They model how to be responsible for themselves and others. They also demonstrate the moral imperative to do their very best.

Empathy is the footing of our moral frame: caring, self-responsibility, and social-responsibility. The next layer of values are the bricks and reflect how we behave in the world. They are trust, communication, truth, honesty, and cooperation. Using this moral construct to create our argument can help activate these unconscious shared values in others.

Whenever you discuss issues using progressive language, you activate an entire cascade of moral meaning. Lakoff reminds us, “cascades are quite complex…they include the family value metaphors to structure economic, sexual, religious and political values.” But, most people won’t be aware of these thoughts. They will simply feel strongly about them as being morally right!

We must start standing up for what we believe! Stop being reactive! Stop using the language of the opposition, which activates a completely different unconscious frame. We need to walk up and speak confidently from our values of empathy and social responsibility. We need to be proud to be a Progressive Democrat. When we tie our argument to their conservative value—it will surprise them when they realize we are stating that we also deserve freedom and liberty!

We can speak about their moral constructs such as liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness and be clear about what we mean when we use those words. Because, these ideas are what Lakoff calls, contested concepts. My spouse and I can agree on murder as immoral until the details are revealed and then everything changes. Death penalty! No death penalty!

We can also avoid further assumptions by addressing the myths that limit our ability to effect change. Most of our fellow progressives, “believe that people are at all times consciously aware of what they think and that words are defined directly in terms of the world,” says Lakoff. But, these myths are based on reasoning that more facts and information lead to more rational decisions.

 

We wrongly assume that all thought is conscious, because 98% is not! We incorrectly believe everyone reasons the same way. Or that concepts and words mean the same thing to everyone, but in reality, they don’t! Here are a few other landmines:

 

  • “The truth will set us free. If we just tell people the facts…they’ll all reach the right conclusions.” The truth alone will not set you free. Frames are developed over time and hard-wired. Truth must be part of the moral construct.

 

  • “A normal person is rational and reasons on the basis of self-interest.” I think we all understand that after the 2016 election people vote for who they identify with and share their values, even if it’s a vote against their self-interest.

 

  • “…Candidate is the product and the candidate’s position on issues are the features and benefits of the product.” Lakoff scoffs at polling and says it’s not issues, it’s the candidate’s ideals and values that are at stake. “Morality is central to identity and trumps policy.”

 

Conservatives have controlled the dialogue for too long with their restrictive and undemocratic moral imperatives—and they are reshaping Democracy in the process! As Progressives we must wake up and callout the opposition using our moral frame.

 

Here’s a checklist for how we can conduct these discussions.

  •  Moral values – Be proud to be a Democrat. Define your position using progressive moral truths that activate the nurturant-parent frame within your Independent audience. Remember, facts don’t make sense unless they are defined within the moral frame.
  •  Contested concepts – Please use them but be sure to define what it means to you.
  •  Conservative moral values – Incorporate the conservative value that is relevant to the argument and familiar to your opponent.
  •  Deep truths – Include these unspoken fundamental drivers when engaging in deep discussion that requires more feedback to the opponent. More about these in my next blog post.

Let’s eavesdrop on a gun safety argument using these basic steps:

Progressive moral value: Our Democracy is built on caring for and about each other. Let’s face it, school shooting violates our first job of protecting our children! Isn’t that true?

Contested Concepts and Conservative Moral Value: Our children are not free to learn if they can’t attend school without the fear of being gunned down or stressed out with the horror of active shooter drills. Our kids have the right to the liberty of learning.

Deep truth: The NRA lobbies for gun manufacturers to sell guns. The NRA buys the loyalty of our legislators by donating to their campaigns for the gun manufacturers. And, this pressure on our legislators have resulted in greed, even the willingness to sacrifice our children’s lives for money!

Illustrate progressive values tied to conservative moral value: Our laws are created by us because we care about each other and we want to be free to pursue happiness with our children and family. Corporate profit and campaign funding over our kid’s safety is not liberty. It is senseless murder. Sensible gun laws are mandatory. Ban semi-automatic weapons. Universal background checks for all. No bump stocks.

Lakoff reminds us that, “Messaging is about thinking, not just language. To get language right, you have to conjure the thought that comes up when you say it.” Was this a successful argument? How would you make it better? Granted, this type of argument may be most useful in front of a legislative body, but we’re trying to reach everyday people in their homes, not politicians mired in punditry. So, tone it down.

 

There was a great deal of emotion in the gun safety argument and here’s why. George Lakoff ceaselessly reminds us that, “Frame circuits are not logical. They are connected to emotion. Language is emotion. Political frames are part of a hierarchy dominated by moral frames. Political messages about policy can only be understood in terms of moral values. All politics is moral.”

Conservatives enforce message discipline. We need to become first-rate at messaging discipline quickly. Since most people are morally complex, calling out our opponent’s policies as harmful is a good place to start! We must become proactive communicators and frame our arguments to evoke support.

Reasoning like this may seem difficult at first because it is new. It requires you to actively stretch your brain to include all the elements. Think of it as learning to play a new musical instrument. It’s a lot to think about at first but it makes beautiful music once you put it all together.

