About The Pig and Political Persuasion Skill
Just back from a trip to Cincinnati. Along the way, I heard tell of Barack Obama telling a crowd in Lebanon, Virginia, that “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig,” and how the McCain campaign then demanded an apology for this ‘smear’ on Sarah Palin, who herself had made a joke involving the word lipstick at the Republican National Convention during her very unlady like attack speech against Obama.
This is a slang expression, long in use, for the fact that when you dress some things up, they’re still what they are, only dressed up. Apparently, McCain has used the expression as well, in reference to one of Hillary Clinton’s ideas, and Dick Cheney used it about John Kerry a few years ago, and McCain’s press secretary wrote a book with this idiom in the title, but now that he has a female running mate who used the word ‘lipstick,’ he thinks it should be off limits in the campaign. Until he uses it again, of course, since the double standard seems to be the McCain approach this political season to keeping his opponent (and the rest of us) off balance and away from any meaningful discussion of the real issues facing the nation. Ross Perot called this gorilla dust. I don’t mean to imply that anyone in this campaign is an ape.
Meanwhile, I also heard someone say that they are thinking of not voting in this election, because they are already sick to death of all the negative ads and accusations. And it got me thinking of an old saying, one I’m rather fond of, that also happens to involve a pig. It’s from George Bernard Shaw, and it goes something like this.
“Never wrestle with a pig. The pig likes it, and you get dirty.”
Here’s another way of saying that. Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. Not that I’m saying anyone is an idiot for this idiocy. I’m just saying….
My advice to any candidate who hopes to retain the good will of the voting population (not the extremists, but the mainstream voters trying to make their way through this campaign) is simple. Use the Art of Persuasion. Take what your opponent is saying about you, and put a frame around it, a label on it, so you can easily and handily point to it, and then redirect back to the issues.
For example, Obama could respond to the indignity like this: “When the McCain campaign complains about my use of a slang phrase that he himself has used regarding pigs and lipstick, it’s phony, it’s a distraction, and it’s not going to work this time. They want to talk about apologies, let’s talk about apologizing for the condition our country is in after 8 years of failed leadership. Let’s talk about apologizing for breaking his word about having a civil campaign focused on the issues. Let’s talk about my plan for your future, vs their plan to win an election.” In other words, don’t wrestle with it. Frame it, and redirect. Simple, meaningful, and not piggish at all.
What do you think about the campaign so far? I’d love to hear your comments.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.