cover image The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy

The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy

Anand Giridharadas. Knopf, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-31899-7

Leftists’ efforts to persuade opponents instead of writing them off are probed in this searching study of progressive discourse. Journalist Giridharadas (Winner Take All) interviews progressive leaders who seek to maintain their principles while appealing to the unconverted without denouncing them as bigots or alienating them with politically correct dogma. Profile subjects include Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour, reproductive justice crusader Loretta Ross, and Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza, who deplore the left’s habit of ostracizing those who misunderstand details of progressive orthodoxy and extol outreach to moderates. Giridharadas also talks to anti-racism trainers in Ohio; a cognitive scientist who catalogues trickery in right-wing disinformation; and Arizona “deep canvassers” who suss out and influence attitudes toward migrants during 30-minute porch conversations. It’s illuminating to watch activists grapple honestly with the left’s internal divisions and rhetorical shortcomings, but the focus is on subtler manipulations, not open-minded dialogue with opponents. (“Make them think of a pain point in their life—that expensive diabetes treatment—and tell them how giving the federal government supervision of elections and cracking down on gerrymandering and allowing mail-in-voting would empower them to solve their problems,” suggests one messaging consultant.) Still, for those committed to the progressive agenda, this is an incisive guide to the art of persuasion. (Oct.)