While there’s a certain romance, a Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington quality, about some of the characters running under the Tea Party banner, they have a lot to learn about the…um…political skills necessary for victory.
I’m thinking, for example, of Rand Paul, the Tea Party-backed candidate for U.S. Senator from Kentucky. While his off-the-cuff comments about how a restaurant ought to be free to refuse service to blacks at its lunch counter might appeal to some of the more troglodytic Republican Primary voters, it’s going to be a tough sell in the general election in November, when more reasonable citizens of all parties might wish to send him back to the planet Xykron where he came from.
By “skills,” I mean the ability to segue seamlessly from one point of view to another, to turn on a dime without leaving listeners experiencing whiplash.
I’m talking about the fine art of not answering a tough question from an interviewer. You’ve seen it: they might try to trip the candidate up by quoting something he said earlier, and ask him to square it with what he’s spouting now. The average viewer says, “He’s never going to be able to explain that!”
But the seasoned pol, with perfect pitch, pretends as if he’s addressing the question while artfully changing the subject so smoothly that by the end of the explanation, you can’t even remember what he was originally asked. That’s political skill.
It has nothing to do with governing, and everything to do with getting elected. This is the big leagues, not some farm club.