Planning a Rapid Response: from #Blue vs #Bust to Solidarity

By Stephen, 23 February, 2020


Cognitive Politics is a book, blog and community dedicated to more effective political conversations across political divides. We need you:

Linguistically, "Vote Blue No Matter Who" — some might now shorten it to just #VoteBlue — is an imperative: I'm telling you what to do. That's about as far from active listening as possible, a way of speaking that listeners might find frustrating even if there is no other conflict.

As the primary season wraps up, the left threatens to tear itself apart. Likely to wreck the dreams of those who want to defeat Trump. Likely to wreck the dreams of those who want skittish primary voters to take bigger risks in 2022 and 2024. This Rapid Response explores ways to work on both those goals: to talk to each other instead of lecturing each other.

From #Blue-vs-#Bust to Solidarity

Same Goal, New Frames for #VoteBlue

  • Arguments always fail: attacks lead to defense, they cause people to defend their original point of view. Try anything else.
  • Assume people know. Most people know, they certainly have heard, how bad Trump is. So the goal is to change focus, not shovel facts.

Instead of demanding #VoteBlue, try these ideas:


Messengers are the easiest option. If you want people to vote blue, don't shout that slogan. Find quotes from AOC and Bernie that say what you want. Don't jam it down anyone's throat. Just make sure these sorts of quotes get extra air time.

Listening and Agreeing Where You Can

Listing is harder, and harder for us to summarize, but works so much better. As I write, people are not at the voting booth. They are angry. The goal for now is to help people get their anger out in some way, so that it doesn't come out at the voting booth.

What's your plan for the next primary?

This is an empowering question, takes the person seriously, and also gently (and realistically)

If you think disempowerment is leading to hopelessness, inject power

Historically, politics attracts corruption. Many people are exhausted by, some lifetime Democrats but many young voters new to the system. They feel powerless to use the political system with all its limitations to slowly bend the arc toward justice. Instead of lecturing them, push them towards activism. Share something like this:

When it comes to moving the Democratic Party and its supporters farther to the left—toward truly progressive causes, away from the agenda of the neoliberal center—the most effective people I've met are the #DemEnter folks.

* My favorite way, ever, across many issues, to get people to cool down on obstruction: ask them to volunteer to fix the problem. If people hate the DNC, telling them where they can volunteer to change that is a great way to deflate the idea that protest voting will transform or crush the DNC, without arguing. Focus on what you want: new activism; don't focus on the problem and scream about protest voting, the attention only makes it worse.

Pulling it together — example long comment to burnt activist

My comment to a burned out #NeverBiden human being, and have them heart my post. A little of this is personal to me, so modify for your experiences. This works:

I hear you. I've been active with the Democratic Party for 30 years. It has always been a party of mostly lawyers — the first thing I was active with was gently kicking their butts towards actually giving a damn about God-damned Apartheid, not cocktail hours, back with Young Democrats. It is depressing. We are closer than we have ever been and I don't think we're there yet, a very long road.

When it comes to moving the Democratic Party and its supporters farther to the left—toward truly progressive causes, away from the agenda of the neoliberal center—the most effective people I've met are the #DemEnter.

I've been doing this thirty years — the Wall Street people, there is no way to "teach them a lesson." They'll keep their jobs if Trump wins, they’ll control blue states if Trump wins. We have to defeat them — not just the Bidens and Clintons at the top, but much more easily defeated minor party functionaries.

- I think it might be worth moving volunteer time from national elections to cleaning up the Democratic Party. The people doing it keep complaining about a lack of help: if a river of #bust folks showed up at the boring meetings, the Democratic stables could be washed out. And if they don't show up, it won't be washed out.

- I'm angry too and would like to get it out. I wondering if it's powerful to make eye-contact or the closest simulation you can on facebook with Biden voters and tell them how many hours you planned to volunteer for Biden and say you can respect them if their guy wins if they put in those hours for you. I'd like to explore this, for people to try it and report back: I think it might be more effective, better heard, and also harder hitting then saying who we won't vote for. It feels fair to me: if you all win the primary, I've got no good choices, but it's your turn to do the work. I think it's likely to be a disaster — nearly every person volunteering in my circles supports Sanders, a few were Warren (they generally volunteered less), and maybe zero Biden. "If you beat my choice fair and square and put in the hours I was planning to spend, then I don't want politics to come between our friendship. If you're going to sit on your ass while handing the election to Trump, and wonder why I didn't keep volunteering and blame me for not volunteering instead of stepping up yourself, then unfriend me and get out of my life."

I want to say: I'm with you in the primary. I do think it's important to stay in solidarity with each other. There are a lot of burned out people just done volunteering for a candidate they believe in and not just a lazy half-sleeping choice — all of us are hurting, we need to get better at asking for and giving hugs or virtual hugs and supporting each other. The idea of Trump winning — and the idea of broken solidarity, or our own communities giving up on each other — it hurts. People proclaiming they're willing to see Trump win if the Democrats betray us — something a lot of us are fighting against — that hurts people who should be in solidarity. It is deeply horrifying to a lot of people who're also exhausted. I want to be in solidarity with you, and I'm trying to figure out how.

Singing to the #VoteBlue Choir

If you and your circle believe in #VoteBlue, the Blue Solidarity project wants you to explore other frames. If you agree, share a message like this, or parts of this:

I want people who are grieving and angry to vote for Biden. If you want people to vote Democratic: right now is a good time to let people grieve, to let people be angry, and get it out.

Especially if you feel like a winner from the primary, be the person who helps hold space for people who feel like they lost.

Don't lecture people. Don't tell people what to do. Most of us double down when told what to do — do you?

If you don’t want other people to express righteous anger at the ballot box, model it for them: put your anger away and listen. Let people feel heard.

Hear people out: our goal is to let allies get out their anger and complete their grieving as fast as possible, to get it out of their system before it's time to volunteer and vote in the autumn. That's something we can actually help with.

A Future to Believe In

As issues come up, as we see things that are disturbing about the Democratic Party, find ways to keep our conversations focused on moving forward, for example:

Join Us

Join a small team that wants to explore new slogans and frames for improving communication and solidarity among progressive voters. Our first drafts have a solidarity theme instead of an "I'm telling you what to do theme." If you want someone to do you a favor and vote as you suggest, do them a favor first — like listen to them, or listen to their list of internal party changes. We want to welcome, and generate better conversations between, people whose burning passion is defeating Trump in November and people whose burning passion is a transformation of the political left. We think the #blue-vs-bust fight hurts both causes, and our intention is to do work to reframe the conflict.

Timeline: start in late April. Announce early May. Improve and spread through May.

If you'd like to volunteer and make this happen contact Stephen

Related early resources: