Have a Beer With Me

This post was written by Tom Sadler.

Tom has an extensive history in politics, advocacy and communication. He is currently the deputy director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network doing marine policy work. If asked, he will tell you that most of his professional life has been spent playing Doc Holliday to the Wyatt Earps of the fish and wildlife conservation world. Tom also spent 14 years as a public affairs officer in the Unites States Navy Reserve and sits on the boards of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.

A lifelong fly fisherman, he guides for Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, in the mountain streams and spring creeks of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where he lives with his wife Beth, and their black lab.

April 12, 2018 // SAM Member Story

Or coffee. or a soda. you get the point—it doesn’t matter, just sit here and let’s talk for a few minutes.

At the end of Reed Galen’s piece Hope the High Road there is this call to action:

“Call your friends, your neighbors, your family and your co-workers. Tell them you want to talk politics. Not Trump or Hillary, but the politics of solutions and progress. Have a meal or a beer and ask, what can we do, here and now in our town, on our block or in our district. Then go do it.”

Sounds pretty good, and rather easy in theory, but then comes the asking.

If you are reading this, it is likely you have come to the point that political discourse has made you uncomfortable. And it often feels like that discomfort makes it hard to start a conversation about politics, doesn’t it?

If you spend any time on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter you know the scenario; one person posts a political point of view, the argument starts, and then rages in the thread. Others jump in or out as their levels of outrage, indignation, exasperation, or disgust dictate. These fights are increasingly just political squabbles without reason or content, a smorgasbord of smugness, sneers, and trolling. In the end, no minds get changed, and too often, some feelings get hurt.

In our day-to-day real lives, we rarely stop what we are doing and engage in this sort of behavior—perhaps social media, with the protection of the computer screen and keyboard, give us a sense of security to expose our more argumentative tendencies. Sure, we argue and debate, but rarely when sitting face to face with someone would we devolve to the behavior we see online.

The fallout from this type of behavior found online is that people don’t want to engage in essential discussions around tough topics like politics. They fall back to tribal beliefs, nurtured by the two parties, and relegate politics to an unpleasant task or conversation to be avoided.

When that happens, you become part of the base—subject to the dog whistle behavioral signals and counted upon to vote the straight party ticket. That reinforces the notion that the status quo cannot be changed: So why bother? Why engage in the dirty pettiness we see in politics today? And who would blame you?

But by avoiding that political conversation, you surrender to the party and let them put their interests ahead of yours.

Let me encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and help make political discourse a civil conversation again. Here is why changing civil discourse and having those political conversations are important:

If you think the country is headed in the wrong direction and that our elected leaders are not doing enough to change it, then you have to be willing to engage in politics. It is time to start electing leaders who are not wed to the tribal politics of the two-party system. By engaging in civil discourse, you can help make that happen.

The way you can do that with other people is by acting like you care about the person, and not their politics. Sit face to face with someone over a beer, coffee, or a meal and speak with respect of the other person’s point of view. Show them the SAM Principles and listen to what they say, think, and feel about them.

SAM has provided the leadership for a movement to build a new political party for those left behind by a political system that puts its interests ahead of those of the American people. And, to be frank, that is the easy part. By changing the narrative and engaging in civil, political discussion, I am asking you to take on a more important role.

First, let me tell you about the “first follower” theory and Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy from Derek Sivers’ “How to Start a Movement” Ted talk.

In the video Sivers shows a movement take place in three minutes. There is the first guy dancing to the music who is then joined by a second guy. The second guy waves others to join him, and slowly they are joined by others, and at the end, there is a crowd. Sivers narrates the action and offers some intriguing insights on what is happening.

“A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow! 

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself 

Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.”

SAM, through their leadership, has made it easy to follow. Your role then, is to ignite a spark. To help make civil discussions about politics the music that gets people to dance together. With your help, we can build a new political party for a new American majority. One where fairness, integrity and common-sense solutions work together to achieve real progress for Americans.

So please. Have a beer with me?

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SAM is building a new political party for a new majority. Our goal is to break the self-interested stranglehold of the two entrenched parties and give back power and voice over our future, and our country, to the people.

We can’t do it without you.