Below is a simplified table that allows you to select key elements to facilitate your practice. Find an area you want to argue about with a friend and practice by applying the formula as illustrated, above. To use the table, just choose the appropriate construct from each of the columns.

As you practice your compelling arguments, please remember to share what worked and what didn’t, your victories and failures, because it will make us all stronger. “Get clear on your values and use the language of values,” says Lakoff. All the best!

Check out this YouTube video if framing still puzzles you. www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_CWBjyIERY

Survival of the Fittest and Why Language Matters

By Bobbie Kithcart (LD22)

I went to bed early on election night. I dreaded what was coming and wanted to postpone the beginning of my anxious suffering. You see, I’m married to a Republican Trump supporter.

The months following the election were difficult for us as we navigated the reality of a Trump presidency. We were both so firmly entrenched in our ideologies every talk triggered a lethal rant or tortured, desperate defense. We had no way to discuss issues effectively. So, I became a student of all things Conservative and discovered Conservatives are much better at articulating and supporting their ideology.

Shortly after, I met someone at an AZBLUE 2020 meeting who spoke about the war of language between conservatives and progressives. He shared examples of the succinct simplicity of conservative-speak opposed to rambling, policy-wonk progressive-speak. Frankly, my attention drifted hearing my own party’s descriptions, overwhelmed by facts, measurements, nuance, and caveats.

Clearly, conservatives use language far more effectively than progressives, but how? For that, I had to turn to George Lakoff, the “Father of Framing.”

Lakoff, a retired professor of cognitive science and linguistics at UC Berkeley, demonstrates the technique behind successful framing in the title of his updated book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant.” What do you think of when you read that title? Is it an elephant? Even though he just told you not to think of one? Duh!

That’s exactly the type of impulse behind some of the most successful political framing. Lakoff describes his purpose in writing the book to make the “unconscious conscious, to find out and let the world know what is determining our social and political behaviors.” I had finally found someone who could teach me the why and how of debating politics with my own husband and, if done right, how to shape the progressive message in a way that is clear, compelling, and aligned with our social conditioning.

Framing is not just catchy marketing slogans. Good political framing activates the familial and cultural conditioning to which we are exposed. It evokes feelings surrounding authority, responsibility, power—ideas fundamental to our moral development. When a member of Congress puts forth a bill, the inherent meaning is the bill is right, good, moral. And when parents raise their children, they raise them according to a similar moral code, their values.

Expanding on that familial analogy, Lakoff describes the framing differences between “strict father” conservatives and “nurturant” progressives.

As a conservative parent there are a set of assumptions that Lakoff dubs, the “strict father” model of parenting. Some basic tenets of this conservative frame are:

  • The strict father will protect the family, support the family, and teach children right from wrong.
  • The world is dangerous and will always be because there is evil in the world.
  • There is an absolute right and wrong and the supreme strict father is our guide, the Almighty.
  • Children are born bad and just want to feel good, not do what is right. They need discipline, even punishment, and if they don’t learn from that discipline—then they have made their bed and can sleep in it.
  • There are winners and losers, and the strict father is there to tell you how to be a winner in this competitive world; it is up to you to discipline yourself to follow those critical steps.

The strict father is the moral authority and that authority sets up the innate hierarchy in life. Lakoff explains those hierarchies as, “God above man, man above nature, the disciplined (strong) above the undisciplined (weak), the rich above the poor, employers above employees, adults above children, Western culture above other cultures, America above other countries. The hierarchy extends to: men above women, whites above non-whites, Christians above non-Christians, straights above gays.”

The strict father model is grounded in personal responsibility, with prosperity representing the reward for self-discipline. In this frame, it is moral to pursue your self-interest. And, if you are not a disciplined person you don’t deserve wealth or success.

So, you see, conservatives view people on social welfare systems as undisciplined, and therefore undeserving, dependent, and unworthy. That’s why they see social programs as wasteful spending and something for which they should not have to pay. It doesn’t exist within their neurological frame so talking to them about it in progressive terms like fairness, equity, and freedom, just doesn’t register. It’s like speaking a foreign language.

Often, progressives will pass social programs by explaining their worth not in human terms, but in economic terms. For instance, how Obama co-opted the language of commerce to pass the Affordable Care Act.

Conservatives are for some government programs—those that reinforce authority like the military and national security, and those programs that maximize self-interest like corporation-friendly trade and taxation. (The reason you don’t want any “shit-hole” nations in your backyard, to quote our illustrious 45th president.)

Progressives, surprise, use the exact opposite neurological frames, because they are hard-wired into our brains; more about that later. Lakoff contrasts the concerted, self-interested or self-responsible model of conservatives with the nurturant parent frame of progressives. The set of assumptions in the nurturant parent model are:

  • The nurturant parent worldview is gender neutral, so both parents are responsible for raising the children.
  • Children are born good and can be made better with guidance.
  • The world can be made a better place and our job is to work on that.
  • The nurturant parent job is to raise their children to be nurturers of others.
  • Nurturance means three things: empathy, responsibility for yourself and others, and a commitment to do your best not just for yourself, but for your family, community, country, and the world.

Progressives are about social responsibility rather than self-responsibility. As you can see these are polar opposites. It’s no wonder it’s so hard to converse across the aisle!

