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Political Jujitsu

“Political jujitsu” refers to the strategic practice of using an opponent’s actions, statements, or strategies against them to gain an advantage, much like the martial art of jujitsu employs an opponent’s force to one’s own benefit.

This tactic often involves reframing the narrative, exploiting inconsistencies, or harnessing public sentiment to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one.

Whether it’s repurposing an attack ad to highlight one’s own strengths or leveraging a policy failure as evidence for the need for change, political jujitsu is a demonstration of agility and finesse in political combat.

It stands in stark contrast to slash-and-burn politics.

More on “Political Jujitsu”

The art of taking an opponent’s criticism and turning it against them.

When Hillary Clinton gave her official campaign launch speech in June 2015, Washington Post liberal columnist E. J. Dionne noted that she struck back against GOP rivals’ criticisms of her age—67 at the time —and her association with the 1990s. He held up the speech as “an occasion for her brand of political jujitsu. Clinton’s Republican foes cast her as the candidate of the past, but it was the GOP, she insisted, whose ideas come from long ago and far away. Her Beatles reference—‘They believe in yesterday’—may have been corny, but it made her point.”

And in complaining about Democrats, conservative columnist Derek Hunter wrote: “It’s one of the greatest feats of political jujitsu that the party of slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK and segregation—indeed, the party that watered down the GOP-led Civil Rights Act of 1957 to the point it was rendered toothless—is now viewed as the party for black Americans.”

From Doubletalk © 2016 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “Political Jujitsu” in a sentence

  • When the opposition party tried to label her as inexperienced, she performed political jujitsu by framing her outsider status as a strength, untainted by the corruption and inefficiencies of long-time politicians.
  • The activist used political jujitsu to transform a dismissive comment from a public official into a rallying cry, sparking a social media campaign that generated nationwide support for their cause.
  • The mayor adeptly employed political jujitsu when critics pointed out the city’s rising crime rates, turning the conversation instead to the lack of federal support for community programs and calling for a comprehensive approach to public safety.