How to support McCain-Palin in NYC?
September 9, 2008 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm a recent transplant to NYC, and a Republican. I need to find the best ways to support McCain-Palin in what can be a somewhat inhospitable environment.

Yes, it's pretty clear that New York's electoral votes will go for Obama this time around. But NYC is also a place from which one can be influential in terms of influencing the national debate.

I don't want to be unnecessarily provocative (as in, I'm not trying to stir up the opposition or make people angry), but I would like to raise the profile and be effective in supporting my ticket.

This would include rebutting smears against McCain and Palin in a civil way, making convincing arguments against Obama-Biden, and at least getting people to have an open mind about my side.

Any clever ideas?

Thanks to all.
posted by BobbyVan to Law & Government (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sounds like you've got it covered: learn as much as you can about your candidates' policies and platform, and about the other candidates' policies and platforms, and talk about the ways in which you find your candidates' policies and platforms more advantageous.

Have you ruled out volunteering for the campaign? That might be a good way to meet, and share strategies with, others who are of your view.

Letters to the Editor are always a useful thing to do.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:18 AM on September 9, 2008

What about hosting a debate party?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:24 AM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: This would include rebutting smears against McCain and Palin in a civil way, making convincing arguments against Obama-Biden, and at least getting people to have an open mind about my side.

I was in the same position you were 15 years ago, trying to argue a minority position in the face of fierce opposition.

But I was a communist and everyone around me was not.

You have to be extremely civil and polite about arguing your politics. People will bait you, say outrageous things to get under your skin. Don't let them get to you.

Be civil, be decent. Know the positions and platforms inside-out. That way, you'll win the respect of some of the people who don't agree with you.

Of course, I should warn you that the partisan temper here is such that some people never will be open to you or your political beliefs, no matter how great a guy you are personally or how civil you are about advancing your cause. Them's the breaks.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Frankly, you might influence people just by supporting your candidate with reasoned comments in the political threads here, such as the giant Palin thread that is still active. As has been noted, there is a bit of a dearth of Republicans on Metafilter and that pov is probably underrepresented here.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2008

Volunteering to work for the campaign will bring you in contact with like-minded individuals (I know a handful of Republicans here in NYC, so I know they exist). Even if you don't want to get involved in working for the national campaign, there's a lot of work to do on the local level, and I get the feeling from politically-involved friends that someone willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard can go a long way and make a LOT of good friends.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:28 AM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In my opinion, getting people to change their minds about politics or come to a more thorough understanding of your preferred candidate is nowhere near as effective as assisting those who already share your ideological beliefs in casting their votes. Make sure people are registered and know about their voting location. Make sure their information is up to date so that their eligibility will not be challenged on election day. Why spend an hour persuading one person when you could register 20 otherwise apathetic or ignorant voters in the same amount of time? If you really want to make a difference, talk to people in swing states.
posted by billtron at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

The problem you have is that the things that would actually be conceivably effective at something won't make you feel all warm and fuzzy and supportive of your team.

If you want to help them:

Write them a check. Case closed, that's it. Best thing you can do, far and away.

If you want to be not useless: Volunteer to work in PA. Really they're probably better off if you send them money so they can hire more people who can do it full time.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:49 AM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: Wow!
You're brave.

As a native New Yorker I can tell you that in this partisan climate, being a Republican debating for your cause is going to go over like a Fundamentalist Christian debating Jesus in Borough Park. You will need to have a thick skin and be extremely civil. I have a feeling people won't be to you. Best not to name call or use the "Fox news" code words. I'm a fairly conservative libertarian and when some rightie tries to cram the word "Liberal" in twenty times in a sentence about the opponent, even I roll my eyes.

New York being the capital of Wall Street, economic issues will go over better than social ones. Think Hayek and Friedman, not Dobson and Fallwell. I don't know what your personal beliefs are, but a libertarian tack will go over well. If you start to talk about "culture wars" it is likely even local Republicans will get snarky (Except Staten Island perhaps)

And for heaven's sake, even though Giuliani said it, don't talk about Arugula eating cosmopolitans. It was as insulting to me as if a liberal talked about the ignorant rednecks in flyover country. We New Yorker's are proud of being New Yorkers and demonizing us will shut down your efforts pretty quick. I know you won't. You moved to New York after all!!!

Even better for your party is to focus on "get-out-the vote" efforts in Republican leaning districts *even though* New York will tilt for Obama so that Representatives or local politicos who are republican don't get defeated. Take the LIRR and stump for Peter King, for example, or for a vulnerable Republican representative in NJ.