For nurturant parents, empathy leads to other values. Lakoff describes how when you empathize with your child you provide protection which is a value that comes to play in our politics. We want to protect workers, consumers, and citizens with regulations, from seat belts to smoking, environmental protections to removing poisonous food additives. Protection from terrorist acts is important as well, but progressives haven’t articulated their “protective framing” as well as conservatives’ “authoritative framing.”

With empathy guiding ideology it is no surprise progressives want safety nets and programs to help people reach their full potential. If you empathize with your child, you want them to be fulfilled and happy. Your moral responsibility is to model this happy and fulfilled role as a parent. There are other nurturant values like freedom, opportunity, prosperity, fairness, honest and open communication, community building and trust.

As Lakoff says, “if you are a progressive you know you have these” and you also know there is no electrical circuitry in your brain for the other side’s frames! And, physically there isn’t. Boom! There it is! Your brain activates when presented with the framing that aligns with your perception of the world. Neurons that wire together, fire together!

But what if you fall in the middle? The independent who works across the aisle? Lakoff describes them as biconceptuals who hold both values, so either frame can activate depending on the language used around them. For example, some fathers are very strict at home but are nurturant at work within their Unions. Often these values manifest in different parts of their lives.

From a brain physiology perspective, these persons cannot hold both frames in their brain at the same time, and have to switch back and forth between them. Therefore, they can be influenced to accept nurturant values if you speak from the areas where they are nurturant, and connect that framing to political ideals. It’s the reason Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump can both energize someone who feels like they are being left behind in a rapidly globalizing society, but with radically different ideas for how to remedy that situation.

As I learned this, it was clear my husband was more bi-conceptual than strictly conservative. So, I practiced how to speak to him using language that would evoke his nurturant feelings specific to political issues. Understanding how to counteract that ingrained, unconscious framing gave me hope for our current polarized, political situation.

There is a great deal to absorb and implement if Progressives are to appeal to a wide range of individuals and shake the “elitist” moniker. Hopefully this blog presents a framework for how to begin doing so.

Deep entrenchment of these frames within the brain’s physical wiring is the why and how of our political polarization. But with Lakoff’s guidance, you now possess a foundation for how to mold the political discussion in a way that continuously activates progressive, nurturant ideals through the strategic use of language.

Now you know why people voted against their self-interest in the last election. People don’t vote for policies, facts, or programs! They vote for whom they identify as sharing their values.

One word of caution from Lakoff: if we do not unify as progressives and repetitively state our shared frames in every public discourse—like conservatives do—winning elections will continue to elude us. Lakoff helped me to understand why we must work together to create frames based on our unifying values and address the myths that prevent us from framing properly. Hopefully he got you thinking about your values and how you might start to frame them.

The next time you hear a candidate speak, listen for their frames.

Whirled Peas, Please.

One Year…285 Days to Go…

By Richard Gooding

One year ago, I participated in the Phoenix Women’s March expecting 4,000-5,000 people at the State Capital. 20,000 people including my daughter and grandchildren marched with their handcrafted signs. 40,000 people marched across the state in 2017. It brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat to see so many diverse people coming together, passionate about changing the politics of this country. They were not going to sit back and accept what had happened. They were going to resist, to stand up for what makes this country great! It reminded me of the 1969 march in Washington protesting the Vietnam War. I personally had to do something. But what?

I’d read the Individual Guide, but Indivisible’s primary goal at the time was to resist the Trump agenda. While an important cause in itself, I wanted to do something more proactive to change the political environment in Arizona. I wanted to play offense rather than defense.

At 5:00 am, January 26, 2017, I sat down at my computer and registered AZ Blue 2020 as an Indivisible group. From the start it was a family and friends endeavor. We created a Facebook group and our daughters invited all their friends to join. Over 100 members joined in just two days. We reserved the AZblue2020.org and created a website. We held our first AZ Blue 2020 organizing meeting on April 9th where we shared the AZ Blue 2020 vision with over 60 attendees and many signed up to be part of our team.

Along the way we have met many wonderful people whom I cannot personally thank enough for contributing to the AZ Blue 2020 mission of empowering the citizens of Arizona to turn the state blue. They will be friends for life. They have created inspiring videos that tell the AZ Blue 2020 story; published training materials to recruit and train Precinct Committeepeople (PCs); produced informative marketing materials to communicate our cause and coordinated outreach events to spread our message state wide, from Tucson to Pinetop. These are the people that made AZ Blue 2020 what it is today. Thank you for all you have done.

This year 25,000 people celebrated at the Women’s March to the Polls. My daughter and grandkids were there again. But the attitude had changed as reflected in the evolved name “March to the Polls”. People want to do more than resist Trump’s agenda. We are tired of Trump chaos, tired of playing defense. We want change. We want to get progressives elected. We see with delight what happened in Virginia and in special elections across the US where red seats were flipped to blue. If they can do it in red Alabama, we can do it in Arizona!

