With the 2010 midterm election right around the corner, and its primary election season essentially upon us, we are going to start hearing a lot more politicians speaking at rallies and events around the country.
The thing that I suspect puts off a lot of people when they listen to politicians speak, is that they just don't talk like normal people and they usually don't answer questions straightforwardly at all. After taking in my fair share of hearing politicians talk during the 2008 election, I came up with a basic model for how politicians answer questions.
It goes something like this:
1) Stall - Always give yourself a little time to clear your mind and think by saying something nice like, "That's a great question, I'm really glad you asked that..."
2) Tell a story - Next be sure to start telling a story (one that you rehearsed beforehand of course!) that relates to the issue raised by the question, but without really pointing to a clear answer of where you stand. A good example would be, "Your question actually reminds me of a conversation I had with Mrs. Jones and her three children when I was speaking at a rally in Indiana last month. She was telling me..."
This is great because it takes up some time, makes you sound like you're really in touch with everyday people, and dulls everyone's attention span by boring them so that they start passively absorbing what you're saying.
An alternative to telling a story would be to give a quote by someone (preferably John F. Kennedy because everyone likes him, or Ronald Reagan because it will score you points with your base if you're a Republican, and it will make you look moderate and bi-partisan if you're a Democrat). Then elaborate on the quote... but remember the key thing here is to be boring (and vague)!
3) Answer the question - Just kidding! Don't really answer the question, because that would mean having to take a stand for what you believe in, and if you're a typical politician these days, you don't believe in much else than your own power and prestige, and if you do have a real stand on some issue, sharing it might lose you votes! Instead, now that you've bored people with your story and they're not really listening, now is your chance to wax eloquent about the values surrounding the issue without really answering the question.
Try to say things that no one would disagree with like, "The children are the future of this country, and we should have their best interests in mind," or, "We need to look out for hard-working, middle-class Americans," but definitely not this. This way you look good and anyone who disagrees with your actual policies looks like they disagree with these vague sentiments. This is also a very good time to use a lot of buzz-words and phrases to get the appropriate knee-jerk emotional reactions from your audience. They've been conditioned that way by the media... take advantage!
4) Finish strong - Say something like, "And that's why I believe that as Americans we should always..." Once again, be sure that it's something that sounds good, that no one would disagree with, and which is vague enough that you don't really take a stand or disclose what you plan to do (raise their taxes) if you are elected to office.
5) Celebrate - After your speaking engagement is over and the cameras aren't rolling, have a good laugh at the electorate because you fooled them again! It's hard work to be so duplicitous all the time and you deserve to reward yourself somehow. Also give yourself bonus points if you made it through the whole day without making any gaffes. Those suck!
And Rand Paul... please disregard all of the above. You rock!