A listener from San Francisco takes Smiley & West to task for their appearance on Sean Hannity's Fox News Channel program during their book tour.
Watch Smiley & West's appearance
Mick LaSalle's original letter to Smiley & West
I think you guys are doing great work.
I've been meaning to write to you for the last couple of weeks, ever since seeing you on the Hannity show. Your friends probably have told you how well you did. Well, you didn't. You got your clocks cleaned -- and by a MORON. I would be willing to say you didn't change a single mind about anything. Now I realize, of course, that the home field advantage was huge in this case and the two of you couldn't actually see Hannity, that your were talking blind into a camera. Still, I think you made a couple of mistakes in your arguing strategy. The Republican counter right now, to any suggestion that the tax code needs to be adjusted, is two-fold: To scream class warfare and evoke Ronald Reagan. In support of the class warfare argument, they say, "Why do you want to punish success?"
The proper answer to that is NOT, oh well, we don't exactly want to PUNISH success, but we want to ding it a little. The answer is WHAT success? Half the money we're talking about is INHERITED. Is Donald Trump or Mitt Romney a success because they were born rich and figured out how to get richer? Every day millions of people are born poor and they figure out how to get POORER. How is that success?
As for the Reagan argument, this is your blindspot. Reagan was a very popular president. He took 49 states when he ran for re-election, and, if anything, he is more popular today than when he left office. OK, you don't like the guy. Fine. But the question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I want people to feel like they have to recant every opinion they have ever had in order to agree with me on one point, or would I like to be influential and win an argument?"
Guys, you've got to realize that they bring up Reagan because that's all they've got. They can't bring up BUSH, obviously. So, you have to use a little Judo on them. When a dunce like Hannity brings up Reagan, say you want to bring tax rates back up to what they were during the first six years of Reagan's administration.
You can even say, if you can force yourself, that Reagan was important in getting rid of 70 percent tax rates, but that Bush, etc., etc. Get them on to Bush. Always.
Never argue Reagan. Among the many people that you guys need in order to build a majority behind your ideas of justice are a good many people who voted for Reagan and don't want to forswear their entire voting history just to agree with you that things have gotten out of hand.
Conservatives don't sit around trying to CONVERT people. They just want to trick them into voting a certain way. Liberals need to develop some of that focus on the bottom line. You don't even have to trick them, just reach them in the language and through the reality they understand.
You didn't write that book to demonstrate your virtue or ideological purity but to win people to your side, after all. To make a change. Realize that's what your mission is the next time you're faced with a clown like Hannity, and you'll be halfway there. Oh, yeah, and stop saying you "agree" with him. Never ever agree. That's not how you win a debate. Aside from needing a shave and looking like a corpse, that's how Nixon lost that first debate to Kennedy in 1960.
I tell you all this in love. Because next time I want to see you guys make Hannity cry. Or vote for Obama. Or BOTH.
I am certainly inclined to agree here.
I know that it makes people cringe when one disagrees with, let alone takes to task, such intellectually and socially powerful men such as Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. However, I don't think that they would be too bent out of shape, after all, they are leaders of the same type of discourse. It is important to check and balance each other, otherwise we are damaging ourselves if we don't help shape our community leaders as much as they have shaped us.
As far as the post, I agree, one should really never argue Reagan with Republicans, he's very much a "scared cow" of politics. By this I mean, it's like trying to argue against someone's deity on national television, you will never win (even if you are right or compelling) because they feel as though you are trying to get them to publicly move from something foundational to their identity. So, then, all you do is invoke their need to posture because they can't appear weak.
I think it is useful for us all to be challenged on what we do and say if we are in error because, despite how much it hurts, it ensures that we will no longer take the same actions again.