Psychological Warfare

Here’s this week’s blast to the election past courtesy of Art Buchwald. If you sigh over the Trump/Clinton yammering on Facebook, this reminds us there certainly is “nothing new under the sun.”


Art Buchwald, 1964


Nobody likes to talk about it, but there is a great deal of stress during a Presidential election on psychological warfare.

Both sides are great at spreading rumors about the enemy and using any possible tactic to destroy the other.

I have a friend, a staunch Democrat, who, every Presidential election year, claim he wins hundreds of votes for his side by a very simple maneuver. “Every time I take a taxi, I tip the driver five cents and say, ‘Vote Republican!’”

Another Democratic friend spends his spare time driving around Washington, cutting off people, honking his horn at them, and stealing their parking places. He does this in a car that has GOLDWATER FOR PRESIDENT stickers all over it.

“I don’t know if I’m accomplishing much now,” he told me, “but I think I’ll pick up most of my votes in late October when I accidentally stall on the 14th Street bridge.”

A Republican friend has a gimmick that he says works miracles. He picks people’s names out of the phone book and calls them up at midnight and says, “I’m a volunteer for Johnson. Would you have a few minutes to talk to me?”

A Republican acquaintance claims he won many votes for Nixon in 1960 by scattering Democratic literature on his neighbors’ lawns. He hopes to do it again for Goldwater this year.

A Democrat I know says his mother, who has never been active in politics before, is so upset about Senator Goldwater’s nomination that she is working day and night for his defeat.

“What does she do?” I asked.

“She walks around in old tennis shoes with a Goldwater button on her chest, insulting all the merchants in Georgetown.”

“That’s not bad. But what have you been doing?”

“Not much so far,” he admitted. “My only contribution is that every time I go to a party I put on a Goldwater button and start making passes at all the independents’ wives.

“My brother, on the other hand, has been doing very well getting hostesses to vote for Johnson.”

“How does he do that?”

“Every time he goes to a dinner party he announces loudly that he’s for Goldwater and then spills wine on the hostess’s new tablecloth.”

He told me: “It’s going to be a very tough fight. We have a woman neighbor, a Goldwater supporter, who calls up doctors and dentists and asks them if they have any new information on President Johnson’s plan for socialized medicine.”

One greeting card company is now printing up a letter on Republican stationery which you can send to a friend, informing him that his house has been selected for a neighborhood fund-raising drive and he can expect 50 Republican neighbors to show up for a barbecue, “weather permitting.”

As the campaign gets hotter, psychological warfare will be used more and more to attract the undecided vote.

While most people abhor this type of campaigning, a specialist in psychological political planning told me, “Extremism in the pursuit of voters is no vice.”


About David B. Smith

I'm a math professor at San Bernardino Valley College - awesome place! - and author of adult Christian fiction. Lisa and I have two grown daughters and four grandkids.
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