Mazie Hirono Urges Democrats to Appeal to Hearts Over Minds: Don’t ‘Tell Everybody How Smart We Are’

Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii told the country's largest civil rights coalition Tuesday that Democrats "need to speak to the heart" instead of conveying to Americans how much liberals know about issues.

Hirono urged fellow Democrats to appeal to people's hearts rather than focusing on their minds when describing the importance of political battles, such as Brett Kavanaugh's placement on the Supreme Court, where Republicans have fixated their base in order to succeed. Journalist Dahlia Lithwick spoke with Hirono at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ “Bend Toward Justice” conference Tuesday, when she asked the Democratic senator why liberals haven’t reproduced the "focus and intensity" conservatives used to explain "why the courts matter."

"I wish I had the answer to that because one of the things that we, Democrats, have a really hard time with is connecting to people’s hearts instead of [their heads]," Hirono responded. "We’re really good at shoving out all the information that touch people here [pointing to her head] but not here [pointing to her heart]."

GettyImages-584266268 Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono said Tuesday that Democrats “need to speak to the heart” instead of conveying to Americans how much liberals know about issues. Getty Images Alex Wong/Staff

But Hirono cautioned against using "manipulative" GOP tactics to hijack visceral feelings of fear or ignorance to connect with Americans. She also rejected the notion Democrats should be less aggressive in promoting their agenda. “Don’t talk to me about civility when you’re separating families at the border," she added.

"And I have been saying at all of our Senate Democratic retreats," Hirono continued, "we need to speak to the heart—not in a manipulative way, not in a way that brings forth everybody's fears or resentments—but truly to speak to the heart so that people know that we're actually on their side."

Lithwick pressed Hirono on Democrats' inability to push back against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's vindictive delay on Merrick Garland's 2016 SCOTUS nomination under former President Barack Obama. She noted how Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz campaigned on blocking any Democratic appointment. "If it didn't work when we had a vacant seat that was held open for a year...."

"And we have a really hard time doing that, and one of the reasons that was told to me at one of our retreats is because we Democrats know so much that is true, we have to kind of tell everybody how smart we are. And so we have a tendency to be very left-brained, and that is not how people make decisions," Hirono continued.

"We need to speak to the heart so that people know we’re on their side.... Connect the dots on how important judges are in our daily lives," she added.

Hirono cautioned the audience about the lessons learned from the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. "We should not forget what it felt like to watch Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify, and what it meant to so many of us."

Washington State Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, who also spoke at the conference, later told the crowd, "There is no future without all of us—black, brown and white—coming together. We can't continue to let this president use this issue to divide us. We have to be courageous and refuse to accept these lies that are handed to us."

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