Election Hacks: How Politicians Trick You Into Liking Them

Updated on November 30, 2017
Gregory Honay profile image

Gregory is a writer, political analyst, and entertainer from the New York City area.

It'd really be nice if we could actually all sit down and discuss politics in a polite and respectful way, and make voting decisions based on actual discourse over policy. Unfortunately, that's not the way things happen in this country. People here pretty much vote based on whoever they like better, and politicians know it. It doesn't matter if Donald Trump has 200 pages of policy on his campaign website, all people will generally pay attention to is what's said during debates and what shows up in headlines.

To that point, they've developed quite a repertoire of voting hacks that, for the most part, we buy hook, line, and sinker every time out without even realizing it. Tricks like...

Mentioning dead people in their campaign speeches.

How many times have you heard of someone who got killed in some tragic way, and before you can blink, their death is snapped up by some politician to use as a rallying cry for their platform? This mostly happens whenever there's a major shooting, after which the Democrats will bring their name up ad nauseum while calling for more gun control, or when someone is killed by an illegal immigrant and then the Republicans call for more immigration control.

The sole requirements of becoming a posthumous poster child for their respective causes are being dead and being attractive. You'll notice you never see fat or ugly people being mourned by politicians, that's because they know we'll only care about attractive women between their late teens and mid 20s. It also, of course, completely disrespects the families who just lost someone and can't heal because the entire country is talking about them, sending them messages of support on Facebook, or asking them to do interviews and attend rallies.

Mentioning what their families used to do for a living.

Have you ever noticed how everyone who has ever run for President always had parents and/or grandparents who were hard-working, blue-collar folks who worked their fingers to the bone so they could make a better life for the person telling the story? I don't recall ever hearing a politician go up during a debate and say, "Yep, my grandparents were filthy rich tycoons who taught me about all the things the little people don't know, and that's why I'm best suited for this office."

"He not only didn't have shoes, he didn't even have feet.  He just walked on bloody stumps. Uphill. Both ways."
"He not only didn't have shoes, he didn't even have feet. He just walked on bloody stumps. Uphill. Both ways."

While this does, on some level, help give you an idea of their family values (or at least the REST of their family's values), it's really just a prerequisite for running for President. The same way you need to have a four year degree to qualify for just about any job that doesn't pay peanuts, you need to have had poor grandparents who performed manual labor if you want to run for President.

None of that actually says anything about the candidates themselves, of course. If you've ever known anyone with a ragingly homophobic father who grew up to support gay marriage, or someone from a respectable, middle class family who ended up joining the Klan, you know there's only so much of an effect that anyone's family will have on their own beliefs as an adult. They usually try to address this disconnect by...

Doing blue collar things for photo ops.

Have you ever noticed how many politicians you find eating in townie diners, chopping wood, or shooting guns with the locals when they're on the campaign trail? Do you think these are things they would ever think about doing if they weren't trying to impress people way poorer than them? Nah, me neither.

"Yeah man, I totally do this all the time. You want one of these...food pack things?"
"Yeah man, I totally do this all the time. You want one of these...food pack things?"

It's good that they're trying to project an image of someone who knows how the little people live instead of just hiding out in their ivory tower. It's usually a total lie, but it's nice to see them at least make the effort. Unfortunately, the "hanging out with the public" activities they typically choose are often comically transparent. The visual of them looking completely uncomfortable being surrounded by people in flannel shirts and baseball caps often says more than the fact that they showed up to begin with. It's almost as transparent as when they start...

Talking about their pets and kids.

What better way to seem like a normal person, just like all the voters, than by having a pet? Everyone has one, right? Especially if you have a dog, nobody cares if you have a fish, or cockatiels, or hamsters, and cats are just weird (ask Bill Clinton). But if you have a dog with a really loveable name like "Ranger" or "Sticks", the female voters are going to LOVE you.

In fact, the only way to come off as an even MORE super, female-friendly candidate is by talking about your kids. Family men with wives and children are just what people are looking for, we don't want any childless couples or (*shudder*) single people, do we? Nothing says trustworthy like a guy (or gal) who loves their family. In fact, if you REALLY want to double down, do photo ops of your dog WITH your kids. The plebes will go wild for it.

Pretend to be just like the folks from somewhere by faking their accent.

How many times have you seen a Presidential candidate from anywhere but the south come down to the south and start saying "y'all" and "doggone" more than they ever have in their lives? Or, if you're from New York (like I am), isn't it great when people from down south come up here and...well, it's actually impressive that they come up here at all, since southern politicians are usually pretty honest about their distaste for us, and southerners are the elite when it comes to disingenuous friendliness.

Point is, it's pretty common for them to try and appeal to the locals by mimicking their accent, and usually doing a pretty bad job at it. They almost never get it right, and if somebody not running for office showed up sounding like them, they'd stand out like a sore thumb. I guess campaign managers don't realize that cartoons are not a good reference for learning local dialect.

Of course, the all time chief offender on this is Hillary Clinton, who grew up in Chicago and went to Yale. She obviously spent many years in Arkansas with Bill and, magically, grew a southern accent that disappeared completely when they went to DC and, later, to New York. Of course, it comes back whenever she heads back down south on the campaign trail, but thankfully, she never came up here to deliver speeches to "allayouse" like we expected her to. Of course, she found other ways to make herself a caricature of a New Yorker by...

Pretending to follow the local sports teams.

Among all the other hijinx that happened during the 2000 election cycle (aside from that whole Florida thing), us New Yorkers were subjected to endless, comical attempts by Hillary Clinton to convince everyone that she was one of us. I can't imagine why someone who bought a nearly $2 million house in an exclusive suburb of New York City would have to work for acceptance from the common folk, but there it was. So what's an outsider who blatantly established a residence in a state to make a grab at a vacant Senate seat to do to gain credibility? Why, take a picture with the Yankees, of course!

"Hey, look!  It's Derek Jetster!"
"Hey, look! It's Derek Jetster!"

We all saw through it, of course. Just like we did when Donald Trump came to Pennsylvania and started asking how Joe Paterno was, especially since he had been dead for years after being fired for ignoring his assistant's little molestation adventures. Or when Ben Carson claimed to try and stab someone only for the strike to be deflected by the intended victim's belt buckle. Or when Mitt Romney expressed his appreciation for NASCAR by mentioning how many of his friends owned NASCAR teams.

All these things make everyone who does them look like idiots...except that it works like a charm each and every single time. I guess that makes us the idiots, doesn't it?

Which of the election hacks mentioned do you consider the most obnoxious?

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© 2017 Gregory Honay

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