Enjoy asking questions at forums

Published 11:13 am Thursday, October 7, 2010

They’re coming and there’s no stopping it.

Political debates, candidate forums, hot air explosions. Maybe, a little useful information.

My advice: Attend one of them. Listen selectively to what they say. Grab a chair near the coffee and donuts table in case you need to fortify yourself for the session.

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If you feel up to it, ask a question. Preferably one that can’t be answered with a simple, “Yes” or “No.”

Watch them squirm occasionally and take note of the subject matter. What’s the back-story? What are they hiding?

Taxpayers, it’s your county, your city, your school district.

Some serious people, who believe in democracy and free speech, are sponsoring the opportunities to learn more about mayoral and Austin City Council and Mower County hopefuls; even the Austin school district levy referendum questions. Austin’s city charter changes, too.

There’s no “None of the above” blank on the ballot. There are no do-overs after Election Day in November.

Listen closely: A praprosdokian may be lurking in the rhetoric heard. (Don’t worry. I won’t us that word too often.)

This is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect as well as by politicians.

It also belongs in Lee Bonorden’s Official Guide to Political Debates and Candidate Forums.

For example: “Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.”

Candidates may show their dark side: “The last thing I want to do is hurt you.  But it’s still on the list,” is refreshingly honest.

Sometimes candidates get feisty if criticized and fight back with words. “If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.”

Both the audience and the candidates should remember: “We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.”

Just be sure what the candidate says is no act.

Stay in control at all times, forum moderators.

If more than one candidate’s “fresh idea” seems to repeat itself during the forum, remember: “To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.”

Candidates should beware of voters slipping a (warning: here’s that word again.) praprosdokian  into the conversation. It may be time to pass the microphone if a concerned citizen announces, “I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.”

If you hear a candidate say he/she has a “clear conscience” after an obviously bad decision, wake up immediately. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

There you have it: Sound advice on what to notice, what to take away from a political debate or forum.

Don’t kid yourself: I’m serious. The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!