Politicians and lawyers both have a reputation for being shady characters. Whether it’s a reputation they deserve is something you’ll have to decide on your own. However, they are both capable of using shady tactics. The difference? We don’t get to vote lawyers in and out of office.
It’s important to be able to recognize some of the shady tactics that politicians will use during a campaign cycle. It helps you make a better-informed decision on the candidate’s beliefs and character (if we still care about such things). That’s why we’re going to go over a couple disreputable moves you are most likely to see as we rapidly approach Election Day.
A dog whistle is a device that makes a sound so high pitched that humans can’t hear it, but dogs (who have better hearing) can. In politics, dog-whistling is the practice of using specific language that you only intend for certain people to understand. It’s a way of saying something without actually saying it. The practice is most commonly used when a candidate wants to convey a controversial or (more accurately) racist idea, without taking the heat for saying it outright.
One of the most overt examples was the emphasis on Barack Obama’s middle name. When a politician would say “Barack Hussein Obama” they were making a point to remind everyone that he shares a name with Saddam Hussein. Evoking Saddam Hussein is a way of trying to correlate his negative deeds to Obama. Moreover, it’s a Muslim sounding name. Making a special effort to mention bolstered the narrative that Obama was a Muslim and that Muslims were bad, both of which are untrue.
The truly nefarious aspect of dog-whistling is that it’s not just designed to be recognized by the bigots it panders to. It’s designed to be heard by opponents as well, while still going over the heads of everyone in the middle. That way when the opponent reacts negatively to it, they can play innocent and pretend any criticism is an unprovoked which-hunt. After all, all they said was the man’s real middle name… Don’t be fooled.
Dog-whistling is tacky and disrespectful. Gerrymandering is downright cheating. To understand gerrymandering you have to understand districts and electoral constituencies. Each state is broken into districts; whoever wins the most votes in that district typically wins all of that district’s votes. Gerrymandering is the practice of changing the boundaries of a district to favor one party over another. If there’s a pocket of voters who would vote one way, the district will be drawn in a ridiculous shape to make sure those voters outnumber the other party.
This electoral system is why you can have someone who got less total votes still win the election. It is also a method used by those in power to stay in power, and it is highly effective. It’s obviously unfair, but not technically illegal until a specific law or order is put in place to curtail it.
What makes it so much worse is that it takes the power out of the hands of the people and literally disrupts our democracy. The only real way to stop it is bipartisanly. As you can imagine, there are a few problems with that. For one thing, the party benefiting from it has no reason to get rid of it if they can continue using it to their advantage. And two, even if that wasn’t the case, in our current political climate; it’s a good day when we can get a bipartisan lunch order.