Friday, April 29, 2016

Leib: What conservatives can learn from Jehovah's Witnesses

Posted on April 6, 2014 at 11:30 a.m.

Some would say that conservatives are so-called left-brain thinkers, and liberals are right-brain thinkers. Logic versus feeling.

As most of you know, there is a belief by some that the left side of the brain controls logic, analysis, and objectivity. And the right side of the brain controls intuitiveness, subjectivity, and creativity.

The left-brain, right-brain theory of brain function is a convenient way to describe a person’s psychological tendencies. For what it’s worth, though, it is probably a myth.

And even if the theory weren’t a myth, the statement is too all-encompassing. The complexity of people’s beliefs in general, and their political beliefs in particular, is too great to be easily simplified. Feelings run as hot on one side of the aisle as on the other. And logic? Well, logic is often a subjective thing.

The takeaway is this. When it comes to winning hearts, minds, and votes, the driving force is passion.

Passion is what it’s all about, and the Democrats, generally, are smarter than the Republicans when it comes to recognizing this. People on the right like to show disdain for “political correctness.” But those on the left just smile and use P.C. to make their opponents look like barbarians.

Mitt Romney’s statement about not trying to get the votes of 47 percent of the people because they were unwinnable is credited as being an important reason that he lost the 2012 election. He was probably correct that they were not winnable, but very wrong in the way he expressed it. Passions were inflamed.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan got in trouble last month by saying that a major cause of poverty was “culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working...”

He’s now accused of being a racist because of his statement. I think "stupid" would be a better accusation.

I harken back to Richard Mourdock’s 2012 senatorial race and his clumsy anti-abortion statement concerning rape victims. He tried to clarify what he meant later, but it was too late. A wave of emotional fury buried him and tainted those on the same ticket.

I spend a fair amount of time talking to people from both sides of the political aisle. I see little difference in the level of feelings for their views. The left, though, has been more skilled in harnessing their passion and using it a selling tool. Perhaps some on the right are starting to figure that out.

John Hawkins, a columnist and blogger, has created the “Conservative Minority Polling Project.” His goal is to interact with minority conservatives and find ways for mainstream conservatives to communicate better so they can bring their messages effectively and not appear to be out-of-touch outsiders.

I am reminded of an experience I had several years ago. Lois and I had a weekend to kill between appointments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. That week there was a big Jehovah’s Witness convention in town.

We wandered into the City Convention Center and found large groups of Latinos listening to speakers. I hadn’t thought of Latinos as being Witnesses, and I said as much to one of the attendees.

He told me that Witnesses feel strongly about their message. And they spend one year learning the language and the customs of inner city culture before they take their faith to those neighborhoods. Then, he said, they are able to use their words with believability and understanding.

Believability and understanding. If Republicans want to get in the game and stay in the game, they might learn something about dedication, effort, and passion from a Jehovah’s Witness convention.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.