How (not) to win friends and influence voters

How (not) to win friends and influence voters

: It wasn’t hard to guess what would happen when I wrote this post yesterday about what I think Bush should have done in his first term and what he could have done to win a landslide this time around.

Keep in mind that I’m a lifelong Democrat talking about how I might have voted

for Bush — even me, even Bush.

You might think that people would come in and convincingly try to push me over the edge. You might think that. But I didn’t.

Some — but not all — of the comments were vituperative and venemous; so were some of the links (get a load of this inane and infantile spit-sputtering).

That, sadly, is what is going on across America in this final week.

Now I’m not exactly an undecided voter, as I’ve made clear, but let me give some advice to both sides:

This is no way to win friends and influence undecideds.

And it is a failing of both sides. Whenever I said anything civil and respectful about Bush or supported the war in Iraq in the last year, I got self-appointed Democratic PC police coming after me with two-by-fours yelling that I wasn’t Democratic enough. Now I dare to say something critical about Bush and the execution of the aftermath in Iraq and I’m getting bashed from the other side.

The biggest lesson of this election — of all elections — is the same lesson for both sides:

Your guy is not perfect. Far from it.

So to defend him as if he were perfect and error-free lacks credibility for you and your side, whichever one that is.

If you think that the state of things in Iraq is good then I don’t trust your definition of “good.”

If you think that that the other guy is a decisive decision maker, then I don’t want to be around you when it’s time to decide what to order from the Chinese restaurant.

No, it’s far more credible and convincing to admit the errors of your guy’s ways and then say how he’s still better. I don’t mean to repeat the theme of my sermon last Sunday, but, heck, even God makes mistakes. So do politicians.

So I’d be much more comfortable if Bush and the Bushies said, yes, we didn’t anticipate the ability of the terrorists (the so-called insurgents, if you prefer) to disrupt Iraq and murder their own people and we need to change our assumptions and increase our resources and force to make sure we get this in hand. I’d be much more comfortable if Kerry and the Kerryites said, yes, we flip-flopped on this war but we’re there now and we need to assure we’ll bring peace and, you’re right, it was pretty damned dumb to say that we’d rely on the French and Germans and that we’d put it to a world test and — while we’re at it — that terrorism could ever be just a “nuisance.”

But instead, this is like an argument between Yankees and Red Sox fans who don’t want to convince the other side, they only want to yell.

And that’s fine for baseball. And it’s fine for blogs and comments and forums.

Except don’t forget: There are people you can convince. You have to try. You have to know how. And spitting in their faces while calling them idiots and insisting that your guy is perfect is no way to win an election.