New: Hand Sanitizer Turns Conservatives Liberal

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. ~Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt

It’s no secret that Democrats think differently.

Donkeys and elephants see the world through very different filters.

Democrats are interested in individual equality, fairness, freedom of thought. We want everyone to get a chance to speak.

While the traditional Republican values authority and desires a strong central leadership. Responsibility, and rules, and order.

But why do those differences exist? Is it how we’re wired? Is it learned?

And – most importantly – can you make a conservative liberal – or a liberal conservative?

Turns out you can.

You might have seen this study already, but I’ll briefly describe it for any folks that haven’t. Yale researchers wanted to see how changes in people’s perceptions of their physical safety impacted their views on immigration.

So, before asking study participants any questions, they reminded them how terrible the flu virus is. (Not hard to do.)

Then they asked them some questions about immigration.

Then they asked them whether they had gotten a flu vaccine.

And – lo and behold! The folks who were vaccinated – whether politically conservative or liberal – viewed immigration more positively.

The folks that had not been vaccinated, and therefore felt threatened by the flu viewed immigration more negatively.

Fascinating, right?

And it wasn’t a fluke. They replicated the study – but this time with Purell.

Again, the researchers reminded the participants of the dangers of the flu virus. Then some of them were given a simple squirt of hand sanitizer.

And once again – those who got hand sanitizer responded more positively to immigration. “It made them feel safe from the dangerous virus, and this made them feel socially safe from immigrants as well.”


You don’t have to stick someone with a needle or douse them in hand sanitizer, either. Even just asking conservatives to imagine that they are completely safe from harm made them more liberal. Simply “[i]magining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before — it had turned conservatives into liberals.”

It makes me want to wrap them all in bubble wrap.

I’m not suggesting you walk around with Purell in your pocket to grease the hands of whomever you disagree with. And I’m not asking you to lie to people make them feel safer and thus more progressive. But if you know that scaring the beejezus out of someone reinforces conservative instincts, it’s probably not a great idea to start out a conversation with “the sky is falling.”


And there’s a flip side, you know.

Having the crap scared out of them made some liberals … conservative.

Which makes sense, in a way. In moments of fear, human nature looks to authority for direction, and reassurance, and certainty – and to rules that provide structure for “good people” and barriers for “evildoers.”

And because the GOP values central authority, rules, and order, in times of chaos their worldview might feel … reassuring.

Even if you’re liberal.

Know a really interesting real-world example?

How about those traditionally blue areas of the country that turned blood red over the last 10 years?

How many people do you know that have muttered “Why on earth is rural America voting against its own self-interest?”

A lot, right?

Or how about this one – “How do people vote for progressive ballot measures but not for Democrats? That’s crazy!”

Well, let’s see…

How would you feel if the closest hospital was 45 minutes away, many of your friends had lost their jobs and couldn’t find another, your kids’ school was so underfunded it only operated four days a week (and good luck paying for one day of childcare a week on minimum wage), you knew lots of people with opiate addictions because they were injured on the job and were treated with vicodin rather than physical therapy (because there’s no PT in town, or insurance wouldn’t cover it, or they don’t have insurance), every neighbor around you had a gun, and you were living paycheck-to-paycheck with a rattletrap gas-guzzling car that only started when it wanted to?

You’d be scared out of your mind. And rightly so.

And your fear would impact how you looked at everything around you. It would provide a very different filter through which you saw the world. 

You’d see the rotting heartland – not safely from 50,000 feet above – but from your kitchen window. You’d laugh at the stupidity of “coastal” elites who want to jabber on and study everything but do nothing except sell books and talk on t.v. You’d slap away their offer of sympathy and look for a person of action. You’d be looking for someone that says (1) they see the dire straights that you’re in and (2) they have the answer. And yeah, maybe they’re lying. Who cares? They all lie anyway. At least they understand you, and they speak your language, and they sure look angry – just like you.

The fieriest anger is fed by fear.

So it’s no surprise to me that some of the toughest districts for Democrats to reclaim are also the areas with the most hardship. Abandoning them and calling them lost causes electorally didn’t do a whole helluva lot for our reputation there, either. (But that’s a different story.)

But at least understanding the impact of fear on how people see the world can help us speak in a way they’ll hear.

Roosevelt once said that “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.”

He was mostly right.

But we may be right to fear the fearful.

Let’s get to work.


Tuesday: Remind Your People About Open Enrollment

It’s really simple to make sure your friends and networks know about open enrollment. Last year there was a big push to do this, but this year signups have lagged, and that’s worrisome.

If you want pretty graphics to share, you can head over to a facebook group called the 2019 ACA Signup Project by clicking here:

Or you can just share the link for folks to sign up:

Wednesday: Go Back to School!

The folks at Resistance Labs are already looking toward 2019… and they’re looking for people to join them in three different webinars next week to help them brainstorm! The first relates to uncontested races; the second relates to community and community engagement; and the third asks what “big ideas” we haven’t tried yet but should.

This is a great opportunity to join free events that are sure to be interesting – and might be a place for you to kick around some ideas and learn about some that others are trying.

Go to the links below to sign up!

Contest every race:

Community workshop:

Big ideas:

Thursday: Ready, Set, Run!

The National Democratic Training Committee has been hard at work over the past two years creating trainings for people who want to run and those that want to help.

Running for office seems monumental, doesn’t it? But you all know how I feel about the power of small, regular actions… So you won’t be surprised to hear that I was excited about the NDTC’s new 30 Day Challenge called Ready, Set, Run!

During the Ready, Set, Run challenge “you’ll receive one simple task each day to prepare you to run for office. At the end of the month, you’ll receive a personalized syllabus for what NDTC courses you should take and when.”

Not sure if you want to run? They help with that, too. Leading up to the start of the challenge they’ll send along tasks to help you decide.

So head over to the NDTC’s site and sign up for the challenge. (It officially starts January 1st.) While you’re there, check out all their other content. They’ve got loads of great resources!

Friday: Raise a Glass for California

It’s been heartbreaking to see the havoc and pain caused by the California wildfires. It’s also been heartwarming to see the resilience of the communities that have been impacted, and the efforts of so many others to help get people back on their feet.

Sierra Nevada, a California brewing company, had an ingenious idea: brew a specialty beer and donate the profits to help fire victims. They did just that, and called it Resilience IPA. (Perfect name.)

But they didn’t stop there.

They got their friends to join them.

Now, over 1,000 craft breweries – large and small – have pledged to brew the Resilience recipe, and give the proceeds of their new hoppy creation to help the displaced communities.

You’ve probably got some holiday events coming up, and when you’re trying to decide what to bring I hope you look for a label that says “Resilience.” You can find a list of participating breweries here:

P.S.: Because some of you have asked, yes! I am a copywriter for nonprofits and political causes/candidates. I take a limited number of clients, and with the political cycle ending, I’ll have some openings soon. Visit to learn more.

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work (and help me “keep the lights on,” so to speak), you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

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