I never bring up the subject of politics with the customers at my bookstore unless (1) I feel I’ve got a fairly accurate reading of their political views and (2) those views happen to be in close alignment with mine. I determine this from conversation the same way you can determine in conversation whether or not a person would like a particular movie or a particular band. And of course there are customers who are not afraid to let it be known, without my inquiry or even my proposal of the topic, where they stand politically.
About two and a half months ago, a woman and her two young kids, ages 5 and 7, came into the bookstore where I work. We didn’t have any long conversation, but there must have been something (I now forget) that she said that gave me my 60 percent certainty she was a conservative, or at least a Republican. Sixty percent is not any certainty at all, of course, but I let my excitement at potentially finding a fellow right-winger take over me and I ventured a tactful broaching of the subject:
“So then you know who you’re voting for?” I asked.
“I think so, yeah,” she said.
Now for the tricky part: “Aaand is iiit….Are yooouuu Rommmneyyyy?” My pitch got higher as the words daintily tip-toed out of me, into almost a squeak by the time I reached the end of “Romney.” That’s how I utilize tact, saying the words slowly and delicately and altogether strangely.
The woman replied, with what sounded like certainty, “No.”
And then one of us mentioned Obamacare, and it turns out that while she was almost certain she was voting for Obama, she still did not like Obamacare.
Fast-forward to the present day. I befriended the woman, whom I will now refer to by name, Rheagan. I had sent her an email filled with links to different arguments against Obamacare, and today, she’s now almost certain she’s voting for Romney. I like to think my emails helped sway her, though she insists she’s a strongly independent thinker.
I asked her what made her change her mind. She said that she can tell how little regard Obama has for the military, which is a particularly important area for her considering she was in the Marines at one point and her husband is currently in Afghanistan. What I gathered from her is that while she doesn’t think Romney has the country’s best interests at heart, she knows Obama doesn’t.
I read to her a quote from Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention: “Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?”
Rheagan answered the question: “They wouldn’t, he’s right.” Her frustration showed and she began a small rant against Obama. I know it wasn’t my doing, so independent a thinker is she, but I couldn’t help feeling like I had accomplished something beautiful: the conversion of an Obama voter to a Romney voter.