My focus in politics is electoral, not ideological or issue related. The time I devote to politics focuses on elections, voter education and messaging. Since President Obama first started campaigning for the office, volumes have been written about the people who oppose him from the Left. What is rarely explored is what chance, if any, is there to ‘change the minds’ of his Left Wing non-supporters about anything concerning politics. What are the best ways to cope with these people in an electoral environment? I’ve developed a rating system for the categories of non-supporters that I have thus far identified. With this rating system I hope to help people, either online or in the real world, interact with or at the very least emotionally cope with different levels of opposition.

The Narcissist

In brief the Narcissist suffers from a pathological need for attention; hypersensitivity to insults and criticism; an over-inflated sense of self-importance; unrealistic expectations and a preoccupation with success and power. It’s been fairly well established which particular ‘activists’ who claim the Far Left as their territory fit this description. These people live for the fight. Everything they do and say with regard to politics is about opposition. The more driven among them have developed strategies for making money from this opposition. These people have no allegiance to either Party. Their allegiance is to themselves and feeding the never-ending necessity for attention and staying relevant. They go wherever there is an opening. Their belief system is composed entirely of being against whatever “The President” believes in.

  • Prospect for convincing them to support the current President: Non-existent.
  • Strategy for coping with their behavior: Never make it personal. Always focus on what they do, not what they say or who they are.
The best way to undermine Narcissists is to ignore them and deprive them of the attention they crave. However, I’ve come to realize that very few people are actually capable of employing the tactic of responding in this fashion. The Narcissist counts on people ‘reacting’ to everything they say, and most people, particularly online, oblige them. That gives the Narcissist unearned power, but there it is. Trying to change their minds is an exercise in futility. Trying to correct their willful ignorance and misinformation campaigns is at best like skeet shooting. Sport. Calling them names only makes them dig in more and play the victim as performance art for their supporters. Focusing on what they do IS effective. And by effective, I mean undermining their ability to con their followers. Showing how a Narcissist uses his or her money, or fails to provide health benefits to their employees or gives support to the Republicans in some fashion builds a body of evidence that creates a credibility gap that can be used over and over to peel away their followers.

If for some reason, as an author or commenter, one feels compelled to respond to some printed or video misinformation in places other than where that information originated, do so without mentioning the source. Focus on the misinformation, not the personality of the individual who circulated the misinformation. By not crediting the source directly, it bleeds power (and links) away from it. Start your sentence this way: “I read (heard) some misinformation on a blog (TV or radio show) today that needs addressing.” Go straight to correcting the incorrect information and leave the personalities out of the message.

For those brave souls who believe it’s worthwhile to comment on the actual blogs where the misinformation and/or rumor was invented, do so politely and reasonably, bearing in mind that is how the President we’re defending would do it. Simply state the correct information and move on. Resist the temptation to defend the information. Defending is a losing strategy. Present accuracy for its own sake. The goal is educating the audience of the Narcissist, not the Narcissist.

The Anarchist

Anarchists and Narcissists have a symbiotic relationship. They both thrive on opposition and many of the Narcissist’s followers hail from the ranks the modern American Anarchists. The very nature of anarchy pretty much makes defining them impossible because there are almost as many variations of anarchy belief systems as there are people who subscribe to them. In general they fall into a few sub-groups who can be generalized as wanting to either seriously limit government or do away with government entirely. Anti-capitalism (anti-corporatist) seems to be more appealing to the Left; where profit motivated privatization characterizes the Right.

A friend once told me that Republicans don’t trust government and Democrats don’t trust corporations. I frequently encounter people spouting anti-corporation rhetoric in my neck of the woods. Bandying about words like corporatist and fascist is as common and accepted as talking about the weather. For this crowd corporations are governments and possess power that now exceed governments. Their opposition to our President, any President really, stems from the perception that the American government exists to protect corporations and to that end readily override the will of the people. If President Obama isn’t seen as actively working to disrupt corporations, then he is complicit in all that corporations do. He then is dismissed as being a corporatist and deserving of their lack of support.
  • Prospect for convincing them to support the current President: Online: None. In the Real World: Marginal.
  • Strategy for coping with their behavior: Engaging the Anarchist online can only result in defensive posturing. In the Real World what matters most is the ability to gauge the level of commitment to the anti-government stance. Theoretically the true anarchist is so against government that supporting any office holder is out of the question. Very few people, even the youthful vandals are that extreme. Even still, the amount of energy required to move someone who is hard-core anti-government into the supporter camp isn’t a wise investment. That energy can be better spent with swing voters. A time-saving tip: find out if the anti-government individual you’re trying to engage is even registered to vote. If not, move on.
The Elitist

