What Can You Do When A Political Opponent Attacks You? Pt 3
In this blog series on the art of persuasion in politics, I’m discussing how to deal with an opponent intent on attacking you.
Facing An Attacking Opponent
If the attack happens in a public context, call it out into the open, by making the covert implication overt. For example, your opponent attacks your record in office. “He voted against a law that would have kept serial rapists in jail. He cut funding for seniors. And used taxpayer money to redecorate his office.”
I think a good many people realize that a person successful in governance makes compromises on occasion for a greater good, and that the longer the record, the more evidence one can find to make just about any point. So if your opponent is making a big deal out of the way you voted in one particular, rather than addressing the entirety of your record in office, it’s legitimate to call it out.
You can ask, “What is my opponent really trying to say about me here? Does he actually think he can convince you that I’m a friend to serial rapists, or that my personal comfort takes priority over my commitment to seniors and protecting the vulnerable in our society?” Then provide three counter examples about yourself. “How does he explain when I voted for X, Y and Z?”
Then use the vote in question to MAKE your case (rather than defend the vote), while raising the more important point, THE FUTURE! “How does any of this noise and fury address the real issues in this campaign? What does he propose to do about the real problems facing our citizens and community?”
You Take the Low Road, I Take the High Road
One of the simplest ways to tag an attack and move beyond it is to take the high road approach. That’s where you encapsulate your opponent’s ENTIRE campaign under a single label. For example: Trying to make you look bad and himself good. Trying to distort your record for political purposes. Or Trying to distract attention from himself. Call on your opponent to cease characterizing you in the way that is most flattering to himself and unflattering to you, and instead talk to the voters about the issues they face and his plan to resolve them.
You can add, “Unless he has no plan. In which case, his attacks make sense in an ugly sort of way, and I suppose he’ll have to keep attacking me in order to draw attention away from himself. But I’m staying focused on the issues, because I think our citizens deserve a responsive government, rather than a hateful one.”
Gosh, how I’d love to see that one happen in this campaign!
Your comments are always welcome.
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.