There are 285 days until the 2018 election. Time to get busy. If you want to do more than just vote, become a Precinct Committeeperson and make sure all your Democratic neighbors vote. Working together we can turn Arizona blue.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Reflection and revisiting are common practices this time of year. Looking back on 2017 from a personal perspective, I can think of an abundance of moments for which to be grateful and to celebrate. When looking back at 2017 from a wider lens however, it can be difficult to see much worth smiling about.

Under the current political climate, people of color, immigrants, women, people in poverty and LGBTQ communities have all taken some serious blows. These steps backwards, combined with an ever more volatile international landscape, can leave us all feeling pretty overwhelmed and hopeless about where things are headed. But let’s be honest; we are progressives. We perpetually look for the good, the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining in every atrocity. It is our “bleeding hearts” and our commitment to fight for the voiceless that will always move us forward. In the hopes of kindling a smidge of positivity, here are some wins scored for the Patron Saints of Democracy:

Alabama Senate seat

Numerous wins in Virginia, including state legislature and Governor

New Jersey Governor

Seats in Florida and New Hampshire

Record number of everyday Americans running for office on a progressive platform

Record number of political engagement and grassroots efforts

Remarkable members of the judicial system standing up against violations of human rights

The special elections we have seen over the past few months show what can be done. They illustrate the capacity of what We The People are able to accomplish when we come together. It is not only exciting but a driving force.

So after reflection comes resolution. What will I do? What can I do? For everyone this will be different. For some it will be a fulltime commitment to the cause, a decision to run for local office. For others, an obligation to canvas or phone bank, to become a PC, to registering voters, help at the polls or Get Out the Vote. The list of ways to do your part is abundant and each is important.

As 2018 begins we must remember the blows will, unfortunately, keep coming. The bad guys will continue their agenda against those we have vowed to protect. The anger, frustration and sadness will likely grow as we continue to watch progress be undone. But we must turn those feelings into action and energy. We must focus on the end game, that light at the end of the tunnel we know exists. We have to push through the shit storm and do the work. It can be done. And I look forward to writing a very different story this time next year.

Developing a PC Strategy: Part Three

By Richard Gooding

What is the most important thing I should be doing right now?

Maricopa County has slots for approximately 5,100 Democratic PCs, or one PC slot per 120 registered Democrats. At the time of the 2016 election, there were a paltry 880 Democratic PCs, or one PC per 700 Democrats. It is impossible for each PC to engage that many individuals. Fortunately, things have improved since the election. Maricopa has doubled that number to about 1,800 PCs. Unfortunately, that still means there is only one PC for every 340 registered Democrats. This same pattern holds for most other counties in the state.

Bottom line: if the Democrats are going to win at the ground game, which is the only way we can win, we need to fill every PC slot in the state with trained, engaged and empowered PCs. We need to get to a manageable ratio of one PC per 100-125 registered Democrats.

AZ Blue 2020 has been doing presentations and webinars to recruit PCs. While those have been moderately successful, we need to shift the focus. The clock is ticking.

The quickest way to fill the remaining PC slots throughout the state is for every PC to recruit two additional PCs. If the 1,800 PCs in Maricopa each recruited two PCs, we would have over 5,100 PCs. Therefore, the most important thing a PC should be doing right now is recruiting two additional PCs.

Do the people you recruit have to become PCs? Do they need to canvass? The answer to both is no. Volunteers with a wide range of skills and interests are needed. Some people won’t want to canvass but will write letters, postcards or phone bank. Others might be happy holding house parties, being the “Comfort Captain” on the team, or data person, pulling walk lists. All are welcomed.

Recruiting New PCs and Volunteers

Some recruiting will occur naturally when you are canvassing your neighborhood. You may meet an engaged constituent who wants to do more than vote. Invite that person to become a PC or volunteer.

A bigger challenge is recruiting in precincts with no PCs. How do you plant seeds in those areas? These precincts often have many registered Democrats whom need to be engaged but no one to do the engaging.

The first step is to identify the targeted precinct(s) and cut a list of high-efficacy Democrats in that precinct. These are the leads you need to mine.

You can reach them by canvassing the precinct going door-to-door or by phone banking. The phone banking process has been successfully deployed in LD 9, where close to 100 PCs were recruited over a four-month period.

Our recommended next steps:

  1. Hold a Group Phone Banking Party. Phone banking with others is much more fun than doing it by yourself. Recruit other PCs in your LD. Divide up the call list of high-efficacy Democrats and start dialing.
  2. Try the following script. It works.

“Hi, this is _______, I’m a Democrat in your neighborhood. I am calling other Democrats in the neighborhood to see if they can give us a helping hand over the next 12 months as we prepare for the 2018 election. As you know, the Democratic Party needs a lot of help, especially at the grassroots level.

Observe their reaction to the Party to judge their interest.

“Would you consider helping us out by being a volunteer in our ground game?”

If they are interested, they will ask about the duties and requirements for volunteers. You should describe it broadly and let them know there are a wide range of things volunteers can do to support the Party.

If they indicate they can’t help now, find out if they can help closer to the election. A “no” may actually be a “not now.”

If they are not interested now or in the future,

“Thank for your vote and continued support of the party.”

Go to the next person on the list.

  1. If they are interested, invite them to a small gathering with other potential volunteers. You need to pick a date and time for the meeting, as well as a location in the middle of the targeted precinct. If there were PCs in the precinct, you could hold a house party but there aren’t any PCs yet.

