News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.
Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.
November 26, 2019
Talking to your friends and family about Bernie Sanders and democratic socialism
Families are all different, but they’re often the people we know best. Studies show that the more you know someone, the more likely they are to persuade you in conversation. Your family might not know about democratic socialism, but they are more likely to support it when they hear about it from you!
Take a breath before you speak
There’s no rush, and slowing down to gather your thoughts can help you stay calm and confident. It can also help cool any tension in others.
Be aware of power dynamics
Family members who are older, more conventionally successful, or men often feel entitled to set the tone for the rest of the family. If the power dynamics in your family give you outsized influence, take extra care to listen to others. If the dynamics in your family lead some people to disrespect you, it’s OK to your pick your battles. Save your energy for canvassing and phonebanking people who want to get politically active!
Ask lots of questions and listen
Good organizers spend more time listening than talking. Try to understand where someone is coming from before asking them to reconsider their beliefs or volunteer for a campaign. Asking questions — or attempting to clarify vague statements — shows you care and respect the other person’s opinion. It will also help you guide the conversation to issues that matter to you both.
Speak to shared values
Sometimes people come to opposing political views despite sharing the same values. For example: If a relative says free college is unfair because it gives people something they didn’t earn, talk about how wealthy families unfairly buy access to elite education. Meanwhile poor students with better grades have to choose between passing on an opportunity they earned or crushing debt.
Appeal to material interests
Point out how Bernie’s policies would materially help your family Would his plan to halt all deportations make your grandparents safer? Would Medicare for All let your sister quit the job she keeps for the insurance? Maybe a jobs guarantee and a $15 an hour minimum wage would help your brother finally get his own apartment? Make those abstract ideas personal.
Remember families aren’t just the loudest person
Many families have at least one devoted contrarian who will draw you into an argument in bad faith. That may not be the person you want to talk to the most. Talk and listen to the people who don’t get as much of a chance to speak. Avoid your garrulous uncle and talk to your cousin who’s “not political” but is stressed about how to make ends meet.
People don’t change their minds all at once
Opinions tend to change gradually, and it takes even longer to admit we were mistaken. As you launch into holiday season, set your expectations accordingly. Pushing someone to concede can make them dig in their heels even deeper. It may be better for them to come away understanding your views and ready to mull them over.
Q: I like Bernie, but I don’t think he can win.
A: Bernie’s got a long history of defying expectations. He consistently polls well against Trump in swing states and has the most donors and volunteers of any candidate. Besides, history isn’t made by the pundits — we can campaign and change the future ourselves!
Q: Socialism doesn’t work. Look at Venezuela/Stalin/Cuba!
A: There are two separate fears people usually invoke with this claim, which are rooted in complex global histories. The first is the fear that a socialist government would curtail civil liberties and violate individual rights. That’s the opposite of the democratic socialist tradition. We fight to expand democracy, to end voter suppression, and stop billionaires from using their wealth to trample democratic decision-making.
The second is fear of economic collapse. Venezuela’s economy suffered enormously when the price of oil fell in the global market. Cuba is a small island nation that has been under economic sanctions for decades, yet still manages longer life spans, less extreme poverty, and higher rates of education than other Caribbean nations with similar resources and histories of colonization. Meanwhile, the US has vast resources alongside growing homelessness, bankruptcy, and suicide rates, but no one says that proves capitalism is a failure.
Q: How will we pay for Medicare for All/free college/a Green New Deal?
A: The US is the richest country in the history of the world, but half of our wealth is held by a tiny number of billionaires who make their money by owning things instead of working. On top of that, every year our government spends as much on the military as the next seven countries — China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UK, India, France, and Japan — combined. If we made the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, and focused government spending on the things we actually need, we’d have more than enough to pay for it!
Q: But what about my taxes?!
A: You’re probably not rich enough to pay any of Bernie’s new taxes. You have to have $32 million before you start paying the wealth tax. The lowest bracket for the estate tax is $3.5 million. You have to make over $250,000 in a single year to even pay an extra 3% in income taxes.
But taxes aren’t just about what we pay, they’re about what we get for our money. Bernie’s proposals shift spending to things that we need but have to buy from corporations now. The average family of four pays about $28,166 for healthcare every year when you add up premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. Bernie’s plan would cover all that by combining your tax money with funding from wealth taxes and the savings that come from cutting out for-profit insurance companies. Extra taxes on income over $250,000 go straight into seniors’ Social Security checks. Pick an example that means something personal and go with it.
Q: Isn’t Bernie too old?
A: Look at where young people’s energy is going. When I go to Bernie events, there’s tons of people under 40 who believe he has the best policies for our future. We like that he has a 40-year record of incredible consistency — if he were going to sell out, he’d have done it by now.
Instead, he is the only candidate building a working-class movement capable of winning the demands we are fighting for. By encouraging people to join unions and activist groups, he’s the only candidate building a movement that will outlast him.
Q: I don’t want to elect another old white man!
A: I get that. The US has an appalling record of sexism and racism. But systemic change isn’t about the personal triumph of whoever lives in the White House. It’s about what they do to change the lives of millions of ordinary people. He has been fighting for women’s rights, queer liberation, and alongside people of color since the civil rights movement. He even got arrested for it! That’s why more women than men support Bernie and why he does better with people of color than with white voters. We know his presidency would improve the lives of women and people of color more than any other candidate’s. Why should we settle for less so one person can get their picture in the history books?
Q: Let’s not talk about politics. When are you going to bring home some grandkids?
A: Childcare costs almost $10,000 per year, public college tuition averages $83,030, and a family of four spends $28,166 a year on healthcare. Those costs are going up quickly as public budgets get slashed to pay for corporate tax breaks. There’s no paid leave for parents and no guarantee we’ll find a spot in a daycare while we work. We just can’t afford to have kids. Bernie’s tax on Wall Street would fund universal childcare and free college. Medicare for All and paid parental leave would let us raise healthy kids and care for ourselves. If you want grandchildren, vote for Bernie Sanders!
Had some good conversations? Is your cousin volunteering for Bernie now? Have some tough questions you need help with? Send us your stories at: firstname.lastname@example.org