This Thanksgiving, don't have a political argument, have a "structured organizing conversation"

Union organizers don't have arguments with workers, they have "structured organizing conversations" — conversations in which the organizer asks someone to think about what change they want to see, what the obstacles to that change are, and then asks them to think about whether that change will come about unless they form a union.

There's a Thanksgiving political version of this, too. Your relations who are contemplating neoliberal or centrist Democrats — or even Trump — for president in 2020 are doubtless upset with how things are going in their lives. Maybe they're one of the 700,000 workers who went unpaid last January thanks to Trump's government shutdowns, or maybe they've seen their medical insurance costs skyrocket even as their coverage shrank, or maybe they despair of ever moving out of their parents' home or finding steady employment at a living wage. Or maybe they're terrified of the looming climate crisis.

A structured organizing conversation with that person — someone you're already on friendly terms with and are genuinely happy to see and vice-versa — starts by drawing them out on these concerns, gently redirecting them away from glib answers ("I want a million dollars") and snarky responses ("Me too! Let's go rob the Koch brothers!"). Get them to repeat these concerns several times, going over them in detail.

Next, ask how their issue relates to the platform of each of the candidates, and whether they're likely to get the things most important to them if they vote each one. Directly connect the facts of the person's life with the candidates' promises.

Now you ask them to get involved. Tell them about how people like them enacted radical change in midterm and local elections since 2016 — electing the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ask them if working for a centrist or neoliberal candidate will create the kind of change they're hoping for.

Then, shut up. Just say nothing, and let the silence linger while the person you're talking with really thinks these issues through. Organizers call it the "long, uncomfortable silence." Answer any questions that come up, and then stop talking. This is the other person's turn to contemplate the issues.

The next step is to get the person to anticipate the negative fallout from their choice: will they be derided or shunned by friends for volunteering for a progressive candidate. Will their parents or boss threaten them? Ask them what they'll do when and if that happens and what they'll do about it. This anticipation will soften the blow of any future negative consequences and help them stick to their resolve.

Finally, make a "followup plan" — a time when you can get together again in person or on the phone to discuss how they can get involved, through canvassing, phone-banking, and other critical tasks to seize the outcome of the 2020 election and possible save our species.

Because 2020 is a potential make-or-break for both the USA and the world. It may be our last chance to avert the climate crisis and to create a fairer and more prosperous society before inequality and its instability kicks us into a full-blown authoritarian catastrophe.

In order for you to afford your own place and breathe clean air, the 2020 election has to be different from any election in your lifetime or mine — things need to really change a lot. And key to making the change needed so you can afford your own place is that you and I and a whole lot of people need to build the kind of organization that can force the changes we need on election day. But, more important, the day after the election!

The thing that people did wrong back when you were a kid and we elected Obama was that everyone went home and trusted him to make the changes he promised. But to really make it so that you and everyone you know can afford to move out of your parents' houses is going to mean creating a network of people ready to get a presidential candidate who will build a broader movement to force the changes the Wall Street–backed elite want to keep in place. The problem in the past is that our side works for the election and then goes home. But to make real change so you can afford a place on your own means all of us have to act differently.

How to Organize Your Friends and Family on Thanksgiving [Jane McAlevey/Jacobin]