By: Charles Robertson, co-founder of Broward Tea Party
He looked up from the counter and noticed my Broward Tea Party tee-shirt; that opened the conversation. He said he was fed up with both parties and not excited with either choice for president. As the conversation covered past presidents, it seemed he leaned “liberal”, though he did like Reagan. Here was the opportunity that I’ve prepared for, I didn’t miss a beat.
My first question was simple, “which way are you leaning?” He said, he might favor Obama but he wasn’t happy with the state of our economy. I agreed with his assessment of the economy because it was certainly true and I also wanted to establish agreement. At that point, we were just two disgruntled citizens sharing the same concerns. I knew the answer to my next question, but it was the follow-up that I wanted to get to. So I asked, “Did you vote for Obama?” The answer was “yes.” I then asked, “What led you to vote for him?” His answer was typical, he thought Obama would bring change; I think he dropped the hope, and other reasons that we’ve all heard. This was the point in the conversation when most conservatives talk themselves out of the sales opportunity. This is where most conservatives list statistics, ideological differences, and a slew of anti-Obama objections. That misstep would only put my target on the defensive, defending his choice and provoking a counter attack on Romney. Instead I put myself in his shoes; I agreed that many people sought this change but that things hadn’t worked out so well in the past 4 years, and he agreed! I said, “you wanted to give Obama a chance and that’s understandable but since he hasn’t delivered, I think it makes sense to give someone else a chance.” It’s the same simple argument that Clint Eastwood made – “if you can’t do the job then we have to let you go.”
After leaving that thought with our fence-sitter, I quickly changed the subject. Another mistake that conservatives make is that they keep hammering the same nail. I could have made numerous points but I only needed one good one; less is more in this case. Leaving someone with a good question to which the only logical answer points them in the right direction, is the best approach. I shifted the conversation to our Tea Party mentioning our common interests (lower taxes, limited government). I made sure to mention that we have many Democrat members. I left him our business card/meeting info in the hopes that he’ll come to our meeting, where I’m sure we’d finish the sale in case he was still on the fence.
Everywhere we turn, we hear the same common complaint…people unhappy with both parties. They have a right to be upset. Both parties have pandered, blamed the other, and contributed to the stalemate and inaction that has brought us to where we are. As conservatives, we like to think that liberals are solely responsible, yet, it was a joint effort that brought us a debt ceiling increase and an unconstitutional super committee. Unfortunately, our federal government’s low approval ratings have given cover to those who neglect their civic responsibility. The pervasive attitude is my vote isn’t going to make much difference. We hear, “nothing ever changes… they are not working for us.” While there’s some truth to that, this is mostly an excuse for inaction and there’s an answer for this.
Unlike the sales opportunity that requires thoughtful, strategic persuasion, when it comes to voting, I tend to take the blunt, in your face approach. A certain friend of mine expressed that common refrain of, “I’m sick of politics, they’re all the same, blah, blah, blah, I’m not voting!” When he finished, I hit back with both barrels. My response went like this, “You have more than a duty to vote, you have an obligation!” Thousands have given their life defending our freedom and your right to vote, if you don’t care about a certain political race then don’t vote in that race, but what about the others. There are senators, representatives, judges, and local issues that are all important. There’s no excuse for not voting, it’s your duty and the least you should do. If you don’t vote then you belong in a country where you can’t vote. I told him that he needed to spend a little time studying the candidates and issues, so he might discover the importance of voting. My lecture concluded by mentioning the commission candidate who lives on our block; she lost her election by 12 votes. In midterm elections, local candidates often win or lose by the slimmest of margins. “Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t count and you can’t make a difference.”
There are so many fence-sitters that need a push off the fence, but we’re not pushing them. Ironically, we hear fellow conservatives frustrated with Romney because he hasn’t come out swinging at Obama, yet these same people will shy away from engaging the fence-sitters or liberal loudmouths. For them, it’s his fight not theirs. Our wannabe political strategists are quick to point out what the campaign should be doing, but what are they doing? Generally, nothing! Most of the same conservatives that decry the fact that half of America pays no income tax are the same conservatives who offer no effort to change this. As a Tea Party leader, I frequently receive suggestions on what we should be doing. If the idea is good, I have a standard reply, “That would be great, why don’t you head that up and we’ll help support your plan.” At that point, it’s like the Roadrunner cartoon; there’s a cloud of dust as they zip off to the horizon. Talk is cheap…action takes real work and sacrifice.
So how do you know if you’re doing your share in the effort? My guide is simple; it’s like exercise, go until it hurts. If you’ve fought the good fight, if you’ve given your time, talent, or financial support, then come November 7th, win or lose, you’ve honored those who’ve sacrificed to build this great country. You’ve earned the title of patriot, a defender of freedom and liberty. You’re a huge part of what makes this country great.