Escondido, CA

How to alienate potential supporters


At the Escondido City Council meeting of August 23, we got a lesson in how to alienate, or, to use a more mod term, to “unfriend” a potential supporter.

People who have passionate causes—in this case it’s the library outsourcing controversy—but it might be any cause, sometimes take it too far in the unfortunate belief that if you are fighting for a “good” cause that justifies anything done in the service of that cause.

Examples: defaming people on social media, assuming that just because someone isn’t immediately on your side means they are the enemy and accusing public officials of violating the law just because they don’t vote the way you want them to. Or even assuming they are going to vote some way before they do. And oh yes, defaming people on social media. Did I mention that before?

It’s also not a good idea to go ALL OUT in insulting public officials over one issue, especially if you hope to persuade that person about another issue at another time. Remember, in politics there is no such thing as a permanent enemy or friend. Alliances shift and the person you may be defaming and calling a dirt bag today may be the person whose help you are seeking tomorrow.

I know it’s an alien concept to some but attacking someone’s ethics and morals just because you are on one side of an issue and they are on the other this time is not taking the long view. I have news for the library supporters: there is no moral or immoral, good or bad position on library outsourcing. One can support it, or not, for good and reasonable purposes. Don’t worry, you don’t need to confess your support for library outsourcing the next time you go to visit your priest—if that happens to be your religious affiliation—because it’s not a sin. Liberals to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s not morally reprehensible to disagree with them.

It is unfortunate, in my view, that the library outsourcing controversy has become a matter of liberal vs. conservative, Republican vs. Democratic, because, as the 2-3 vote shows, that’s not the way the council members voted. One member of the “conservative” side joined an avowed Democrat in opposing it. But when you have people lining up to do the obligatory “corporation bashing,” the same way that a dog involuntarily shakes its leg when you rub its belly, that’s the general impression one gets.

Having said that, I think the city council, if it does approve of a contract with Library Systems & Services (LS&S) down the line has doomed any bond issue for a library in Grape Day Park for the foreseeable future. But that’s a purely political calculation on my part.

As an aside, that’s the main problem I see in Congress and national politics today. Both sides are so invested in the idea that lawmakers in the other party are members of the “Prince of Darkness wing” of the (take your pick) Republican or Democratic party that it’s hard to come together or issues that both sides support.

Now, I’m not in the idealistic camp of “can’t we all just come together?” and agree on what’s best for all of us. If one has a set of principles one should stick to those principles and not abandon them. But there are SO MANY policy decisions that fall outside of the realm of principles and ideology. And just because your principles are different from somebody else’s doesn’t mean gouging the eyes out of the opposition and sending goons to attack his wife and children. I’m kidding. I think.

I recall years ago there were a group of activists fighting the Gregory Canyon Landfill who would show up regularly at the Board of Supervisors meetings and accuse some supervisors of every evil thing under the sun. They accused them of corruption, of collusion, of bribery, malfeasance, etc. This was before any vote had been taken. And then they wondered why the supervisors didn’t vote their way or indeed become their good buddies. What were they thinking? That kicking someone in the shins was the way to win them over as friends?

So, as a little advice to the “save the library” group, try a little less character assassination and more rational explanation. In fact, just as the occasional fast is good for the body and soul, so is a social media fast good for the soul and the brain.

You’ll know it’s working when, the next time you see someone in person and enjoy what he is saying, you don’t instinctively look for a button where you can “like” him.  You know—the button that you will use in a minute to either “like” or “dislike” this editorial, or, horrors! to unfriend me.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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