Hint: Shaming isn’t the answer.
© 2020 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Our children aren’t getting the world they deserve.
Because generations of adults have failed to cope with
global climate change, our kids will inherit a world of more intense droughts,
heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. (Check out this NASA webpage for details.)
Millions of kids are growing up with a major source of toxic
stress: Poverty, near-poverty, food insecurity (Koball and Jiang 2018). Even
middle-class families are teetering on the edge (Suh et al 2018).
And in the last few years, Americans have watched as their elected
officials rejected science, condoned racism, and forcibly separated immigrant families,
inflicting needless anguish and trauma on young children.
politicians fight to end the Affordable Care Act, without taking steps to
provide an alternative health care plan for the millions of Americans who would
They’ve watched while political leaders served the interests of
wealthy donors, while ignoring the needs of families who are
struggling to survive.
Where are we now? In the wake of the medical and economic crises
FeedingAmerica.org estimates that approximately 1 in 4 children in the United States will experience food insecurity In 2020. (For more information, download their
October 2020 PDF document, “The impact of the Coronavirus on food
insecurity in 2020″).
There’s more. Much more going wrong. And our children
can’t do anything about it. They can’t even vote. But we can.
So we need to vote, and we need to encourage our sympathetic
friends and neighbors to vote.
I’m talking about the people who care, but who are reluctant to cast
a ballot. Maybe they hate politics. Maybe they feel too angry, depressed, or
hopeless to vote. Maybe they don’t want to vote if, for them, it means voting
for the lesser of two evils.
To persuade the reluctant, we need to be understanding and considerate. Shaming
tactics can backfire. People don’t like to be scolded, admonished about “doing their duty,” or shamed. It tends to make them
feel less cooperative, not more cooperative. And we desperately need to come
As novelist and Crash Course founder John Green so aptly put it (in a recent YouTube post):
“We are not going to “us versus them” our way
out of COVID, climate change, or anything else.”
We can solve our problems only by showing respect and
compassion for each other. By keeping a cool head. Acknowledging facts.
Promoting critical thinking. Supporting science and innovation.
So how do we successfully convince our reluctant fellow
citizens to vote?
I don’t have any research-based advice to offer about this.
But Sam Cook offers this approach — an argument that he says persuaded him to
become a voter:
“You don’t vote? Well, I do, and let me tell you why.
There are lots of people in this country who are way more impacted by politics
than I am: kids born into poverty, people with disabilities or chronic
illnesses, people fleeing domestic violence, and so on. I want better things
for those people. And how can I say that I support them if I won’t pull over
for 10 minutes on my way to work and vote in their interest? How can I look
them in the eye if I won’t give them that much?”
To be fair, Mr. Cook wrote these words a couple of years ago — at at time when voting was much easier for many people. But the general sentiment still sounds promising to me. Read his article for more insights about the reluctant voter.
And check out this guide from Headcount.org. It includes
common objections that people raise to voting, and what you can say — without
being coercive or annoying — to help change minds.
Where should you go to cast your ballot?
Voters in the United States can get help at Vote.org.
Koball H and Jiang Y. 2018. Basic Facts about Low-Income
Children: Children under 18 years, 2016. National Center for Children in
Poverty. Accessed 11/1/2020 at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED590427.
Suh J, Clark J, and Hays J. 2018. Basic Economic Security in
the United States: How Much Income Do Working Adults Need in Each State? Institute
of Women’s Policy Research. Accessed 11/1/2020 at: https://iwpr.org/job-quality-income-security/basic-economic-security-in-the-united-states/
image credit: Chinnapong / istock