Political strategy deals with politics from a strategic perspective. Basically, it is the study of how politics are invented, and used to obtain some given objective.
This article covers some of these techniques as seen in history and the present day. Politics and the related tactics can be found in nearly every corner of our civilization.
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body. Governments, organizations and individuals may engage in censorship as a political tactic.
Governments sometimes use censorship to hold back information from their citizens. This is often done to exert control over the populace and prevent free expression that might foment rebellion. Another motive for censorship by a government is national security, in which military censorship is applied to keeping military intelligence and tactics, including military technology, confidential and away from potential enemies, which entails also keeping it away from the public.
Censorship in general has been criticized throughout history for being unfair and hindering progress. In a 1997 essay on Internet censorship, social commentator Michael Landier claims that censorship is counter productive as it prevents the censored topic from being discussed.
To compromise is to make a deal between different parties where each party gives up part of their demand. In arguments, compromise is a concept of finding agreement through communication, through a mutual acceptance of terms—often involving variations from an original goal or desire.
Voters will make decisions partially based on how they view the proponents and opponents of an issue. By discrediting the proponents of an issue, the issue can be defeated, despite sufficient support for the issue itself.
Similarly, but to a lesser extent, an unpopular issue can be given a boost by discrediting the opponents of the issue. Also known as an ad hominem argument.
Fear mongering (or scaremongering or scare tactics) is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. The feared object or subject is sometimes exaggerated, and the pattern of fear mongering is usually one of repetition, in order to continuously reinforce the intended effects of this tactic, sometimes in the form of a vicious circle.
Just as products can be sold with celebrities, politics can be maneuvered with ideals and celebrities. One motivation to use such a tactic is the sheer success rate, and this tactic is common to both sides of many contests.
Another motivation is that success is based on the merits of the ideal, or the celebrity, not upon the issue. Hence, obscure and even unpopular objectives can thus be achieved.
Lying is telling one or more lies. A lie is a false statement to a person or group made by another person or group who knows it is not the whole truth, intentionally.
Obstructionism is the practice of deliberately delaying or preventing a process or change, especially in politics.
The most common obstructionism tactic is the filibuster, which consists of extending the debate upon a proposal in order to delay or completely prevent a vote on its passage.
Passing the buck
Buck passing or passing the buck is the act of attributing another person or group with responsibility for one's own actions. It is often used to refer to a strategy in power politics whereby a state tries to get another state to deter, or possibly fight, an aggressor state while it remains on the sidelines.
Telling people they are smart, or beautiful, or that they are absolutely right has been a mainstay of marketing and politics since ancient times. Telling people otherwise is often the fastest, surest way of alienating them or even turning them hostile toward the speaker. On the other hand, placating people is one of the fastest, surest ways of selling ideas or positions, as the merit of the idea or position will be far less important than if the position were to be presented in a more rational fashion. This technique is often combined with discrediting in a push-pull arrangement:
- Placate the target audience
- Paint the competition's words or actions as an implication that the target audience is not smart, beautiful, etcetera
This creates instant allegiance to the speaker, while creating hostility toward the speaker's opponent.
Plausible deniability is a term coined by the CIA in the early 1960s to describe the withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities by the CIA became public knowledge. The term most often refers to the capacity of senior officials in a formal or informal chain of command to deny knowledge of and/or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by the lower ranks because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved or at least willfully ignorant of said actions.
Historical examples include the Divine Right of Kings, used in the early modern era as a means of reinforcing allegiance to the monarch; the establishment of the Church of England by King Henry VIII in order to be able to divorce his wife and produce a male heir; the support given by some lords to the Protestant Reformation for the purpose of obtaining independence from the Holy Roman Empire; and the formation of government-run churches by Nazi Germany and Communist China in an attempt to control religious adherents. Such examples illustrate the use of religion for the advancement of political objectives.
A smear campaign, smear tactic or simply smear is a political tactic that is an unfair or untrue political attack. It employs the logical technique of conflation in which separate concepts, identities, or reputations of individual or groups are combined into one word or concept, losing individual meanings and differences as in swiftboating. Sometimes the term "smear campaign" is used more generally to include any organized reputation-damaging activity by a group.
Common targets are public officials, politicians, and political candidates. Smear campaigns are often based on information gleaned from opposition research conducted by paid political consultants. To a lesser degree, the term can refer to an attempt to damage a person's reputation for nonpolitical ends; for example, during a trial as part of trial strategy, counsel may attempt to cast doubt on the reliability of an opposition witness to pervert the course of justice.
Other political tactics include: