Conventional Un-Wisdom: Dirty Hippies Must Fake Being Moderates to Win

The following post is an adaptation of content previously posted at  It was the second in an ongoing series of Conventional Un-Wisdoms that erode the quality of progressive campaigns.  If you have crossed one of these Un-Wisdoms, or wish to “fact-check” something that you’ve heard about campaigning, or wish to talk to us about your potential campaign,  please contact us here.

Conventional Un-Wisdom: In this district, you need to project a more moderate message, avoid sounding like or looking like a Dirty Hippie at all costs.  To win, you need to win Republican votes, so you need to target them from the start.  Make it a habit of “Hippie Punching” on a regular basis, it will give you the separation from those values you need to win.

This is very commonly recited in long held Republican districts, and some of the most established and well regarded political consultants and “celebrity politicos” push it on TV and in print.   I’ve worked in some of the reddest districts and communities across America, from Utah County, Utah to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to western Iowa, to north Florida.  I’ve found it doesn’t matter where you are in America or where you actually fall on the political spectrum, what matters most is the conviction you project.  People respect leaders with the courage of their convictions, they want to know the person they are trusting to represent them in the halls of government have confidence in their own capacity and beliefs.

If you are running as a Democratic candidate and have Dirty Hippie values, whether your district is the bluest blue or the reddest red, the first steps are the same – build your base by engaging and motivating your base. As donors, as volunteers, as word of mouth message dissemination machines – you need this base to support the growth of your campaign to the strength needed to motivate the conversion of “less likely” supporters to join the team.

Some will encourage you to engage in “Hippie Punching”, the fine art of kicking the progressive movement in the teeth.  Scolding those that would encourage you to act upon your values, giving them a backhand for calling you or your friends out for not doing enough to advance progressive causes.  Mocking those that would have the audacity to suggest that options exist beyond what the beltway punditry have put forward.  Don’t do it.  Recognize that those most likely to support you are also going to be critical at times and constantly encourage you to be better.  They are your motivating force, not your weakness.  Applaud them, thank them, and punch the jackasses telling you to sell out instead.  If you do “Hippie Punch,”  you will alienate your most ardent supporters and still be tagged as being a dirty hippie, but worse, a dirty hippie that even the dirty hippies don’t like.

If you are a moderate, tried and true (which is exceedingly rare), you should be both proud of the party designation you have chosen and the beliefs you hold. You should project those beliefs with confidence and conviction, just as a dirty hippie should.  It is the strength of your projected conviction that carries your support, energizes and motivates volunteers and donors to part with precious time and treasure. It is that perceived conviction that will get people in the center and on the opposite side of the political spectrum to support you, despite disagreements on a few particular issues or even nearly every issue. When you have a high level of distrust/dissatisfaction for the incumbent, this is the greatest opportunity for these “cross-over votes” from registered members of the opposite party. You don’t target these votes, they come to you as a result of the strength of your campaign, the desire for a change and the passion and conviction you project. Some will be caught by mass media efforts, some will be motivated by earned media coverage, but the most impressive means of “converting” registered members of the opposing party is word of mouth/personal networks.

Senator Bernie Sanders

For word of mouth/personal networking to have any chance of playing a significant role in the outcome of an election, you must understand the ‘physics’ of communications among a chain of people. The minimum

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