Dirty Tricks And The Voters Who Fall For Them

Disclaimer: The Twentieth Century events listed in this blog post are recalled from memory, although I learned about most of them secondhand because I wasn’t born until 1960.  Wikipedia was used to try to confirm dates, and if there are inaccuracies I apologize.  Readers who find errors are welcome to respond in the comments section with documentation, and if necessary I will make corrections.

When we engage in important judgment calls, we must be alert to the possibility that people working against our interests are manipulating us.  Careful critical thinking is just part of being a responsible adult.

On October 27, The New York Times posted an article by Maggie Haberman and Jeremy W. Peters describing tactics by the Trump campaign to discourage Democrats from voting for Hillary Clinton. Their efforts won’t necessarily result in more votes for Trump, but the real purpose is to lower the voter turnout among Democrats.

Whether or not we believe any of the claims made by Trump or his minions, we should recall tactics used by Richard Nixon’s 1950 campaign when he successfully ran against a fellow Member of Congress, Helen Gahagan Douglas, for a seat representing California in the U.S. Senate.

Representative Douglas, a liberal Democrat, was married to actor Melvyn Douglas until her death in 1980.  During the 1950 Senate campaign, some voters in California received telephone calls from strangers reminding them that Representative Douglas was married to a man whose real last name was Hesselberg.

The Nixon campaign never admitted having anything to do with the telephone calls.  However, it was an obvious attempt to pander to voters’ anti-semitism.  The callers didn’t lie about her husband’s name.  They just misled people about their intentions, and that allowed Nixon’s campaign to exploit a cultural bias.

An admitted Nixon campaign tactic involved circulating anti-Douglas flyers printed on pink paper.  The intention wasn’t to patronize women in politics, though.  It was a reference to communism, and the text of the flyers compared Rep. Douglas with Vito Marcantonio, a far left Congressman from New York who served sporadically from 1935-1951.

Although Nixon won election to the U.S. Senate, his amoral strategy earned him a nickname he never got rid of: Tricky Dick.

Richard Nixon never had to clean up his act to enable the comebacks he made in politics later.  Even after resigning from the Presidency in disgrace in 1974, he just sat tight for fewer than twenty years before informally acquiring the label “Elder Statesman.”  Sadly, Hillary Clinton’s husband abetted that.  President Bill Clinton openly consulted Nixon for policy advice.

Here are two items of importance.  One is a link to the New York Times article about Trump’s sneaky-freaky stuff, and the other is an image of an ominous 1987 letter signed by former President Richard M. Nixon:


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