How would things occur to me if I supported my political opponents?

This is a very interesting question because it forces you to think outside the box.

One of the reasons the federal Labor government of the 1980’s and 1990’s was so successful, besides their large list of major policy achievements, was due to their ability to hit various emotional trigger points of Coalition voters. There was an aspirational self belief, a sense of optimism and an ability to relate to people that went through everything Bob Hawke did as Prime Minister that many Liberal supporters found very attractive.

Many Liberals despised Paul Keating due to his polarising and abusive style, yet he intuitively understood the psychology of soft Liberal voters and was able to successfully appeal to it during the 1987 and 1993 election campaigns. Many Labor supporters worship Keating but never really look deeply into the incredible amount of nuance and subtlety of his thinking or study what made him a once in a generation political talent.

In the United States Ronald Reagan understood many aspects of Democratic supporters and spoke in language that targeted them directly. His economic policies were an anathema to many Democrats, yet he was still able to win elections with landslide majorities and was considered one of the most popular Presidents in the history of the United States.

Bill Clinton tried to communicate his understanding of Republican voters through policies he enacted during his time as President and these days whenever he makes public appearances or gives interviews, he’s constantly talking in terms of what unites Democrats and Republicans rather than what divides them. It’s a very popular message and probably one of the many reasons so many people want his wife Hillary Clinton to run for President in 2016.

Tony Abbott understands a certain segment of Labor’s base vote and throughout the last couple of years he’s attempted to talk to that segment at every opportunity. Many in the Labor Party and the Union movement haven’t had a clue how to deal with it because they’re stuck in a fixed mode of thinking about these voters.

I think the questions one has to ask to be persuasive are: “How would things occur to me if I supported my political opponents?”, “Where do we share common ground?” and “If I were my political opponent, what would I have to do to persuade me to vote for the other side?”

It’s important to have a position on issues, but in order to galvanise engagement, it’s also important to observe, listen and be open to what people who have a different view to you are saying. Even if those people are being antagonistic, provocative and offensive loud mouths.

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