Is anyone persuadable?

Is anybody undecided about anything anymore? We all know what we know to be true. We all have our beliefs. Is there room for debate and discussion? Are there open minds that suggest that someone can be persuaded to think other than they do?

Persuasion is a powerful thing. For centuries, billions, if not trillions, of dollars have been spent to get people to change their mind. Advertising and marketing have been so fine-tuned, that those in the persuasion business can drill down to the minutiae of a consumer’s habits to develop a campaign of persuasion to get them buy one product over another.

We all are targets of persuasion; it starts at an early age when our parents persuade us to ‘try’ the Brussel sprouts or some other vegetable. After that, it never lets up. Americans are barraged with thousands of messages each day in an effort to change our mind.

What about something bigger and more important than trying a vegetable? Between now and Nov. 3, airwaves, phones, lawns and media will be crammed with messages of persuasion to get us to choose one person over another. When it comes to presidential elections, each side—Democrats, Republicans—can rely on about 45 to 47 percent of the electorate to be in their corner. The millions of dollars to be spent by campaigns between now and the election will be spent to persuade those eight to 10 percent in the middle to vote for them.

People who have voted for one party can be lured to vote in a new way. Remember the Reagan Democrats? Somewhere along the way many of those voters said to themselves: “You have a point.” They were persuaded that changing their political beliefs was good for them and good for the country.

Is that kind of seismic shift possible in today’s political climate? Are there people who are open to hearing views from “the other side” without automatically rejecting out of hand those views? Self interest drives how we vote—what is best for us? What is best for our qualtiy of life?

Persuading a kid to try Brussel sprouts is child’s play; however, persuading a voter to consider options to hard-held beliefs is much more difficult. There are no sweeter words to one trying to persuade than: “Convince me,” which should be an invitation for robust debate, not a hill to die on.

(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher of the Keizertimes.)