Politics is hard and dirty game. Many tricks were used throughout the time and some were really dirty. However, politicians usually call these tricks their “political strategies”. Let´s take a look on some of the most famous political strategies in action.
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10. It´s all about the narrative
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The narrative is the story behind the politician. It is natural that to some extent we always judge a politician´s action in light of his or her history and beliefs. For example, John McCain highlighted his story of a war hero with an experience of POW to show his strength and determination to help his country. Barack Obama succeeded with the story of a political underdog who was able to work so hard that he was able to reach the top political level. Developing the narrative is one of absolutely basic political strategies.
9. Know your opponent
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This basic military strategy has the same validity in politics. However, sometimes the way to gaining the information about the political opponent goes too far. In 1980, president Carter was fighting for re-election in a situation when his ratings were very low because of the Iran hostage crisis. That´s why Carter´s campaign was refusing any offer for a debate with his opponent Ronald Reagan. Finally, they agreed with one debate one week before the election. Both sides were preparing hard for the debate but when the debate prep book was stolen from the White House and delivered to Reagan´s campaign, we think it was too much.
8. Negative campaigning
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If you remember the recent US presidential campaign of 2016, you have perfect knowledge of the negative campaigning. In a campaign, you can either talk about the good things you will do or you can be highlighting how bad your opponent is. What does it remind you? Poor voters…
7. Try to look great, all the time
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Politician´s appearance and body language can make a great difference. That´s why they have an army of stylists and other assistants who help politicians to look good. From Tony Blair to Obama, looking good was an important ingredient of their success. To look good can be simply counted among political strategies. Maybe the best example of these political strategies in action is the first presidential debate broadcasted by TV between J.F.Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. JFK and his campaign knew that Nixon has a tendency to sweat. That´s why Nixon´s campaign set the temperature in the studio to be quite low and that´s why Kennedy´s team secretly heated it up so while JFK looked great, Nixon had to dry his face with the handkerchief several times. Not the best way to impress voters at the dawn of the TV age.
6. A Whisper Campaign
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The whispering campaign is, unfortunately, one of the most commonly used political action strategies. There are many examples of using this dirty trick. In 1800, presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson was accused in a whisper campaign that he has several children with his slave women and that he has robbed a widow and her child of her trust fund. In 2000, strategist of George W. Bush´s campaign Karl Rove started to circulate rumors that John McCain has an illegitimate black child. They used a picture of McCain with his adopted child from Bangladesh. It was a really dirty trick. McCain lost his primaries to Bush…
5. Direct contact with voters
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Direct mail marketing or contacting voters by phone is very common. And telephone lines can be a political battlefield. In 2002, there was a tight race between Democratic governor Jeanne Sheehan and Republican representative John Sununu within the mid-term election. Sheehan´s campaign extensively called supporters to make sure that they will go to vote. Sununu´s campaign hired telemarketing company which jammed Democrat´s phone lines. Several persons ended up in the jail for it.
4. Be sure that your voters will go to vote
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In 1996, Russian president Boris Yeltsin needed to have voters really voting. He was afraid that people will rather go to their summer houses instead of going to the polls. At that time, there was very popular South American soap opera on state-owned TV. To assure that people will not leave their cities, this TV announced special broadcasting of three episodes. So, people were not going away, they stayed in cities and went to vote. Definitely one of funnier political action strategies.
3. Have the group of hitmen
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Richard Nixon created a group mainly consisting of former CIA agents who served as his cohort for the dirty work. They were called “Plumbers” because their duty was to “close leaks”. However, they did not end with extinguishing the leaks. In their most famous action, they broke into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters. The Watergate scandal was born and ended up with Nixon´s resignation. Some political strategies don´t work…
2. Use voters´ prejudice for your own good
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To use voters´ prejudices for your own good is a certain bet. It is still used today as it was used in the past. As a perfect example, we can remember the presidential race of 1880 between Congressman James Garfield and General Winfield Scott Hancock. In 1880, there was a strong fear of a Chinese immigration within the society. Several days before the election, a letter signed by Mr.Garfield was “discovered”. It said that Mr.Garfield supports the unregulated Chinese immigration. The letter was fake, but these political action strategies work…
1. Sabotage of your opponents efforts
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As an example of very bad political strategies in action, we will use Richard Nixon once again. In 1968, Nixon was preparing to challenge president Lyndon Johnson in an election. Nixon knew that any peace agreement which will end the Vietnam war will definitely ruin his chances in an election. So he sent a secret message to President of South Vietnam saying that he as a president will secure a better deal for South Vietnam. Influenced by this message, Nguyen Van Thieu backed-up the peace talks in Paris and effectively ruined it. It seems that this is the peak of dirty tricks in politics as it cost thousands of lives of American soldiers.
As can be seen from this list, politics is a dirty world. Some tricks can be acceptable, some are definitely unacceptable. There is only one way to minimize the amount of these dirty tricks. Voters must clearly show that anyone who uses these tricks has no chance of getting a single vote next time. If you are interested in politics even after reading this article, you can continue with Top 10 Scandals Ever.