The importance of stories: on winning hearts

I listened to a Republican state senator explain why she thought Insure Tennessee failed and why it might fail again this session.  She supports Insure Tennessee and listening to her was more than a little instructive .

She said mistakes were made and that the people in favor of Insure just got out organized by those against it.  (It is important to note that this is my take on what she said and she may not agree with all the observations made.) 

One of her big points was that the wrong things were emphasized and that things that could have made a difference were never given the opportunity to make a difference.  She thought the stories of those in the gap should have been much more emphasized.  She thought they should have been relentlessly placed in front of every legislator. The faces and lives of real people she thought would of made the most impact.  She particularly thought it was a bad choice that during the hearings themselves there was little evidence of the faces of the gap.

Hindsight is always 20-20 but in retrospect what she says makes a lot of sense to me.  After the announcement of Insure Tennessee there was a change in direction.  The hospital and business coalition organized a campaign rich in facts.  A simple clear case was made that I thought was logically unassailable.  The Insure Tennessee campaign made Insure Tennessee a no brainer I thought.  The facts were clear and compelling.

Except in the end I don’t know that it mattered nearly as much as what people assumed it would.  Many legislators it seems clear now never bought it.  And I understand something now I only dimly understood before.  It was never really a battle for people’s minds.  Despite what Bill Haslam said it was never about educating people and changing their minds.  How much of any kind of political anything is about a widespread effort to change minds?

It was really a battle for hearts.  It was a question of who could tie action on Insure Tennessee to values and passions that would move people and motivate them to act in a way that might put them at political risk.  The Koch brothers and all the others tied it to an almost heroic resistance to federal tyranny.  Never mind the facts.  The emotional appeal resonated with too many.

Our appeal was to help their neighbors.  To show compassion and care.  To look at the people that they represented who were in danger and say you can count on me to stand up for you.  Our appeal was to make it about people and not politics.  I almost wonder if at some level all the facts and figures did not at least a little bit get in the way.  They needed to hear about personal tragedy and misery and we tried to prove that misery and tragedy was real.  We debated when we should have testified.

Obviously facts matter but I wonder now if we did not lose focus of a sort.  For Insure Tennessee to win do we not need to win the hearts of those who can decide to make it real?  If we do not win the passion will the minds ever follow?

I don’t know.  The senator tonight kept talking about grassroots and I wonder if the pros were not just wrong.  Was it really about about convincing people that Insure Tennessee made sense or was it about convincing them it was so important there was no sense in not doing it.

I don’t know the answer but I hope we can learn.  Will not doing the same thing get us the same thing?

We started a war some thought would never be started.  Now let us win the battle in front of us.

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