Five tips for Conservatives debating against Secularists/Feminists/Marxists anti-Family, anti-Christian, anti-Democracy advocates
The Opening Statement:
This is your opportunity to set the tone of the debate and frame the issues and your opponent. Open with a story of why you’re running and briefly state your three major legislative priorities. The trick is to tie these legislative priorities into an overall theme. Barack Obama was successful in this regard as he always linked everything back to his themes of “hope” and “change.” While these overall themes were used ad nauseam, they stuck in the minds of his voters and eventually worked. If there is not an opening statement, you must blend your introduction into the first response.
Use Conversational Language
When responding to questions, you should use a fourth- to eighth- grade level vocabulary to clearly articulate your positions. You don’t need to dumb everything down but don’t use George Will-esque language. Conservatives have a tendency to use such grandiose verbiage to sound exclusively knowledgeable. But most people don’t speak that way, so you may come across as arrogant.
Using Numbers and Facts
Use numbers only in a way that illustrates your main points. The trick is to use them in terms that people can visually understand. Instead of saying that “Congress spends twelve billion dollars a year to run itself,” say “Congress spends more than a dozen states spend on their entire operation!” People can envision twelve states on a map easier than they can envision twelve billion dollars because a map is more familiar to them than twelve billion dollars.
Use Transitional Phrases
The biggest mistake a conservative can make is actually answering every question. Responding to questions is an opportunity for you to get back on message and discuss your overall theme and legislative priorities. If the moderator or your opponent leads you down a defensive path, use transitional phrases to stay on message. Stay on offense by using the following transitional phrases: “That’s an interesting point but…,” “I think we’re getting away from the big issue here…,” and “Well, the moms and pops I talk to tell me…”
Voters love a good story for the same reason you should use visual examples when describing numbers and facts. People relate better to people than they do to numbers and tend to remember stories more so than legislative minutiae. In the first presidential debate in 2000, Vice President Al Gore used a story of an elderly lady who collected aluminum cans to exchange them for money so she could buy food and medicine. This image was so powerful that the media ran stories about this elderly lady for several news cycles. (Note: It was later discovered that the elderly lady collected the aluminum cans just for fun!)
Christopher N. Malagisi is the Director of Political Training at The Leadership Institute and is an Adjunct Professor at American University teaching a course titled “Grassroots Campaigning & Political Activism.”