Start with the ‘why’
Schmidt is a syndicated columnist and editorial board member with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Almost 15 years ago, author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek gave one of the most watched TED Talks, “Start With Why.” During his talk Sinek told listeners, “People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Since then, Sinek has inspired millions of people and encouraged listeners and readers to discover their purpose.
As a conservative columnist I am frequently asked why I continue to engage with election deniers and supporters of former President Donald Trump who reach out to me after they have read something I have written in defense of the verified election of President Joe Biden in 2020.
So, I set out to figure out my “why.” I share it here to maybe inspire others to do the same. My “why” is because I love our country as much as Trump’s supporters do and I understand that for our democratic republic to endure, we need to rebuild and maintain trust and legitimacy in our election process. We will not be able to if millions of Americans continue to believe the 2020 election was stolen and Biden is an illegitimate president.
Biden said in a speech in September 2023, “Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win, or they were cheated.” Unfortunately, the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who believe that Biden’s 2020 election victory was not legitimate continues to go up. According to a CNN poll completed in July 2023, 69 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners say Biden’s win was not legitimate, which is up from 63 percent earlier in the year.
This should be alarming to everyone, especially considering this poll was conducted three years after the election and there has never been any evidence of election fraud.
In November 2020, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs – a Trump employee – declared the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.” He went on to say, “While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too.”
While it may seem like a lifetime ago, in 2020 the country and the world remained semi-locked down from a pre-vaccine Covid-19 and many cities in the United States were affected by civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd. Despite these conditions, 66 percent of the voting-eligible population turned out for 2020, making it the highest turnout on record.
Trump sowed seeds of doubt ahead of the election and flat out rejected the will of the people afterwards. He continues to whip up fears and anxieties in his supporters as a way to continue the deterioration of trust in our democratic process and its institutions.
More frightening polls show the constant attack on our institutions has been working. According to the same CNN poll, most Americans lack confidence that elections in the U.S. today reflect the will of the people. Overall, 58 percent say they are just a little or not at all confident that elections reflect the public’s will, while 42 percent say they are at least somewhat confident they do. Only 13 percent are “very confident” that elections reflect the will of the people, the lowest share to say so in CNN polling since 2021.
So, for our democracy to survive, we all need to do our part and if that means engaging with election deniers, then that is what we must do. We should be reaching out to our fellow Americans to help them come to accept the results of a free and fair election. Not to convert them into Democrats (which I am not) or even persuade them into not supporting the former president again – but because we have a shared affection for our country.
Former Vice President Al Gore recently told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “I respect his [Trump] supporters. And I think it is really important that in this campaign season for people to maintain respect for his supporters. Many of them are using Trump as a vehicle to express their anger at how they don't think things have been going in the right direction.”
It may take many one-on-one conversations in which we show each other that respect and share our love for the country before conditions begin to change. But if you start with your why and do it for the right reasons, the future looks bright, or at least brighter.
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