I often talk with voters about our progressive agenda:

  1. People matter more than profits.
  2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
  3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.

Those connect easily for many voters. But it helps to bring it home with a local example … like the BP spill. (More)

Bring It Home, Part II – Make It Local

This week Morning Feature will discuss closing strong on this year’s election campaign: what my high school basketball coach used to call bringing it home.Yesterday we brought it home person-by-person. Today we’ll bring it home with local issues. Tomorrow we’ll bring it home with moral values.

Most Americans were appalled by the BP oil spill. It drew national and even worldwide attention. But it was a local issue for us Gulf Coast residents. Most of us know people who work on the water. Much of our seafood comes from the Gulf. Many of our state’s tourists visit there. But it’s not only an economic issue. We go to Gulf beaches or parks for kids’ birthday parties, weddings, or to stroll at sunrise or sunset. The Gulf inspires much of our local art and music. We are the Sunshine State, but the Gulf Coast economy and culture are really about the water.

The BP spill threatened all of that, so local voters feel an emotional response both before and after we consider a reasoned response. So I use it as an exemplar for our progressive values.

“People died because bosses cut corners.”

Eleven workers died when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, and that’s where I always start the example. The BP executives and the supervisors on the rig were not cold-blooded killers, I explain. Cutting corners on redundant safety measures saved money, and the people involved probably thought the corners they cut were safe to cut. As business people, it’s their job to make money for the company. It’s also their legal duty to their shareholders. But 11 people died because they cut those corners, and Democrats think people matter more than profits.

By this time, the voter is usually nodding in agreement. Even the conservatives I’ve talked to agree those 11 workers shouldn’t have died. They often note that businesses have to make a profit to stay in business, keep people employed, and provide services for the rest of us. But they agree that can’t mean killing people just to save a few bucks on the bottom line. We may not agree on every point of detail, but we agree on that … so we have a foundation on which we can build.

“They almost trashed the Gulf. That’s our home.”

Now I talk about birthday parties and weddings. Almost every voter I’ve talked with about it has attended or hosted a party at the beach. Some went there for their own weddings, or their honeymoons. Many new residents moved here after visiting those beaches. We’ll talk about fried grouper sandwiches, or local sponge divers and shrimp boaters. I’ll mention our afternoon thunderstorms in the summer, and those lovely evening sea breezes. That’s all part of living here. And all because of the Gulf.

Again, even the conservatives agree. Offshore drilling has been a hot issue down here for decades. Governor Jeb Bush stood up to his older brother, President George Bush, on that issue. I didn’t agree with many of the decisions Jeb Bush made, but I applauded that. You can’t live here long and not care about the Gulf.

And BP almost trashed it. We’ve had spills down here. A tanker leaked on its way into the port of Tampa, a few years ago. The water stank for weeks. Fish died. Tourists left. “You don’t let your kids leave trash all over the house,” I might say. “That’s what BP did. The earth is our home, not our trash can.”

Almost every voter will nod. Then most ask….

“How can we stop it?”

That’s a good question, I always say. You can’t expect businesses to stop it on their own. In fact, they’re not allowed to unless they can prove to their shareholders that it will help the bottom line. An executive or local boss might think taking extra care for the workers and the environment is a nice thing to do, but it’s not his own money. His shareholders aren’t giving to charity. They’re investing to make a profit, and they can sue him if he mismanages their money.

“So we need good government to make that happen,” I’ll explain. We need safety rules, and we need to enforce them. We might also offer incentives for businesses that run in safer, cleaner ways. We tell that executive or local boss it’s okay to take extra care for the workers and the environment. He’ll be able to defend it with shareholders, because the safety rules and other incentives make good for the bottom line.

That way, I explain, our kids can still have our grandkids’ birthdays and weddings at the beach. With fried grouper sandwiches.

So what’s local for you?

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Don’t be too scared by today’s Kossascopes….

Happy Friday!