You might want to track for long term growth is to perhaps not focus in this election, but to focus more generally issues that conservatives in general feel strongly about and that New Yorkers might be swayed by.
posted by xetere at 10:54 AM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's important to remember that political leanings are often based on emotion, not logic. These leanings are nearly impossible to change.

If, however, you run into an unemotional, logical person of a different political persuasion, you could probably use the dialectic to get to the root of his or her misconceptions. Be careful, though. When you stare into the abyss, it stares back into you. If your own misconceptions are what makes you want to vote, or vote republican, and if you are not crippled by emotion, it could just as easily happen that your own political leanings are what change.

Not that that's a bad thing.

Personally, I prefer to let people think what they want to think and let the chips fall where they may.
posted by stubby phillips at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2008

You could also focus on supporting local politicians you agree with - you can have a bigger impact there while still supporting the things you believe in.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2008

Mod note: A few things removed so far. You all know how AskMe works, and you know that it's not the place for a political debate.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:16 AM on September 9, 2008

posted by caddis at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2008

I don't want to be unnecessarily provocative (as in, I'm not trying to stir up the opposition or make people angry), but I would like to raise the profile and be effective in supporting my ticket.

It's been my experience that arguing politics (and religion) is generally a big waste of time. If you want to be proactive, volunteer with the republican party in NYC, help register voters, donate money, etc. Actually trying to prosthelize your cause is just going to come off as abrasive and/or annoying.
posted by chunking express at 11:27 AM on September 9, 2008

This election is all about the battleground states, not the committed ones. If you live in an area that's effectively uncontested (New York, Massachusetts on one side, Alabama and Iowa on the other), the most help you can give your preferred candidate and campaign would be in volunteering to solicit donations in your area. Money is transferrable to battleground states, while arguing with your neighbors isn't going to change their minds.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:43 AM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: It's been my experience that arguing politics (and religion) is generally a big waste of time. If you want to be proactive, volunteer with the republican party in NYC, help register voters, donate money, etc. Actually trying to prosthelize your cause is just going to come off as abrasive and/or annoying.

I basically agree with you chunking, but I also know (from what little time I've spent here) that New York is overwhelmingly Democratic and that if you don't respond to the arguments of the other side, they become accepted as truth. I know that I won't convince a hard-core Democrat to come to my side, but there have got to be some independent minded people to reach out to.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:50 AM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: Dang! My first comment removed from Metafilter.

Stubby Phillips up there pretty much said the same thing, though rather more diplomatically, and he even got the nod from the OP.

So it goes.

From BobbyVan's followup: if you don't respond to the arguments of the other side, they become accepted as truth

Alternatively, if you talk to "the other side" about their arguments, you may come to recognize *why* they regard them as truth. Not all differences are emotionally-based and reasonable people can disagree.
posted by Sublimity at 12:03 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks Sublimity, I can only imagine what you must have written to offend the MeFi mods. For shame... :)

Alternatively, if you talk to "the other side" about their arguments, you may come to recognize *why* they regard them as truth. Not all differences are emotionally-based and reasonable people can disagree.

I could not agree with you more, and that's exactly the outcome that I'm looking for. I want NYC to be more open to my arguments, and not just assume that I'm a Republican because I'm rich, religious or racist.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:24 PM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You will need to have a thick skin and be extremely civil. I have a feeling people won't be to you.

This is the biggest part, I think. I sometimes argue what I see as centrist politics and policy in a very conservative online forum. I find it pretty hard to be civil sometimes to people who are absolutely convinced of a number of propositions that seem ridiculous to me -- say, that the fact that oil prices dropped on the day that Bush dropped the executive ban on offshore drilling *proves* that domestic drilling is the answer to our high energy prices. It's really easy to want to come back with something short and snarky.

If you do that, though, you lose. It's both a bit lazy (responding with your feelings rather than your argument) and counterproductive (you're giving them extra reasons not to listen to you). And not only that, if you turn out to be wrong (it will happen sometime) and you were insulting, it makes you look even worse. So... most of the time I manage not to. I just lay my arguments out there, supported by as much fact and as well-organized as I have time and ability to muster.

I also try to argue *policy* much more often than *politics*. I think this is really key. Politics is much more difficult, because that's based on the symbols and values people perceive in the people and party they support, and half the time you may as well argue about why someone should like your favorite band instead of theirs. The other half of the time you're in the realm of political philosophy and you have to be pretty deft in order to make any headway.