A few of the people who are interested in volunteering are going to meet for coffee next week to learn more about how they can help. We are meeting on (date and location). Would you like to join us?”

If they can’t meet at that time,

“When would you be able to meet?”

At this point, you can use their requested date and time when making your next calls or you can have two separate meetings.

  1. Next, each PC holds their volunteer recruitment meeting. This is the small meeting in a coffee shop (or other central, public location) with two or three potential volunteers. You should share your story, learn about why they want to be involved and identify what skills and resources they are willing to volunteer.

 

At the end of this meeting, you should have a clear idea of who is interested in taking their involvement to the next level. You can share with them what a PC does and provide them a copy of the PC Survival Guide. You can even have them fill out the Appointed PC form on the spot.

Where things go from here may vary depending on your LD and the training they provide to new PCs.

Based on the experience in LD 9, starting with a list of 100 high-efficacy Democrats, you should be able to talk to 25-30 people, which should result in five potential volunteers for you to meet. The best time to call is Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.

We’d like to hear about your progress, any tips you might have and, most importantly, how many PCs you recruit.

If we all take a little bite of the elephant, we can bring it to its knees.

Developing a PC Strategy: Part Two

By: Richard Gooding

What is the PC’s job?

The PC’s job is to get Democrats elected. Canvassing, phone banking, letter writing and house parties are some of the tools PCs are expected to use to turn out the vote and elect Democrats. While most agree with the end goal, there are different perspectives on why and how it should be done. We believe the most effective and sustainable way to elect Democrats is to effectuate a grassroots model, a paradigm whose power flows from the bottom up, not the top down.

Who does a PC represent? The Democratic Party or their constituents?

PCs are the foundation of the Democratic Party but they do not represent the Democratic Party, nor do they represent or work for any particular Democratic candidate. This type of top-down approach runs counter to the fact that the power of the party resides in the PCs, not in the candidates or party leadership. PCs are elected public officials within the Democratic party and it is the constituents within their precincts who elect them. Just like any other elected official, the PC represents his/her constituents. Further support for the bottom up paradigm is that, in Arizona, the party leadership is elected not by the public, but rather the PCs. It is the PCs who the elect the Democratic leadership within their LD, county, state and national committees and, as such, the party leadership should work for the PCs to effectively maximize this bottom up approach.

What is a PC’s job in 2018?

The PC’s job in 2018 is to get 10, 20 or 30 of their Democratic neighbors who would not vote in a midterm election to vote. It is that simple! If every PC accomplishes this one goal, we turn Arizona blue in 2018.

As a PC you represent about 100 Democrats in your precinct/neighborhood. In a typical midterm election, like 2014, 48 of those 100 people will vote regardless of your influence. That leaves 52 registered Democrats in your neighborhood that, based on past midterm elections, will not vote in 2018. Your job is to get 10, 20 or 30 of those 52 non-voters to vote. Even more encouraging?  37 of those 52 non-voters did in fact vote in the 2016 Presidential election; they just need to be motivated to cast their ballots during midterms as well.

Do I need to talk to Independents?

A lot of people argue we need to talk to Independents. The main reason for this suggestion is that about 1/3 of the state’s voters are registered as Independents. While this is true, is your time better spent meeting and establishing a relationship with your 52 Democratic constituents to convince them to vote? Or spending time trying to persuade Independents? With your Democratic constituents you need only to persuade them to vote. With Independents, you need to persuade them to vote and to vote for the Democratic candidate.

Also, think about why someone is registered as an Independent. First, they may feel disenfranchised by the political process; they don’t believe their vote counts. This is supported by the fact that Independents typically have the lowest turnout rate. Second, they vote for the candidate or issue, not the party. If the Democratic candidate is not appealing to Independents, they may cast a vote for a different parties’ candidate or may not vote at all if none of the candidates are appealing.

It is the candidate’s job to convert persuadable Independent votes, not the PCs’ job. Before setting out to persuade Independents, make sure you have done all the necessary work to get 10, 20 or 30 of your low-turnout Democrats to vote in 2018.

What Does Success Look Like?

Success is easy to measure. What was the voter turnout for your 100 constituents? How many of the 52 low-turnout Democrats voted in the 2018 election?

Your job as a PC is that simple. Others will want to distract you. Do not let them.

Developing a PC Strategy: Part One

By Richard Gooding

PC Strategy

There are many ways PCs can help elect Democrats across the state in 2018. Developing a PC strategy is about discerning which activities will best accomplish our desired outcome. The absence of a strategy is trying to do everything. In attempting everything, you spread yourself too thin and the results of your hard work are diminished. Because your time and resources are limited, you need to focus on the activities with the greatest impact.

As a PC how should I allocate my time and energy? Should I focus on voter registration? How much emphasis should I put into voter turnout in my precinct? Should I focus on recruiting other PCs? Should I be talking to Democrats, Independents or both? What should I be doing this week? This month?

Over the next few months we will be publishing a series of BluePrint blogs addressing the above questions so you can develop your PC strategy.

How much should I focus on registering new voters?

The answer to this question depends on the makeup of your LD and precinct.

