Everyone has an opinion about the current state of American politics and the upcoming presidential election. Candidates and party leaders almost seem like caricatures of themselves, so it’s no wonder so many observers sit stunned. In the midst of this circus, some of us have given up and others are panicking. Author Nadia Asencio, on the other hand, offers a solution based on the simple concepts of understanding and communication.
Now, just because an idea is simple doesn’t mean it is necessarily obvious or easily attainable. In her book Politiquette, Asencio argues that “seven simple-but-not-quite-easy steps of effective communication” can change how you interpret political infighting, how you react to politicians and the party elite, and how you interact with other people in general.
The first of these steps is to drop your labels. She asserts that voters don’t need to operate within the confines of the two-party system — actually, we are better served if we don’t.
“There are three teams: You have Industry, the Government, and the People,” Asencio lays out. “If you’re not creating policy or shaping governments worldwide, you’re not part of the government.”
Industry includes those who “shape entire economies, [as opposed to] a small mom-and-pop.” In Politiquette, anyone who isn’t included in government or industry is part of the people. And what many members of the masses don’t realize is that “we are on that team together,” she says. Infighting and partisan politics can distract us from acknowledging that on the whole, we have similar goals and should work together instead of tearing one another apart.
“Until we learn how to communicate with one another,” adds the Miami resident, “our needs and our interests will continuously be eroded because industry and government have learned to work together. They’re colluding. We’re fighting.”
Originally from Connecticut, Asencio has an unusual political past. She lived in New York, where she phone-banked for Hillary Clinton. After serving in the military, she joined the GOP and did data acquisition for Americans for Prosperity. (Asencio thought that with the weight of superdelegates in the Democratic Party, her voice wasn’t really being heard.)
It was during her time with the GOP that she figured out people have far more in common with one another than they realize. While going door-to-door to survey South Floridians, she noticed that 85 percent of the time, people answered a number of questions in the same way. Asked about their party affiliation, people tended to state that they were independent but that they identified as either Democrat or Republican to vote in primaries. Why all the partisanship, then, when they agreed on so much?
People enter political discussions on party lines, wishing to convert with whomever they’re speaking. Asencio asserts that trying to reach the best solution of a situation is much more important. To create any meaningful change, they need to properly listen to one another, identify their shared concerns, and address them with understanding. “The most important thing is to keep the goal in mind… What is my goal in this discussion? Is it to win? If so, what is it that I’m winning? Or is my goal to create change, and if so, what change am I trying to achieve?
“If you won’t even listen to the person sitting next to you, what makes you think a politician is going to listen to you?” Asencio asks.
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Easy though it might be, people cannot blame solely the politicians or the news media for the devolution of political discussion. “You can’t blame the politicians for telling you what you want to hear, but you can blame yourself for not doing the best that you can to create a culture where you’re actually tuning in and tapping into the resources right around you,” the author says.
Independent of the actions of the media, industry, and government, people are accountable for fomenting the political environment. “The politicians are basically like a mirror,” she says. “They’re showing us what we want to see. They’re a direct reflection of what we’re saying as a society.” If we want to improve that society, we need to first change our own behavior.
None of these ideas is especially new, but Asencio has an ability to explain seemingly simple concepts in a way that makes you wonder why you haven’t put them into action before.
Nadia Asencio's Politiquette
The author will give a talk about her new book at Books & Books in Coral Gables at 8 p.m. Monday, June 13. The event is free to attend. Visit booksandbooks.com. Politiquette is available at local bookstores and Amazon.