New tool will work for all politics

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By John Bartlit

Recent pieces of news fit into a picture you can use to promote your politics.

Readers sometimes tell me my writing conveys some sense. This response rewards the work of connecting small pieces to form more of a picture.

Or making a vessel to carry some context and content. The tool is hugely more consequential than bumper stickers.

I work from the viewpoint that fragments are too small to carry any weight. Fragments, or shards, is my term for sound bites, slogans, and single facts plucked from the sea of facts. Shards have no threads that tie factor to factor.

Over the years, issue advocacy deteriorated to shuffling through shards.

The strength of crossties is both a means and a theme of mine. Back in June of 2003, I explained my views on the poor quality of public advocacy. In this space I wrote:

“The game these days is to list a fact or two that weigh for one’s side, and pretend there is nothing more to say. The other side picks a fact or two that weigh for them, taking care to pick those that seem to leave no room for accommodation.

“Then both sides repeat their own points again and again and that is as far as it goes. There is no acceptance of any fact nor rebuttal of any. No back and forth to cull the loose material. No effort to disclose the merest thread that ties the bits and pieces into a cogent story. Just shards – ghosts of a useful vessel – set in two small heaps.”

I concluded: “Each side would do well to retool its methods of public advocacy. With fresh means, either side can gain more. And that is the constant prize.”

Six years have passed. Two presidential elections have come and gone.

Typical of elections, the last campaign was mainly one of shards, sound bites, and slogans – “Keep America Safe,” “Four more years of Bush,” “Pro-Life,” “Pro-Choice,” “Tax Cuts for the Middle Class,” “Change We Can Believe In.”

Many factors combined to make Barack Obama the president. At this early stage, President Obama’s popularity runs high.

A close look finds the pattern of public opinion is most extraordinary. Obama is more popular than the programs he pushes. He rates higher than his own party or the opposition. He is more popular than Congress or the media.

How can this be? Why would more people agree with him than his programs? Some say smiling does it.

I give my polished reason. See if it makes sense.

Obama routinely explains his views and answers questions by connecting parts to form more of a picture. He brings in more context and content than others do. He shows ties among issues. He ties in history.

People in all factions easily sense his new method. Obama’s critics spread word his style is thick and dull. They call it “professorial.” Yet his popularity grows.

Don’t get me wrong. My point has nothing to do with the relative merits of Obama’s policies or the alternatives. I talk only about a new, improved means of relating matters.

The shards he connects may be no better or worse than any other. I simply say he connects more pieces to give context. Any context is more than no context. More of a vessel carries more things of value, whether beans or clay, than fragments do.

More harm than good accrues if my theme is the least bit confused or misheard. I say again: I advocate a better way of advocating. I urge scrapping the primitive tools.

Obama continues to gain popularity and traction. In 2003, I concluded: “Each side would do well to retool its methods of public advocacy. With fresh means, either side can gain more. And that is the constant prize.”

In 2009, new evidence supports my belief. Evidence comes where least expected. Big-time politics has fed on sound bites, slogans, and shards for more decades than voters want to remember. More is gained in Congress if members of both parties learn to compete in the new way. The time is right to cast off the flimsy.

Sturdy competition supplies us with winners, one of which is the nation itself. The game of shards has none.

John Bartlit is with New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air & Water