In our previous political primers, we’ve covered the basics of How to win an election, creating support for your unpopular ideas and how to use the media to your political advantage. This time we’re talking about the dark arts of politics, the lies, dirty tricks and fostering outrage in the electorate. It’s not how you play the game, it's if you win or lose, and if you want a long career as a political puppeteer, you better win.
Let’s look at some tactics that could make the difference in a close race. Unless you’re running in a heavily gerrymandered district like that of Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw or Illinois Democrat Jesus Garcia, you’ll want to do anything and everything to swing those votes.
You will find more infographics at Statista
Are you a magician?
Your candidate is out for his big business donors and policies, which will screw the little guy. You’ve already used astroturf campaigns to create fake support for the policies, but not enough voters buy it.
If these voters vote, it’s not good for our candidate; we’ll need to take advantage of people’s trust and lack of knowledge of the political process to put up a few hurdles, not walls, hurdles.
What’s in a name?
Technique - If your candidate is running in a primary in the USA or a Westminster Parliamentary System in Canada or the UK, find a patsy with the same name or similar name as your opponent. You’ll need to fund their campaign and application process through your dark money PACs to get them on the ballot.
If your opponent’s name is Robert Johnson, find another Robert Johnson and list them as Rob Johnson, Bob Johnson, or Robert A. Johnson. Anything to confuse.
Result - We’re counting on low-information voters to make the difference. When the voters arrive at the polls intending to vote for your opponent, they’ll see a list of names, your candidate, your chief rival and a name that’s identical or close enough to create confusion. If the plan works, enough people will vote for Rob Johnson instead of Robert Johnson to help your candidate squeak out a win.
Ring, Ring, Robots Calling
In many countries, voting is quick and painless. You show up, mark the X and go home to watch the results come in. However, in countries with high levels of corruption or partisanship like the USA, voting can take most of the day with hurdles along the way.
Technique -Use data brokers to acquire phone directories of your opponent's supporters. Order your tricksters to set up a robocall campaign to send official-sounding messages. Let potential voters that the poll location has changed to a location across town. If you’re extra egregious, you can tell them know their vote has already been counted.
Result - Plenty of voters will just hang up, but we’re counting on people who have busy schedules and aren’t invested in the electoral process. If enough voters decide to stay home or spend hours travelling to the new “official” poll location, it means the difference between your next campaign job or “would you like fries with that.”
More Phone Shenanigans
Technique - Cast a wide net with a phone survey directed at the constituents most likely to vote for your opponent. Use the phone survey to float or reinforce rumours currently in the public space.
Use questions to cater to their fears, such as
For left-leaning opponents: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Rob Johnson if you found out he was heavily funded by fossil fuel dark money PACs?”
For right-leaning opponents: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for your Rob Johnson if you found out his wife is a big donor to planned parenthood?”
Result - Voters against your candidate likely won’t switch their vote, but these hypotheticals plant seeds of doubts in an electorate that’s already mistrustful of politicians. You’re hoping that the voter will decide they can’t be bothered to vote as these politicians are all the same.
It’s just something I heard.
We’ve covered conspiracies and disinformation in previous articles, which I recommend reviewing as many of the tactics will be useful here.
Create a conspiracy theory about your opponent that increases the political motivation of your tepid supporters and the low-information undecided voters to not just vote for you but vote against your opponent.
If your opponent wins, it's doom and gloom for their way of life. People who are liberal or left-leaning will be more inclined to believe conspiracies about conservative candidates; the reverse is true for conservative and right-leaning.
To target left-leaning voters, focus on the threat of Christian extremism, the military-industrial complex creating false flags to start wars for oil or most corporate involvement in the political process.
Note: Starting lies with the phrase “I heard” removes your culpability in the rumour, but it still puts the rumour into the public square. Hearsay isn’t admissible in court, but it's A-OK in the court of public opinion!
“I heard Rob Johnson is being funded by Raytheon to topple this country in the middle east, and his other backers are Christian extremists that want to create a Taliban-style theocracy here at home.”
To target right-leaning voters, focus on the LGBTQ+ communities, coming threats against the Christian Church, foreign influence or allegiances or anything you can make equate to communism.
“I heard Rob Johnson sees a transgender Cambodian hooker once a month, teaching him about Satanism. He will force the schools to say a prayer to Baphomet each morning if he wins.”
Note: Ensure the conspiracy can’t easily be proven false. Let your opponent waste time disproving rather than you spending time proving the conspiracy.
It’s important to remember that you want to be as far from the origins of these conspiracies about your opponent, but once they bubble up, it’s fine to make a passing comment to show you’re aware, and the believers will see you as an ally in their fight against this evil.
Now that you can recognize these tricks, please share them with your friends and family to help them recognize the tricks dishonest politicians play to get elected. If more people recognize and refute bad candidates, we can hope more good candidates will run for office.