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Opening Arguments


On the group's fifth anniversary, let's listen to Jedediah Bila on why Rand Paul is right on how to expand the Tea Party:

When it comes to outreach, delivery matters. The way you sell something – your tone, your marketing and your messaging – can quickly turn a product into the best or worst item on the market. That object or concept can become something that appeals to new eyes and ears or something that makes people turn away in disgust. A good deal of power lies in the messenger's hands.

So once again, I ask you: What is your objective?

For candidates, in particular, delivery is key. If you can't sell freedom in a way that gets people to understand its value or can't clearly articulate a pro-life message without making a ridiculous comment about rape or the female anatomy in the process, then you're probably in the wrong line of work. Succeeding in politics is partially about strong policy, but it is also about whether or not you can articulate that policy in a way that hits home with a diversity of people.

Can you wrap your policy in an honest, well-presented word package that doesn't injure or demean its goals? If you can't, you won't be changing many hearts and minds. You also won't be winning many elections.

This is something I've wrestled with as an editorial writer. There are two broad categories of editorials -- the "preaching to the choir" editorial and the "trying to bring converts into the tent" editorial. The natural tendency is to preach to the choir -- an editorial page, after all, stands for something -- it espouses a specific philosophy -- and so we want to keep those who believe the same things happy. And this tendency has become even more pronounced in the digital age, when Red State and Blue State zealots tend to go only to Web sites that celebrate their cause and ignore the sites of the other side.

But over the years, I've come to appreciate the outreach kind of editorial. There are still some issues on which preaching to the choir is called for -- those that seem so obvious that acknowledging a counter argument seems pointless. But there are so many issues today on which it is possible to win converts. We will never, of course, win over the hard-core believers on the other side, but there are many, many people in the middle who could go either way who can be reached by a good arugument built on sound logic and verifiable facts. Winning over those people, I think, is the main purpose of an editorial page.

The Tea Party will never win over true believers who think Barack Obama walks on water, and they're not likley to get many of those who have become dependent on the federal government's largesse. But there are millions of people, Republican and Democrat alike, with a growing unease about the size and scope of government today. Many of them can be won over with a good argurment well made for freedom.