The result of all this is that I've managed to build up a certain level of respect in this forum, some of it grudging, some of it real, even though by and large the readers and posters seem to be pretty far right of me.

Here's the bad news.

I'm still more or less tilting at windmills when I post there. I can take my best and strongest arguments on a lot of topics, backed up by cited facts, and for whatever reason, it fails to change minds. Sometimes, basic facts don't even filter through. For example, I've argued a hundred times that it's important to make the distinction between nationalizing health care and nationalizing health insurance, whether or not you support either one. Doesn't stick. Most people don't even remember the term single-payer. This is not a per-se indictment of their political position, I think it's just how human minds often work when it comes to politics.

And like I said, it's harder on politics and people than it is on policy, so this is going to be worse, since you're talking about a Presidential ticket -- you're trying to convince people that a person is a good choice for president. If you're lucky you can do this based on policies, but not only do presidential candidates make this a little bit difficult, most people really are paying selective attention at best to policy issues. So you're going to be arguing with people more or less about what the candidates symbolize to them.

I'll give you an example of something *not* to do that's directly related to that. I was really somewhat sympathetic to Palin after her candidacy was introduced, in part because I thought (and still do think) that the brouhaha over her daughter's pregnancy was ridiculous (seriously, it seemed something like three days before it seemed like the media was able to talk about anything else substantially), and also in part because I do have some sense of belief that "outsiders" can play an important part on politics. I'm also a Westerner and as silly as that kind of geographical identification may seem, it has some mild effect. Not super substantial reasons for support, but it's what I had at the time and it had me suspending judgment on her.

But I was immediate largely hostile to her as soon as she basically kicked a bit of dirt on community organizers. I'm aware community organization isn't all soup kitchens and can have some pretty political facets, but to me, community organizers symbolize people who take initiative to try to get involved and take on responsibility to get things done before they're formally given any power position in their community beyond personal influence. It's one of the things I actually value about Obama's candidacy. I'm aware this was an effort to make points about her own experience, but this could have been done in so many ways without having to disparage Obama's start, and I have to say, even if this response is irrational (and I'm not sure that it is), it's been a finger on the scale while I've been considering a number of other claims about her.

If you want an example from the other side, Obama's statement about being "punished with a baby" might not be a bad one. Parsed carefully, I think it can be understood that unintended pregnancy is a burden, and I doubt as a father of two that he really feels his children are a punishment (you usually stop at 1 if you feel that way :), but it still stings to hear that precise phrase. Definitely a gaffe.

So, yeah, kicking dirt on things people value is bad. You probably know this, the bad news is that you probably won't get a feel for what these things are until you've done it accidentally a few times. If you're prepared to apologize and exit the topic gracefully when it happens accidentally, then that might go a long way, and you'll probably learn pretty quick the common things not to do.

Hopefully, everything I've had to say here isn't too discouraging. I think good things can come of polite and reasonable discussion, even if it isn't always immediately changed minds.

Let me give you another anecdote, though. About 11 years ago, I was traveling from my hometown in Utah to California. We hadn't got more than about 40 minutes down the interstate when we hit a truck tire in the middle of the road. The impact wasn't gentle, the minivan we were in immediately started to overheat. We pulled off in a small town gas station and tried to figure out what to do. Now, I wasn't completely sheltered at this point in my life, but maybe still was enough that I had certain snap judgments about the tatooed truck-driving loudly cursing boisterous young men who were wandering in and out to buy alcohol. But after a while, one of 'em stopped to ask if we needed help, took a look under the van, spotted the radiator hose that had been knocked off by the impact, replaced it, and wished us well.

It's easy to make superficial judgments about what kind of people other people are based on the symbols that we most readily identify. A lot of people (on one end of the political spectrum, anyway) tend to knee-jerk assume that Republicans are assholes. Sometimes, a moment of personally demonstrated behavior can go a long way to change these kinds of opinions.

Good luck!
posted by weston at 12:25 PM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

You have nothing to worry about. Open your mind.

"Liberal Jew NYC" is just another NY stereotype. There are plenty of conservatives here.

There will be plenty of fundraisers thrown by the "ladies who lunch" (socialites) on the Upper East Side and Wall St. is scary, in-your-face, flag-waving conservative.

