What Can You Do When A Political Opponent Attacks You? Pt 2
In my previous post, I talked about what to do when there is a legitimate grievance driving a political attack. Now, let’s explore some other reasons for attacks and possible responses.
The Appearance of Legitimacy and a Response
Of course, anyone who wants to find fault with a legislative process or result certainly can. When the attack serves the sole purpose of tarnishing your reputation and making you look bad, one option is you can question the timing of the attack. Talk as if the attack has a legitimate foundation, and then make it seem just as legitimate to call your opponent to account for their own absence during the action.
“My opponent says that I voted against/for legislation that had this effect. I think that he raises a legitimate concern. Here’s my concern. I showed up, for every meeting, I deliberated on that issue, I listened to the voters, and I do not recall receiving a call or a letter from my opponent offering me their insight and ideas about it. Hindsight is 20/20, and nobody’s perfect. But if what he’s saying about my choice in the matter was so obvious to him, why did he wait until now to say something about it? If the grievance is so grievous, then why didn’t that happen? I’m guessing it’s because he didn’t investigate the issue because it didn’t matter to him at the time, or he couldn’t predict the result that we got either.”
Then make the interest of the community the star as you put the mistake into a larger context, and tell your story about who you are and what you are working towards with your campaign or proposition.
Look, Over There!
Another reason for a political attack is to shift attention away from him or her self. The response: Draw attention back to your opponent and then back to your campaign. “My opponent wants you to think that my vote on this is the big issue, but it is simply drawing attention away from his record on these issues.” It’s even more powerful when your opponent supplies a false narrative about you, AND about himself.
Barack Obama has been taking a beating in many of McCain’s ads. Even the press, even Karl Rove, is now calling “Fowl ball!” Many have been waiting for the Obama camp to respond. Well, here’s a fun response ad from the Obama campaign.
Or, you can first minimize the attack, and then draw attention to your campaign: “My fellow citizens, my opponent is making mountains out of molehills for political reasons, because he or she has nothing better to offer. I don’t know what he thinks this campaign is about. But let me tell you what my campaign is about.”
Confrontation Isn’t Pretty
Another reason is to get your attention in order to provoke you into a confrontation. Why? Because a confrontation works to your attacker’s advantage. The response: Draw attention away from the accusations and back to your key issues in the campaign.
Why? A confrontation with someone attacking you forces people to take sides, and typically the witnesses to a confrontation wind up siding against the target of the attack. Why? Because you are increasing your size as a target by confronting it head on! And the resultant discomfort people feel will have your name on it.
Instead, take charge over the attack by telling people what else it means. You might even have a little fun with it! “This guy’s attacking me, and I guess he has a good reason to do so. After all, he was abandoned by wolves as a child, and raised by his parents!”
Use The Authority of Other
When I tell you my reasons for doing something, I may appear defensive, or it may sound to you like I’m defending, explaining and justifying. When someone you respect tells you my reasons for doing something, you can hear it without associating it so easily to my self interest. That’s why guest columns in the local paper can make such a difference at the local level, or in the national papers at the national level.
If you have a story to tell to counter the attack, find someone of influence to not only tell your story, but use the story to highlight the problems in the perspective of your opponent. Perhaps your opponent failed to take something important into account that makes the story WORTH telling to you! Whenever possible, draw on the influence of others who have voter’s needed respect, to tell your story for you. That frees you up to focus on what really matters, which is where do we go from here.
We’ll deal with the face to face attack in the next post.
Your comments are always welcome.
P.S. If my blogging has seemed or does seem a bit irregular, repetitive or redundant over the past couple of weeks or the next couple of weeks, I ask you to be patient with me. There’s been a medical situation involving my family, and I’m traveling in order to be of some help to them during a difficult moment in time.
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.