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Daryl Davis is an accomplished musician, but since the launching on his documentary, “Accidental Courtesy,” music may become for him a lesser cause of fame. African-American, Davis' parents raised him in various countries throughout the world – countries where he was accepted notwithstanding the color of his skin. As a result, he wasn't conscious of racism when he was young. As he got older, he developed one question that he wanted to ask white racists: “How can you hate me when you don't even know me?” He took this question and introduced himself to leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups. Curiously, he was able to make friends of many of these leaders – to such an extent that some 25 of these leaders quit their organization and renounced racial supremacy.

The message delivered by Daryl Davis and Bernie Sanders is a simple one. Don't spend your time “preaching to the choir.” Reach out beyond the group that will readily agree with you.

Killing with kindness” is a strategy that has been used in other spheres. Bernie Sanders recently took a trip to McDowell County in West Virginia that had voted by 75% in favor of Donald Trump. At a recent meeting there Sanders pointed out that Trump's healthcare proposal would wind up by giving $275 billion in tax breaks to the top 2% of American taxpayers. Even though he was being highly critical of Trump, he drew rounds of applause from his audience. (It could be argued that even in McDowell County most of those in the Sanders audience were not in favor of Trump. However, no one in the audience appeared to object to what Sanders was saying,)

Sanders is well known for carrying his progressive message to conservative audiences and finding acceptance. In September 2015, he gave a speech at Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell. He admitted openly that he favored rights to abortion and same-sex marriage. But he pointed out the patent and growing economic injustices in American society and won over some in the audience despite disagreement on social matters. Conservatives and progressives can disagree on many issues, but they can agree on others, and overall they can at times reach agreement.

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From the literature on the subject, it appears that Bernie is right: Trump voters in rural counties are the biggest losers under the Republicans' Obamacare replacement plan. So progressives who are looking far ahead towards the 2018 elections should be targeting Republican representatives in those counties and looking for topics like healthcare where conservatives and progressives can agree.

The message delivered by Daryl Davis and Bernie Sanders is a simple one. Don't spend your time “preaching to the choir.” Reach out beyond the group that will readily agree with you. Look for areas of agreement to find support for the ideas you are promoting. And treat those who oppose you with respect. You won't necessarily win over all of those in opposition, but you will convince some of them, and that will weaken the opposition.

michael hertz

Michael Hertz

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