Unless you're in The Village or Harlem, there really is no reason to feel this way.
posted by Zambrano at 12:27 PM on September 9, 2008

I am a Democrat in suburban Houston, and in many ways, I am in a similar position to yours. The main differences, I think are on the personal level, in that as someone who works from home I don't see a lot of people or have much occasion to talk politics with them. On the rare occasions that I do, I tend to seek out areas of commonality rather than areas of difference, focusing mostly on personal concerns and how they relate to larger ones. That seems to humanize the discussion and keep it from getting out of hand. And, recognizing that I might not be able to change people's minds, at least we walk away friends, leaving the door open for future discussion.

And yes, I do give money to state and local candidates. This election and the next one will have a big impact on the next redistricting.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:49 PM on September 9, 2008

Wall St. is scary, in-your-face, flag-waving conservative

Avoid this specific type of generalization. I know from experience that it's untrue. Finance types may generally support free enterprise, but that hardly disqualifies someone from the U.S. definition of liberal. Also see: Bob Rubin, Jon Corzine, George Soros, Warren Buffett, etc. More broadly, don't assume someone's occupation defines their politics.
posted by mullacc at 1:02 PM on September 9, 2008

"ladies who lunch" (socialites) on the Upper East Side... is scary, in-your-face, flag-waving conservative.

Also a false generalization. I was at a dinner last night with "old money" socialites in the UES and they had few appreciative things to say about Palin and the Republicans.
posted by yeti at 2:13 PM on September 9, 2008

One might argue, yeti, that the fact that even the "old money" socialites cannot stomach Palin is not indicative of their being liberal, but rather the quality of the candidate chosen and the current state of the party. It's impossible to tell.

In your situation, BobbyVan, I would not endorse McCain and Palin at the expense of Obama and Biden, I'd encourage people to think and read. is a good resource for cutting through the guff on both sides. If you are a believer in the "liberal media" meme, international agencies like Reuter's, the CBC in Canada, and the BBC should be neutral enough for you to recommend.

I can't say enough that you should encourage people to do their own research, using reputable sources. Stump for McCain, yes, but if people ask them why don't slag off Obama: tell them which of McCain's policies you like better, and why.

Understand that you're talking to people who have taken a lot of senseless, hateful shit over the last eight years. As a leftish-type, I constantly feel under assault: Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, entire cable channels, etc. are constantly haranguing "liberals" without anything of real substance: just repeated attacks, vague insinuations, angry accusations based on nothing but cloudy appeals to patriotism. Any more attacks on their character or values just lumps you into the massive category of right-wing noise: no wheat, all chaff.

"I'm supporting McCain because I think his approach to energy independence is feasible"
"I'm supporting McCain because Obama is nothing but an empty suit"
every time.

Progressives pride themselves on being thoughtful and fair-minded (how accurate that self-description is something you might not agree with, but there y'go).

So ask them to be thoughtful and fair-minded. If you are indeed confident that your preferred candidates are the better candidates, you should be able to let those you address draw the facts based on McCain and Palin's qualifications, records, and policies.

And if you're not confident that the histories, ideas and values of your candidates are enough to convince an impartial observer, you should maybe reconsider who you're choosing to support.
posted by Shepherd at 3:03 PM on September 9, 2008

Shepherd: the CBC and BBC would generally be considered *more* left-leaning than the majority of American news sources.

If you want to help McCain and Palin, become acquainted with more sophisticated (as compared to, say, Fox) right-of-center outlets like the National Review or the Weekly Standard.
posted by ewiar at 4:06 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: Shepherd,

Thanks for your comments. It's probably best not to get into a debate on AskMeFi about which party's fringes are more extreme, and I'm sorry you've felt "under assault" over the last few years.


Appreciate your referencing more sophisticated conservative outlets. There are also some great young conservative writers like Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam who are urging the GOP to engage the working class on bread and butter issues.
posted by BobbyVan at 4:14 PM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: There are Republican and Conservative Meetups in NYC, though I've never been to any. There's two young Republican clubs in the city after some sort of schism a while back, the New York Young Republican Club and the New York Young Republican Club. Also important are the local neighborhood Republican clubs. At least in Manhattan, get in touch with the TR Group and they can point you in the right direction on the club front.

It might also be worth getting in touch with the Women's National Republican Club, which has club facilities near Rockefeller Center. Men are eligible to join as non-voting associates.

Religious conservative groups are a different orbit... which I can expound upon if you're interested.
posted by Jahaza at 5:32 PM on September 9, 2008

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