By Carl Carter, APR
In the early 1990s, while I was still in a big corporate PR department, I began studying a new idea. We didn’t have a name for it yet, so we just called it hypertext. The web was a couple of years in the future, but some developers had come up with proprietary systems we could use to allow employees to click on a word and be taken to an entirely new document that offered exactly the information they needed.
In a world where we needed to help people understand policies and health benefits, that would be a godsend. I sold my boss on the idea, and we got an audience with the company’s top executives.
I started into my dog-and-pony show with confidence soaring. Point-and-click communications. What could possibly be more obvious?
A network VP stopped me cold. “Point?” He extended his index finger. “Point what?”
“A mouse. Then you click it, and…”
“Mouse?” The CFO cocked his head.
I trudged on trying to explain, but the game was over, and I’d scored a goose egg. Later, I met a friend who served as one of the secretaries on the executive floor. (We still called them that in those days.) I was whining in frustration when she cut me off.
“Have you ever looked at those guys’ desks? Did you see anything resembling a computer?”
Come to think of it, I hadn’t. “Even on my desk, there’s no mouse. We’re still on dumb terminals up there, and the bosses don’t type. You were speaking a foreign language to them,” she said.
With that, she stuck a butterfly suture on my damaged ego and I trudged back to my cubicle in total defeat. But I learned a lesson that explains the challenge Democrats have in getting votes in Alabama. Especially the votes of Baby Boomers.
Like the insulated corporate executives who thwarted my plans in the 1990s, older conservatives are looking at a different universe than we are. They don’t read the Washington Post and New York Times. Their network is Fox.
They’re not hearing about millions of people losing health care. In fact, Fox and other conservative outlets have virtually ignored the entire health care drama. Today’s top story is “FEDS MOVE IN – Chicago crime wave prompts Team Trump to send reinforcements.” For the rest of the media world, the buzz is about the President’s tweets about MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski being turned away from Mar-a-Lago because her face was bleeding from plastic surgery. The Fox headline? “MSNBC hosts devote show to bashing Trump’s tweets.”
Mouse? What’s a mouse?
We can’t get anywhere until we change the conversation, starting with the very topics we choose to talk about. The standard Democratic talking points won’t work, because the boomers have been too well indoctrinated on the evils of big government, godless educators corrupting our kids, Mexicans raping and murdering people, and the like.
I’ve found that my best bet best is to open with things they haven’t been hearing about at all, good or bad. The day after the election, I was with some gloating boomers and derailed them with one comment: “Deficit’s gonna explode.”
They stopped cold and looked at me like I was insane. Nobody was talking about deficits.
“How do you figure?”
“Republicans love deficits, and they always give them to us. You can’t cut taxes, build up the military and make it up in waste and growth. We’ve tried it. Doesn’t work.”
That usually produces disbelief and some mumbling about how horrible the deficit is. I agree heartily, and point out that our last President to produce a surplus was a Democrat — Bill Clinton. Oddly, none of them seem remotely aware of that.
That doesn’t produce converts. For that, we have to have candidates talking about things like hope, and projecting optimism. If that sounds familiar, remember that it got a black man elected President. Did he win Alabama? No, but he took a dozen counties, including Jefferson. More than 38% of Alabama voters cast their ballots for a black guy with a funny name.
Don’t tell me Alabama can’t elect Democrats. I’m not buying it. I know it gets tougher when we get outside Jefferson County and the Black Belt. That’s OK. The missteps of an evidently insane President and a Republican Party that has forgotten how to actually legislate work in our favor. We have the wind at our backs.
But we have to start with the basics. This, folks, is a mouse. Don’t worry. It won’t bite …