Last Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Vermont Democratic Party’s state committee. As I reported in this space, it was a positive experience — with one exception: “a heated confrontation with one attendee who vehemently disagrees with me on a couple of issues.”
Well, now it’s time to tell that story. I’m not identifying the other person because it’s not my intention to drag an individual through the mud. What I want to do is illustrate a first-class example of How Not To Make Friends and Influence People. If this person hoped to convince me, she did an absolutely piss-poor job of it.
After the meeting ended, I wandered around the room introducing myself to people. At one point, this person struck up a conversation by asking who I was. Fair enough; I gave her my card. (Yes, I had some bargain-basement cards printed up with my name, GMD handle, and contact info.)
She glanced at the card and immediately asked me why I’m so mean to Peter Galbraith.
My first thought was, “Wow, there’s at least one Peter Galbraith fan in the world.” (Er, that is, one fan not named Peter Galbraith. He is definitely his own biggest fan.)
I was briefly struck silent by surprise, and also by the plethora of possible ways I could have replied. “Most hated person in the Legislature” would have been good — although obviously she wouldn’t be able to see that. “Bursting with arrogance”? That wouldn’t get through her filter either.
“Willing to block the Senate’s workings over minor points of principle that matter only to him”? “Willing to thwart the obvious will of the chamber as much as he possibly can”? “Willing to derail good legislation over issues visible only to him”? Nah, too procedural.
“An oil millionaire who bought his way into the Senate by self-funding a campaign war chest that no one else could match, and now seeks to write campaign finance legislation that will cement his rich-man’s advantage”? Maybe.
“Single-handedly tried to destroy End of Life legislation and, when that failed, forced a complete rewrite into a joke of a bill”? I thought about that, but the way things were going, I thought she might well be against death with dignity.
But what I went with was, “I disagree with his opposition to wind power.”
Wrong thing to say.
Turns out she’s anti-wind, and she set off on a verbal assault that, if harnessed to a generator, could have provided enough energy to power a smallish town. Every time I tried to reply to one of her questions or statements, she cut me off partway through. I constantly felt the urge to take a step back, as she pressed forward into my personal space.
She trotted out all the anti-wind arguments with bewildering speed, and asked me how I could possibly support ridgeline wind. I started to reply that most of her points were unsupported by the weight of scientific research. And she quite literally brushed aside the whole notion of science, instead insisting that the only thing that mattered was the personal experience of people. And she asserted that I was duty-bound to visit communities near wind projects and experience the alleged effects first-hand.
And insisted over and over again, until I said “Yes” just to get her out of my face.
She hasn’t followed up with an invitation yet, but if she does, I’m going to say “No.” My “Yes” was induced by verbal coercion, and I see no reason to voluntarily subject myself to more of the same.
All in all, it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. But I’m a big boy, and I expect a certain amount of heat in response to my writings in this space. My point, as I sad at the beginning, is that this person did a horrible job of influencing my beliefs. She actually reinforced my opinion that the anti-wind crowd is full of zealots and ideologues who refuse to consider any evidence that refutes their point of view and continue to make claims and charges that are unsupported by science.
This is no way to influence public opinion. This is no way to gain adherents to the cause. Rather, this is a way to wall yourself off from public discourse, and show yourself unworthy of intelligent conversation.
Anyone who dismisses science out of hand has abdicated any claim to my consideration. I just hope this person doesn’t represent the Democratic Party the same way she represents her anti-wind crusade. All she can do is repel the very people she is trying to convince. And harm the image of the party she represents.