First, what is the opportunity to register new voters? If most voting age people in your LD or precinct are already registered, opportunity to register new voters may be small. Therefore, you need to compare the number of current registered voters with the number of voting age eligible citizens. In cases where over 50% of the voting age population is unregistered, a voting registration effort makes sense. In other LDs, where only 20% of eligible voters are unregistered, it may make less sense to focus on voter registration.

Second, you need to consider the distribution of registered voters in each political party. Voter registration is a non-partisan activity. You can’t be selective in who you register to vote. You are expected to register Republicans as well as Democrats. Consequently, you need to look at the relative number of Democrats and Republicans in the LD. If the number of registered Republicans is significantly greater than the number of registered Democrats, a voter registration effort may result in registering more Republicans than Democrats.

The best scenario for a voter registration effort aimed at getting Democrats elected would be at LDs or precincts that have (1) a large percentage of the voting age population that is not registered and (2) significantly more registered Democrats than Republicans. In other words, blue LDs with a low percentage of registered voters. If you are in a red LD where most everyone is registered to vote, your time may be better spent working on activities designed to increase Democratic voter turnout.

Finally, while registering a new voter as a Democrat is a necessary first step, it is not sufficient for winning. The newly registered voter must vote. Each newly registered Democrat does not equal an additional new vote for the Democratic candidate. You will still need to focus on turnout with these new voters or your voter registration efforts will remain fruitless.

If you need information on voter registrations in your LD and precinct, email us with your LD and precinct name at info@AZBlue2020.org  We will send you your LD Snapshot, created by Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) and a Precinct Snapshot for your precinct, created by AZ Blue 2020. Snapshots exist for every precinct in the state and they are free to all PCs.

 

Precinct Snapshots: A Tool to Help Turn AZ Blue

By Richard Gooding

Understanding Your Precinct

Every legislative district is subdivided into precincts. Precincts are the smallest administrative unit in the state. PCs are the representatives of their party for the constituents in their precinct.

Now that you are a PC one of the first questions you might have is what are the characteristics of the constituents in my precinct? How many are Democrats? How many are Independents? What was the voter turnout in my precinct? What were the election results?

To help you answer these and many other questions about your precinct, AZ Blue 2020 has created Precinct Snapshots for every precinct in the state. In addition to giving you information about the voting behavior of people in your precinct, it includes (1) the names and contact information of other PCs in your precinct and (2) the names and contact information for your LD Chair and State Representatives. A precinct within LD 28 has been randomly selected and included as an example.

How to us this information?

While it’s great to have this information, the more important question is how to use it to help turn Arizona blue. Here are some tips in using the information in each section.

Precinct Committeeperson

Every precinct is allotted one PC for roughly every 125 voters registered with a party. This section of the Snapshot shows you how many slots are available for Democratic PCs and how many are open in your precinct. One of the biggest challenges we face in building a ground game is recruiting and training more PCs. Most precincts have empty slots and some precincts have no PCs at all.

If you have empty PC slots in your precinct, one of your roles is to recruit other like-minded people in your precinct to become PCs. There are several approaches to doing that which we will cover in future BluePrint blogs. The more PC slots you fill, the more effective each of you can be in communicating with your Democratic neighbors and getting out the vote.

If this section includes the names of other PCs, you should contact them to introduce yourself and arrange a time to meet. If you build a PC team in your precinct, you can support one another, share ideas and divvy up the work. When you get together, you should develop a plan and divide up your turf to minimize any duplication of effort.

Voter Registration, Turnout and Voting Results

This section shows the number of registered voters in each party today and at the time of the last two elections. It does not include third parties. “Other” represents people who are not registered with any party. Typically referred to as Independents. It also shows you the turnout rate for the last two elections by party. The election results show what percent of the vote the Democratic candidate received of the total vote in the precinct. The data for every precinct will look different but here are some things you should think about.

What percent of the registered voters are Democrats?

Are you in a predominately blue, red or purple precinct? Two things can happen here. If most of the people in your neighborhood are Democrats, they may become complacent and not turn out to vote. On the other hand, if the precinct is predominately Republican, your constituents may feel their vote really doesn’t count. As a PC, the message you need to carry to your constituents is that every vote counts, maybe not at the precinct or LD level, but at the state and national level. Hillary Clinton lost Michigan in 2016 by an average of one vote per precinct!

What percent of Democrats turn out to vote?

If you compare the 2016 Presidential election with the 2014 mid-term election, you will typically see a significant drop off in the mid-term election. Across the state the turnout for Presidential elections is around 85% while the turnout for mid-term elections is typically 48%. Turnout is the way Democrats can win in 2018.

Again, each PC has about 125 Democratic constituents. If the PC did nothing in their neighborhood, approximately 60 of those Democrats would vote in 2018 and the other 65 would stay home. However, suppose over the next fifteen months the PC builds an ongoing relationship with their 125 constituents, meeting or calling them a few times, inviting them to coffees with the candidates, sharing information on issues, etc. What impact is that likely to have on turnout? Will ten of the 65 non-voters mail in their ballot? Maybe twenty? Those twenty additional votes would result in a 64% turnout rate, enough to turn this state blue in 2018.

