By Russ Clark and Larry Sharpe
For Libertarians, communicating with others is just the start to gaining their trust and their vote. Voters on both the left and right are tribal with their own customs and jargon. On top of that, our country’s political landscape is polarized to the point that we rarely hear each other. If we begin speaking about freedom to these groups without understanding their ways, our message will be muddled or worse, offend them. Libertarian policy positions appeal to voters in both groups. The “fiscally responsible, socially liberal” byline is a disingenuous token of our past. How can Libertarians move past the poor messaging and really connect with voters who agree with their positions? How can the Libertarian Party press its policy goals unless others see the value of our position? We must begin not by forcing others to accept our language (how un-Libertarian) but by speaking our values in theirs.
Right-leaning voters tend to be the easier demographic for Libertarians to reach. Taxation, public spending deficits and debt are very important issues for both groups. Nearly every political discussion touches one of these topics. Libertarians often fail to differentiate themselves from the mainline political party in two areas: what they would do differently and the models of how to get there. Too many Libertarians say, “Get government out of your life” or “End government and keep your money”. The message these voters hear is, “Libertarians want to spend nothing, provide no services and you defend yourself.” When the ballot box arrives, voters turn away from that option. It scares them and, in most cases, the Libertarian wasn’t talking about abolishing the Constitution. Scared voters make poor choices and we see that again and again. I will discuss how Libertarians can improve our talking points so right-leaning
voters will hear our views, not anarchy.
Left-leaning voters are the tougher crowd but there are large overlapping issues where Libertarians agree with this group. Over-policing, personal agency and the environment are very important issues for both groups. Libertarians fail to acknowledge that these voters take non-verbal and associative cues much more seriously than right-leaning voters. When Libertarians go to gun rallies, left-leaning voters see Confederate Flags, not justice for Philando Castile. When Libertarians get angry and snarl answers at the media, left voters tune out the message even if it is in line with their opinion. When the ballot box arrives, left-leaning voters go back to their old mainline party. The old mainline party that is yet again enthralled with socialism and more government control, not what their base actually wants. I will discuss how Libertarians can break this cycle and reach these voters.
When people are afraid, they make bad decisions. The political tribal intensity has created a self- perpetuating cycle of increased fear, fueling a shift in governance culture away from liberty and toward ever stronger tribal investment in authoritarian or collectivist socialist solutions to society’s needs. This focus and personal investment in the tribes instead of the solutions breeds disrespect throughout society, making it increasingly difficult to introduce innovative solutions and address society’s underlying needs. The Liberty movement can’t sit back and wait for people in this cycle to come to our door. We must learn how to communicate now on others’ terms. This is the best chance to grow the liberty movement. The mainline parties are both offering nothing but more government control and more
spending. The Liberty movement can turn the tide, but first we must let people know we are on their side. If we change our messaging, not the message, we will have more valuable conversations and foster mutual respect.
This is the way we can unite and heal our country. To join the Liberty movement, we don’t require that anyone convert to a tribe. Instead, we allow individuals to remain as conservative or as liberal as they want to be, but simply have the mutual respect not to force others to be the same way.
Larry Sharpe has traveled the country, and has personally visited every county in New York, listening to people’s concerns. Larry is launching The Sharpe Way, a show where answers, solutions and common ground can be found so that together we can forge a way forward. For more information, go to SharpeWay.com and attend Larry Sharpe’s FreedomFest session, “Influencing left and right: Talking Liberty to Non-Libertarians”, on Thursday, July 18th , 3:10pm. Larry will also be a panelist in the session, “Conversation Circle: Winning Elections, Getting Involved, Candidates You WANT to Vote For” on Thursday at 8:00pm.