Wily winning: A manual of mutating political philosophy – August 25, 2008
By Joseph Randolph
In debate a few essentials are worth keeping in mind. Because you need voters your appeal will have to be to the majority of them. Therefore, beware of too much clarity that might exclude a voting bloc that you need. Remember too that we are seeking to lead the group to us and not the solitary individual. The individual has one vote, the many have more. As such, though we tout the lonely prophetic voice crying in the wilderness, and though we pretend to be as if we are him, we in fact are seeking to congregate individuals around other individuals to the point that the single dot cannot be seen for the maze of faceless masses that can put us in office. Thus, we are for the masses. The word has such a sound of work and fatigue and oppression about it, thanks to us. Furthermore, we want dissent and difference silenced, and nothing like the roar of a crowd, our crowd mind you, can smother the single voice. We haven’t been for the individual for a generation now, at least.
Your entire adage about "plain talk" to the voter that you speak of is garbage. No voter wants "plain talk" anymore than he wants to be told a truth that might offend or hurt him. This plain talk, if you mean by it exaggeration of the truth so that the point is plain, is permissible as long as you are plain talking about your opponent in ways that make him averse to the voter. But beware of letting your speech be yes and no. With only two alternatives, one is apt to show too much commitment to too little. The voters, remember, are not little--not the ones that elect you--but the most voters. Therefore, in casting your net for the most of them, you must stretch yourself to accommodate as many of them as you can. Sit on the fence until you have enough votes that you need not sit there anymore, because they voted for you and now you can go home--or, I mean to your newly elected office!
This is not difficult. The voter is not swooned by "plain talk," as you imagine, but profundity, which is really not that of course, but instead nothing more than a potion you work up to feed to him. He will eat it because of you and because your words swoon him into ingesting your words, which of course are too deep for him--as the ignorant masses will confess from their knees. Meanwhile, not plain or "straight talk," but nuance is what the voter likes these days, and our national candidate has more than enough of the gift of it for you to learn a lesson or two from him.
Nuance is as attractive to the human mind, as a woman's cleavage is attractive to the human male eye. Both blind the onlooker to the lesser qualities which are masked by the surface. Drawn by the tip of an iceberg, a covered mass that reflects the depths of that little that is seen, the audience will linger for more. Not clarity, but clutter of the right kind is what you want. The opponent's clarity will show and reveal his lack of sophistication at this game of getting listeners and with it voters, for he lacks the ability to see the complex in his entire clamor for clarity about the issues, as he is want to say. By the sleight of hand of the nuance, you will have governance in your hand next, for the world is too complicated for simpletons such as your opponent to grasp. Your opponent is truly talking about a world of fairy tales, where there are good and bad guys, but you are between them, dialoguing, to use one of our favorite words, and one loved by our beloved listeners, who are in speechless mystic awe at our ability to maneuver in a sea where we cannot discern the difference between darkness and light.
If pressed by your opponent, of course, you are not cornered, because you have all the slippery character that nuance allows. So, you tell him, much as our flourishing candidate intimated in his own debate only days ago, that if darkness must be named or identified, then we shall have to name ourselves as it! Now you have allowed your opponent to see the result of how his little game of good and bad has backfired upon him. That is, to deny him his arrogance, and his presumption of thinking he shall define himself, and to see him humiliated is a rare pleasure. Your opponent will now see that our enemy shall be allowed the honor to define us. This is not a simple turn the other cheek, but a straightforward invitation to write the book. For the religious in the audience of our candidate, of course the moment was ripe for an untold number of voters to see that here was a man, our man and our candidate, truly prepared to turn the other cheek. He, in my humble opinion, should have gone for more, and even ventured to say that after our "enemy" has had the opportunity to define us, and then destroyed one half of the country, we shall offer him the other half.
Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.