How do I get my precinct snapshot?

If you’d like a Precinct Snapshot for your precinct, email info@azblue2020.org your LD number and precinct name and we will get one to you.

Once you get it, establish a voter turnout goal for your precinct and develop a plan to turn out those stay-at-home voters. You are the ground game and Democratic voter turnout is the key to success in 2018.

We Will Make It Count

By Jaclyn Boyes

As I stood in the FedEx store on Central Ave watching the photos print of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best, the men who were stabbed to death on train for protecting a Muslim woman, and the photo of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed in Charlottesville, the reality of their sacrifice overwhelmed my heart.

Trying to keep tears from falling on the fresh prints, I hurried out of the store and over to a friend’s house to make my protest sign. These Americans deserved a better president. They died as a part of the resistance. But a resistance to what? Republicans? Trump? I didn’t know. I only knew I wanted to follow the call to action from Heather’s Mom – “We’re Gonna Make it Count.”

In the days leading up to the protest many of my friends had decided against attending due to the recent violence in Charlottesville. I was slightly worried there wouldn’t be many people in attendance. But, as I turned the corner on 3rd St and Washington my fear evaporated. Standing with signs and t-shirts, expressing the many sentiments I feel towards this administration, were thousands of people. I immediately felt stronger. It was the same feeling I had attending the Women’s March in Washington DC, a feeling that we are stronger together.

However, within a few short minutes, I realized there was something much different about this rally. On the corner of the street was a man with a bullhorn shouting horrific racial slurs and with him were other white supremacist holding derogatory signs against Black Lives Matter and Muslims. I immediately found myself in a group of people shouting “terrorist” and “get out of my city.” Strangely, just minutes before I was calmly helping lost Trump supporters find their way to the right side of the street.

After the police moved the white supremacists away from the crowd, I sat on the side of the street with my head in my hands. Why did my typical response of love towards the opposition change to one of intense outrage and anger? I looked down at my sign, at the faces of the victims of domestic terrorism, and in that moment understood what they were resisting. These Americans gave their lives resisting the rise of white supremacy.

I now understand that when you deeply care for your country and humanity, the most loving thing you can do is to tell a white supremacist loudly and clearly that their hate will not be tolerated. Then, you match the level of outrage with the same level of organization. I choose to channel my outrage towards local organizing that will help turn Arizona Blue. I cannot single-handedly stop white supremacy, but I can work to elect officials who will do what Trump has refused to do–stand up against white supremacy and domestic terrorism in America.

Taliesin, Ricky, and Heather, we will make it count.

AZ Blue Visits the Rim Country

By Sarah Meaney

Weeks of planning paid off for the Democrats of Rim Country. With the help of AZ Blue 2020 and the participation of several statewide candidates, more than one-hundred constituents filled the Payson Senior Center for the Rim Country Roadshow.

The AZ Blue 2020 team started the trip at our favorite meeting place, the park and ride at Gilbert and the 202 and this time no one got lost. We all opted to seek solace in the shade while waiting for all the carpooling candidates to arrive. The day was hot and muggy. Kathy Hoffman had already spent her morning canvassing in the heat for Kevin Patterson in CD 6. Once everyone had arrived, we consolidated. We packed into our vehicles, cranked the A/C and began our ninety-minute journey to the cool, pine air of Rim Country.

We were quite the Democratic menagerie as our AZ Blue 2020 team entered the venue, complete with flyers, stickers, eight state candidates and ADP Vice Chair, Karyn Lathan. The list of candidates were:

Kiana Sears – 2018 candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission

Bill Pierce – 2018 candidate for Mining Inspector

David Schapira – 2018 candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Kathy Hoffman – 2018 candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

January Contreras – 2018 candidate for Attorney General

Jim Moss – 2018 candidate for U.S. Senate

Dr. Randall Friese – Arizona House Rep., Legislative District 9

David Garcia – 2018 Gubernatorial Candidate

Democrats of Rim Country began trickling in around 3:30 to hear the slate of speakers. Many attendees were sporting their Gila County Dems and Trump caricature shirts. The dull roar of mingling candidates and interested constituents created an electric buzz of excitement. Photographers roamed the room while voters got to know the candidates. The AZ Blue 2020 team stickered as many attendees as possible while John Ainley greeted people at the door.

The program began with AZ Blue 2020 outreach team member, TJ Cuddy, taking the mic to thank the Democrats of Rim Country for their help coordinating the event. Diane Green, President of the Democrats of Rim Country, did a great job promoting as proven by the turnout. TJ opened with an intro to AZ Blue 2020 and why the group helped bring candidates to Payson. “They’re depending on you,” he said to the crowd about the candidates. AZ Blue knows ground game is the most important aspect of winning elections. And, in line with our mission, TJ promoted the job of PC. “If you want to become a PC, find Chris Tilley.” He joked about her carrying PC applications with her everywhere she goes.

After the intro, Vice Chair Karyn Lathan was up first. She reiterated the importance of being an active participant in the legislative process. Karyn talked about her background and how she became involved in the party. Next up was Kiana Sears, candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission. Kiana outlined the reasons she decided to run. At the top of her list were the allegations of corruption surrounding the current ACC. Sears has been a long time advocate for child welfare and education. She is a current Mesa School Board member and is running as a clean elections candidate.

 

Bill Pierce then took center stage, which may have felt odd for an engineer. Pierce spoke about his forty years of experience in the mining industry. He has several certifications and knowledge of the industry, making him a more than qualified candidate for mine inspector. He was followed by the two candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction who have both been vocal supporters of the Save Our Schools referendum on SB1431.

David Schapira was up first. He went through his substantial list of qualifications including his years of experience as an educator and administrator. He also spoke on Arizona’s current state leaders and contrasted their ideas about public education with his own. “They are working intentionally to dismantle our public schools in this state and we have to fight back.” David serves on the Tempe City Council where he helped pass the “Tempe Free Pre” initiative, finding money in the budget to provide year-round preschool for 360 students for the next two years.

Kathy Hoffman is an educator and speech pathologist in the Peoria school district. She has worked with special needs students, those with autism and English-language learners. Her platform includes advocating for these students to ensure they receive the public school services necessary for their success. Kathy outlined three priorities for Arizona: invest in our students, prioritize and fight for the inclusion of all students, and increase pay for our educators. As a first time candidate, Kathy represents true grassroots democracy.

The candidate for Attorney General is January Contreras. Her impressive resume includes experience as a County Prosecutor, State Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney Generaland former policy advisor to Governor Janet Napolitano. She served on the White House Council on Women and Girls under President Obama, contributed to the development of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and volunteered on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. The list goes on and on. January also fights for protection of Arizona’s most vulnerable populations. She founded ALWAYS, a nonprofit that provides free legal services for children and young adults impacted by the foster care system. She spoke about the cumulative effect of her experience and how it has shaped her vision for the Attorney General’s office. January’s family is always close and supportive of her run. We have seen her mom, cousin and niece at our last two roadshow events. January has set the bar high for any candidate that chooses to run against her.

Jim Moss, a relatively unknown candidate, was next on the agenda. He and his wife Kelly are small business owners in Globe. He is running for U.S. Senate. Jim helped organize citizens to fight against a private prison contract supported by local officials in Globe. Although, many in the audience had not heard Jim’s name before they certainly remembered him after his speech. He had the audience clapping and nodding in agreement after his points about standing firm on progressive values. He suggested Democrats be unapologetic about their platform and forgo bi-partisanship in order to pass legislation that supports the party’s values. Jim and his wife own a trading post in Globe. He has degrees in political science and secondary education.

TJ then took a few extra moments to introduce the next speaker on the panel, Dr. Randall Friese. Dr. Friese didn’t hesitate to participate in a town hall organized by TJ earlier this year. Dr. Friese has been available not only to constituents in Legislative District 9, but has made a continual effort to support people allover the state of Arizona. He drove from Tucson to make the Rim Country event. As a surgeon, Dr. Friese has spoken out against bad health care legislation being passed at the state level. He mentioned during his speaking time the need for ACA improvement and a move toward universal health care. Dr. Friese has also been an advocate for improvement of the education system in Arizona. He is a veteran of the US Navy, a House Representative for Legislative District 9, a ranking member on the Health Committee and serves on the Judiciary Committee. Keep up with Dr. Friese for an official announcement about his run for U.S. Senate.

Rounding out the panel was Gubernatorial candidate David Garcia. Audience members vocalized their support of David during his run for Superintendent, which he lost by a narrow margin. Some Dems in Payson already had a soft spot for the candidate. He communicated that voters must be aware of the core values of the candidates they elect, “…the reality is we are going to go back to those core values that have built us, to those core principles of who we are and we’re going to fall back on those to make decisions.” He stated that is fundamentally how elected officials will govern. Garcia touched on the voucher bill and Doug Ducey’s strong push to support it. “I will venture to say none of you tweeted Doug Ducey to congratulate him on that voucher bill. Did you? But Betsy DeVos did. Betsy DeVos tweeted him to congratulate him.” The crowd moaned with disapproval to Garcia’s example of how the current Governor is mismanaging the priorities of the people of Arizona. David Garcia is a veteran and the first in his family to graduate from college. He is a nationally recognized expert in education research and policy and currently works as a professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College at ASU.

Once the speakers finished, attendees milled about talking and donating fives to the clean elections candidates. Payson Democrats turned in a stack of Save Our Schools referendum petitions to be brought back to the valley before the deadline. From the feedback and smiles the AZ Blue 2020 team received from Payson residents, the event appeared to be a success.

We cleared the hall and walked over to the Mogollon Moose. The local eatery provided delicious gourmet sandwiches, salad and pastries. Executive Chef and owner, Kristi and her husband were gracious enough to provide last-minute vegetarian fare for the non-meat eaters in the group. The sandwiches were works of culinary artistry. Everyone raved about the kale salad. Next time you are in Rim Country visit the Mogollon Moose, located in the heart of Payson. They make everything delicious…even kale.

Our events just keep getting better. Good candidates and engaged citizens win elections. AZ Blue 2020 will bring a roadshow to your town. Let’s work together to create excitement for next election. For more info email: info@AZBlue2020.org