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A politician might use every chance to emphasize that he/she was poor indeed to gain public sympathy and support. are they playing poor card? that doesn't sound idiomatic.

Aside from politics, when someone is trying to gain sympathy or support from the public by emphasizing that he/she is poor, like:

A thief was chasing by the police, but when he's cornered, he incited the crowd by___, claiming that he was poor and being unfair treated by the police, so the crowd was anger and he manage to get away with it.

In short, they are all using people's sympathy on poor and antipathy toward authority to arouse sympathy and get the best for themselves. Is there a idiomatic phrase/expression to describe this behavior?

edit: I make up some keyword to describe that behavior: hypocritical, using people' sympathy and antipathy, sneaky

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    That's the poverty card used. Using it also milks the victim card or poor-me. – Yosef Baskin Jun 29 '17 at 12:58
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    Poor, poverty, underprivileged, et al. There is not an established idiom for this one, though. – Hot Licks Jun 29 '17 at 12:59
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    Milking means drawing out the maximum benefit. If I make a big deal out of my bad leg, I am milking it. Further, I am claiming I have been victimized and deserve for society to compensate me. Poor me. You owe me. – Yosef Baskin Jun 29 '17 at 13:23
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    Yes, the poor card is fine. – Arm the good guys in America Jun 29 '17 at 13:36
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    There are countless ways of saying this. The classic way to refer to it is 'an appeal to sympathy', 'appeal to pity', or 'argumentum ad misericordiam'. – Mitch Jun 29 '17 at 17:58
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This is called playing the victim, which means using one's circumstances as a victim of some sort to justify your behavior and to engender sympathy.

A thief was chased by the police, but when he was cornered, he incited the crowd by playing the victim , claiming that he was poor and being unfairly treated by the police, so the crowd was angry and he managed to get away with it.

In this phrase, the word playing is used in the same sense as acting (as in acting like a victim).

You could also say playing the victim card, where playing has the meaning of to use, as in a game, which is different from act. To play the victim card is not used very often. To play the victim is more typical.

(These highlighted expressions are all easily located in references online.)

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    This is the answer. – Dan Bron Jun 29 '17 at 20:59
  • thanks. that sounds good, but as i stated on my question above, this behavior "...all using people's sympathy on poor and antipathy toward authority to arouse sympathy and get the best for themselves." whereas your answer in which stated: "...which means using one's circumstances as a victim of some sort to..." it's slightly different on purpose, i think. is there any expression for that? – user239460 Jun 30 '17 at 7:04
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I think appeal to poverty (or argumentum ad lazarum) might be what you are looking for.

Another word might be appeal to pity. But that isn't limited to just being poor.

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In America, a politician who was born poor will typically use that to their advantage by describing himself or herself as a self-made man/woman. The politician would likely also claim to have working class values, although, as this article suggests, that hasn't historically been a huge vote-winning phrase in America. The article just cited also uses the phrase understanding of what life is like on the bottom of the income ladder which is the type of terminology that politicians would use. Playing the poor card is not idiomatic, and instead phrases like I used above would be preferred.

It would be more idiomatic to say playing the self-made man card or playing the working class values card or something like that, although typically these phrases are not mixed with any playing a card terminology so it would be most idiomatic to use the phrases above without any references to playing a card. Not all idiomatic phrases are consistent for every usage. One might say his idea came out of left field to describe an idea which was very unexpected and not typical but for a typical idea one wouldn't say out of center field but instead something like mainstream, so one term is from baseball the other from rivers - there's not always a consistent usage across all types of meanings.

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  • thanks for your answer. your suggestion that using 'self-made man/woman' would be more idiomatic, but that is a description of what they were, which doesn't address their behavior of using that mean as a way to gain ground. is there a idiomatic phrase to describe that kind of behavior in English? – user239460 Jun 29 '17 at 14:59
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    He highlighted his background as a self-made man (to try to connect with voters) or he highlighted his working class values (to try to connect with voters) or he highlighted his understanding of what life is like at the bottom of the income ladder (to try to connect with voters) all have connotation of being stated as a way to gain political ground, whether to try to connect with voters is stated or not. So it is more than merely a description of what they were, it also idiomatically implies that they are using that background as a means of gaining political ground. – Brillig Jun 29 '17 at 17:16
  • To describe a political description, your answer might be the perfect one, but i am looking beyond politics to a general phrase/expression for that behavior. – user239460 Jun 29 '17 at 17:37
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    Well, the general phrase/expressions I mentioned above would extend beyond politics. I only focused on their use in politics because, well, that was the focus of your question. You said, A politician might use every chance to emphasize that he/she was poor indeed to gain public sympathy and support. are they playing poor card?. However, if someone was not in politics and was trying to gain sympathy and support because of their background as a poor person, the same phrases would apply. – Brillig Jun 29 '17 at 17:37
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    For instance, I moved to a rural neighborhood where many people have struggled to find work recently but have been able to connect with people I meet from my background as a self-made man / by highlighting my own working class values / by my understanding of what life is like at the bottom of the income ladder. These all work outside politics, just as well. – Brillig Jun 29 '17 at 17:43
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I would write that the thief rallied the crowd behind him by appealing to their sense of [insert principle(s) here].

1) Rally: to muster for a common purpose; to arouse for action

2) Appeal: the power of arousing a sympathetic response

A thief is being chased by the police, but when he's cornered, he rallies a crowd of pedestrians behind him by appealing to their sense of empathy, claiming that he was poor and being treated unfairly by the police...

This can also be used to describe a politician's behavior in the sense that you mentioned:

The politician tried to rally the crowd of blue-collar workers behind his cause by appealing to their sense of duty, commitment, and hard work.

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    These are general words but not specifically idiomatic to trying to gain sympathy or support from the public by emphasizing that a person is poor. If you used these words you would also have to specifically state the other information about trying to connect and gain support on the basis of being poor - this is not implied by these words. The question asked for an idiomatic phrase/expression and these are not idiomatic of connecting on the basis of a poor background. – Brillig Jun 29 '17 at 17:49
  • thanks. is there an idiomatic phrase/expression that doesn't split apart?(terms people often use to describe this behavior) – user239460 Jun 29 '17 at 17:52

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