As we gear up for another round of politics and campaigns running in full gear, I thought I would point out an old political truth that just seems lost in today's politics of numbers, blogs, paid operatives, targeting, fund raising, slick ads, etc.
I have heard different reports from different sources, and seen somethings myself firsthand that indicate to me that the staffers and consultants and their blog guys and what not are increasingly arrogant and rude. They are not growing arrogant and rude towards one another as much as they are towards people who want to support their candidates and policies.
Too often in politics today, the staff checks their printouts for who gave what money or where someone is from and how that area votes and then they address that supporter's problems, suggestions or questions.
It is amazing to me how little some highly paid people know about people. People may often forget or misremember what you said, but people never forget how you made them feel. Right or wrong in conservative ideals, it is human nature, and its something to you have to face.
Hypothetically, suppose a man and his family go to Columbia to visit the zoo. The guy wants a Lindsey Graham sticker and to tell someone about all the Obama signs he sees in his middle class neighborhood. So, after they visit the zoo, the man and his family go to campaign or party headquarters. There, the staffer takes the man's name and address, acting as if she had better things to do. Some guy who doesn't introduce himself walks by and patronizes the visitor on his concerns. A couple of days later, after being patronized and insulted, the man gets in the mail a letter asking for money. Never mind that the man in question could be head of a lodge or a former mayor or business leader or the like. In business, such behavior is suicide.
In politics, sincere listening and trying to help the customer that is the people is becoming a lost art. That is why so many people who normally pay attention to every other detail of their lives tune politics out.
In the next few years, the United States, and yes, even South Carolina, is going to face some rather dramatic political times. Demographic shifting shows that within 10 years, South Carolina's Republicans can not just put a "R" beside their names and win without a fight.
So, I say, if the Republican party is looking to change its message in these down times, perhaps it should start with how it trains operatives and candidates on dealing with people. When some person takes the trouble to take the time out of his or her life to come to a campaign or party office, and ask questions, offer suggestions, or offer to help in some small way, show respect, be nice and listen. You never know who are you talking to and just what they could do positively for your cause if you sincerely treat them with respect and leave them feeling good about your candidate and your party. You might find the most respected member of a church who gets his fellow church members to carry a precinct. You might find a woman who never gave a dime in her life to a political candidate writing a check for the maximum amount. You might just a get a vote.
However, you can rest assured that if a candidate's or party's staff or representatives are arrogant and patronizing, you will likely get nothing. It is sort of misnomer that universities offer degrees in political science. While there is a lot science in politics, the essence of politics comes down to the art of knowing how to deal with people and how to sincerely make them feel comfortable with your ideas and your candidate. The building block of that art is the tested method of showing sincere respect and taking the time to really listen to what someone, no matter how insignificant according the science of politics, has to say.
The late Dale Carnegie summed it up with this simple quote: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
Whichever side's politicos take that quote to heart will find themselves with more friends, i.e., more votes in elections in years to come.