At the core of an elitist’s mindset is ego. Self-described intellectuals for the most part who believe their evaluation of politics is superior to that of others around them. Elitists tend to concern themselves more with policy than electoral politics. I’m not as willing as some to write these people off because in more cases than a few, people who behave in an elitist fashion are often engaged in actual policy making. More than once I’ve seen, in the real world any way, that at times they are right. Their presentation lacks grace and can be characterized as condescending, which is off-putting to most people who don’t hail from their ranks. Unfortunately these people and people who pretend to be their peers frequently devolve into antagonistic adolescents once their fingers come into contact with a keyboard and a connection to the Internet. There is a strong parallel with computer geeks who look down on people who aren’t as good as they are with computers and code, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re talking about. They just lack social skills. Elitists tend to lack actual political skills. It is the ego and condescension that prevents them from identifying, and therefore communicating effectively, with regular people.
  • Prospect for convincing them to support the current President: Online: Remote but not impossible; In the Real World: Achievable.
  • Strategy for coping with their behavior: Basically the only effective way to engage an Elitist is to swallow your own ego and ‘become’ their student. This can’t be done in one encounter. Online an Elitist has a reputation to protect, so any challenge to their authority will be smacked down with malice. However the person who is willing to swallow any antipathy they might feel toward the Elitist’s arrogance can gain a foothold into their thought process by asking innocent questions. “I’ve been reading your comments about this topic. Could you please help me understand [insert specific] better?” When the Elitist elaborates, ask for specific examples (not proof). In time, once the Elitist thinks you’re listening, they relax their need to aggressively protect their stance. This is tricky to do in a comment section because other people can interject with insults and such, but with consistency and respect, things will improve. Once he or she relaxes, then you can gently offer your own examples of how you view the topic. Do so with NO expectation of success, but only the hope of guiding the conversation toward a softening of the Elitist’s stance. Keep the President out of the conversation; stay focused on the issue rather than the personalities and there is guarded hope that a softened Elitist might at some point be open to pulling the lever for the President. Of equal value is the idea that the Elitist will pull the lever for Democrats on the down ballot.
The Reactionary

These are the foot soldiers in the realm of Presidential opposition. Their opposition is a little softer than their rhetoric suggests because they have something entirely different at stake when they spout anti-Obama talking points. While the Narcissist has their entire personhood (and often livelihood) at stake, the Reactionary has at risk their place in the ‘society’ that is created for them by the actors higher up the food chain. It is the Narcissist, the Anarchist and the Elitist who create the blogs and generate the talking points upon which the Reactionary depends to help them fit in. Politics and Religion have an emotional context that rules the behavior and belief systems of pretty much everyone on the planet. The Reactionary has a heightened response to the deliberate emotional appeals from people trained to manipulate them. So far I’ve identified two specific triggers that make Reactionaries vulnerable to this handling: feelings of social inadequacy and the need for immediate gratification.

Reactionaries are not critical thinkers, but by the same token they’re also not the manipulators. They are followers, but followers with an agenda none-the-less. That agenda is fitting in with both the online and real world. Politics, like religion, is a topic that very few people study, so the door is wide open for anyone who sounds like they know what their talking about in any given conversation. Someone who can quote Bible verses sounds more authoritative than others who can’t. Talking points are the political equivalent of Bible verse. If they can be quoted verbatim from the source, then they become truth. The person who can quote them becomes an authority within their own circles. Whether it is the artificial social circle of an online blog or a real social circle, the Reactionary depends on easily repeated content to stay current and sound like they know what they are talking about. This is in part why they defend those above them in the hierarchy with such venom: to protect their source.

Within the world of politics Reactionaries are not results-oriented people. They are dependent upon their source for their fix that helps reinforce their constructed belief system. This is as true with the Left as it is with the Right. The biggest perceived danger to a Reactionary is someone who actually knows more about politics than they do.
  • Prospect for convincing them to support the current President: Online: Remote but not impossible; In the Real World: Achievable.
  • Strategy for coping with their behavior: Learn the talking points that they subscribe to. Generally if the action is sure to be politically disastrous to the President, then it is something that has been promoted by the ‘pundit’ class that Reactionaries use for reference. When you hear or read these talking points being repeated in conversation or online, then you know that you’re dealing with a Reactionary. Do not challenge their beliefs in public. It embarrasses them and makes them feel like they’ve been downgraded socially, which causes them to dig in more resolutely. These are the people who benefit from the use of the pivot. Once the stash of talking points is exhausted, they have nothing beyond irrationally defending these talking points. In a social gathering or a comment section, it is the audience who matters most. Guiding the conversation to more results oriented context helps give everyone, even the Reactionary, a chance to hear a different viewpoint in a non-combative environment. Down ticket support for Democrats in general isn’t as frowned upon by Reactionaries, so is to be encouraged in the absence of willingness to vote for the President.
Making the Shift

It’s been my experience that people who subscribe to the Left Wing anti-Obama talking points aren’t as likely to suffer from cognitive dissonance when they hear a rationally well-presented option to their belief. My personal observation is that this stems from the lack of religious ideology within liberal circles. Liberal belief systems tend not to be faith-based and are therefore more flexible.

The true key to helping people soften their attitude regarding the President is respect. There is precious little of it online, but we are in a position to change that, and we have no better role model than the very President we support. Anyone who works with voters on a regular basis will happily remind us all, that people in the online communities that follow politics are potential voters. As someone who has knocked on some doors and spoken directly with voters in person, I can tell you that the only way to promote the President is by making ourselves people who show everyone respect, especially those who disagree with us. We need to ask ourselves this: if we knock on a stranger’s door would we call that person to their face a moron, or make a barnyard reference to their sexuality if that stranger told us they didn’t support the President? If we won’t disregard the feelings of a total stranger in real life, why do we do it online? Why are we willing to create the impression that people who support the President don’t listen, are rude, mean, treat people poorly, etc.? That kind of behavior alienates people and keeps them from giving support to the one person for whom we want to secure a vote.

At some point this internecine bickering has got to stop. They won’t stop it, so we must. We’re coming up the time when we will be asked to start working in earnest for the President’s re-election. Now is the time for us to begin the practice of treating our fellow voters how we ourselves wish to be treated.

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