Starting with a past experience story, as I sometimes do, in college I took a Creative Writing class. The one thing I remember from this course was my instructor pounding into our heads the notion of when you write you are supposed to "show" and never "tell". For example, don’t "tell" that the main character in your writing is impoverished, "show" how she rips single tissues or slices of bread in fours prior to using them because she can’t afford to buy any more and has to make them last.
I thought about this lesson Tuesday night watching the debate. John McCain spent the whole debate telling and not showing.
He mentioned in the town hall forum that you don’t want to have our incompetent government regulating your health care. This did not resonate with the audience because he did not connect with them on an emotionally level. Everyone feels at some point that people deserve health care. He should have used this time to “show” instead of “tell” by saying, “People in places where they have nationalized health care pray they don’t get sick. In America, if a loved one (making it very tangible and personal to the listener) needs urgent, life-saving surgery they can have it within a week if they have employer coverage. With socialized health care, they will deteriorate for 6 to 8 months on some waiting list somewhere for this critical surgery, if they are lucky enough to ever get it.” Both the McCain statement and the story draw the same conclusion, only one will connect with voters with his position.
One of the first questions of the night had a blue-collar worker asking how this bail-out was going help him. McCain rattled off talking points, Obama said that small businesses sometimes are cash-strapped to pay their employees, where they need a short term loan from their local bank. Without this bailout, there are no loans and employees don’t get paid. Everyone has a fear of not getting paid and the devastating consequences that would bring. This is very tangible to people and an underlying fear. Obama made the connection.
I think what McCain has to do is starting “showing” instead of “telling." He needs connections with the voters, because right now it is not happening.
Here is the story I would "show":
Picture you and your love ones barely surviving on the side of a mountain as nighttime descends. The temperature is plummeting and the only thing you have to keep you warm and alive is a small, flicker fire that is struggling to stay lit. Someone comes from behind you and, not understanding the situation, throws a fire blanket over your live-protecting fire completely extinguishing it. This is what Obama’s tax increases will do to our struggling economy. You will be left on the side of that freezing mountain without a way to survive. As you thought you were in a bad situation that couldn't get worse before the fire was put out, you will then find yourself in a much more severe situation without experienced leadership that knows what it is doing.