Written by Paul Cook
Many times in our Libertarian circles we hear debates on who we should reach out to more, the right or the left. What we should really be asking ourselves is why we don’t try to focus on reaching out to those voters that are religious? According to the Pew Research Center, over the last five elections voters who have identified as Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or other various faiths, made up an average of 88% of voters. So why aren’t we able to effectively reach out to this massive chunk of the voting public? Maybe it’s not as much our message that’s flawed, but maybe it’s the way we present it. Here are 4 ways we don’t market our message well, and how we can improve.
1) How we communicate our message to them
This probably applies to a lot more than just this train of thought, but it needs to be addressed nonetheless. When we talk to people of various faiths, we tend to be condescending, especially when talking about their current party. We have to be careful, because the way you talk to people can sometimes be just as important as the content of what you’re saying. Instead of telling people why they’re wrong, sometimes it’s more effective to show them why our way is a better way of doing whatever they’re trying to accomplish. This can apply to many fiscal issues, as well as social issues, which we’ll get to later. People in general, but especially religious people, don’t like being told they’re wrong. It’s human nature. The way you convince people isn’t by telling them why they’re wrong, but why we are right. This is, of course, easier said than done. But you need to be mindful of it, either way.
2) Insulting their beliefs
Expounding on the last point, attacking someone’s faith will NEVER get them to see our way of political thinking. Many Libertarians, including myself, enjoy debates and discussion. However, sometimes you have to recognize if a discussion will bring about more harm than good. This is especially the case when trying to “convert” a faith-based voter to Libertarianism. There is no point in debating religion when trying to spread the message of Liberty. Best case scenario, you agree to disagree. Worst case, you ruin the image of Libertarians in that person’s eyes. It doesn’t matter how good our message is if we’re too busy trying to offend people while giving it. If you’re a different religion, denomination, or even atheist, be respectful of their beliefs and try to show them why their beliefs are more compatible with Libertarianism than either the GOP or Democrats.
3) The way we talk about social issues
The two most polarizing issues for most people of faith are gay marriage and abortion. For many of them, these issues could be keeping them from being Libertarians. For gay marriage, the solution is pretty simple; Spread the message that the Government should not be involved in marriage. When people are passionate about an issue, sometimes you have to know when to compromise. People do not have to sacrifice their religious beliefs about homosexuality to be a libertarian. If we simply share that we believe the government should not be involved in defining and licensing marriage then we can plant the seeds leading them to the message of liberty. Abortion is a much more emotional issue. However, there are many former and current Libertarians and candidates who are pro-life ranging from Ron Paul to Austin Petersen. The LP is much divided on this subject and people do not have to sacrifice their beliefs on abortion to be Libertarian, whether you agree with them on that issue or not.
4) Trying to win instead of planting seeds
Just like previously stated, we as Libertarians love to argue. We love to win. Arguments, anyway. We’re not so good at elections. But anyway, when in discussions we are more focused on “winning” the argument instead of “converting”, so to speak, people to our side or party. We sometimes view it as an “All of nothing” type of deal. We have to convince them entirely in this one discussion. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes we need to plant seeds. We need to help them discover these ideals on their own at times. You’ll never win someone over by telling them they are a “statist” and that they hate freedom and liberty. Sometimes, you have to win them over little by little. Patience is key.
Overall, we have to realize that being condescending to, and telling the largest chunk of voters that they’re wrong and basically terrible instead of trying to convert them to our way of thinking with reason and logic is a terrible strategy. If we ever want to be a major party and actually have a chance to spread liberty, we have to come up with a strategy to attract the biggest voting bloc in the nation.