Politics can touch the most personal aspects of our lives. Political decisions regularly impact our families, our health, the sexual culture, relationships between men and women, and our ability to practice our faith and live our beliefs, among other things.
Women, especially pro-life women, need to make themselves heard on these issues!
But it is challenging to write about politics with a clear head. It can be even harder to present our message effectively to people who disagree with us.
Still, whether you are writing an op-ed to your local paper, or just responding to your sister-in-law on Facebook, it IS possible to express yourself clearly, civilly, and effectively!
Here are some tips for writing about our principles during an election cycle:
I. Focus on ideas, instead of politicians or parties.
The media likes to categorize opinions by putting them into politician’s “camps”, or sticking them into boxes like “liberal” or “conservative.” Buzzwords allow people to easily dismiss an idea as from the “wrong party” instead of engaging it at a deeper level.
This is not only intellectually dishonest, but ineffective. You will usually not change someone’s mind about a person or a party in a few paragraphs. You CAN sometimes win people to your viewpoint on a particular issue—with thorough explanation and plain, substantiated facts.
Resist the temptation to oversimplify a political issue by linking it to a politician or a political party. Instead, break down the issue itself. It takes more work, but you and your opinions will be treated with much more respect.
II. Craft an easy-to-follow argument.
1. Define exactly which position you are trying to promote. Do you want to overturn a false fact said by a major politician or commentator? Do you want to suggest a better solution to a problem? Narrow down what you most want to say about a topic, and express it as simply as you can.
Example: “I disagree with Presidential Candidate’s recent statement that all cats should be euthanized.”
If you are responding to an opposing argument involving many false assumptions, isolate each one of your main points:
Example: “I disagree with Presidential Candidate’s assertion that all cats are (a) useless and (b) allergenic, and that they should therefore all be euthanized.”
2. Explain the reasoning behind your statements. Many people will not make connections that you find intuitive, so you must put them in writing. Are you pro-life because you believe all human life is equally valuable? Do you think that a politician’s statement on “what women need” oversimplifies women’s problems, because the politician is only speaking about one aspect of a woman’s life? Even if it seems obvious, explain plainly and logically WHY you believe as you do.
Example: “Support for feline euthanization is based upon incorrect stereotypes about cats.”
3. Identify valid sources which support your reasoning. You might want to use social science data, historical examples, etc. While each point should have some form of support, one or two pieces should be enough.
Example: “Cat ownership is proven to relieve stress and lower blood pressure, which is an important factor in maintaining the average American’s health. Here’s an article showing the benefit of human-cat interaction.”
III. Edit with the goal of “gentle persuasion”
Your goal is to win people to your argument, not just show off how smart or right you are. When you perform your final “edit”, keep that goal in mind. Here are four steps to “gently persuade”:
1. Stay true to your voice as you explain your reasoning. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re deep, be deep. You don’t have to mimic someone else’s writing style to be convincing. Authenticity is persuasive.
2. But if you’re really trying to avoid unnecessary contention, seek a neutral tone. A good rule of thumb is to eliminate adjectives or any kind of emphasis, and let the facts speak for themselves. You might even want to say outright: “this is true regardless of one’s political persuasion. People of all political persuasions should be able to agree on this.”
3. If applicable, stow your pride. If the other side is factually correct on one part of an issue, acknowledge it, before pointing out where they went wrong.
4. Less is more. You don’t need to repeat yourself six times. Brevity makes you look more confident and your sources more authoritative!
I hope this helps you as you begin to write about issues swirling amidst the wild world of politics. As always, contact WSFT if you need help getting started in speaking for yourself!