Opinion: What has and hasn’t changed since 1970

Some things in life just don’t change.

Some things in life just don’t change. Like political campaigns designed to look local and real, but which really are designed and funded by outside interests.

I’m not talking about 2020, though I could be. I am repeating the advice from a 1970 Student Government Election Guide prepared by the College Republican National Committee. Yes, a Washington, D.C.-based partisan outfit advising students how to win campus elections.

“A student government campaign could be damaged by having word leak out that it was being run by some mysterious ‘master plan,’” the election guide master plan advised. “Organizational technique wins elections, but a campaign which has the appearance of local spontaneity is better than one which appears to be a sleek ‘machine product.’”

The battle plan hasn’t changed much in 50 years: Make local spontaneity look genuine.

The party’s advice for college elections continues: “Should an opponent lose his temper or make a faux pas, play up this in flyers, statements to the press, letters to the editor, etc.” Nothing wrong with taking advantage of your opponent’s mistakes. The Republican guide then goes a step — no, a leap — further by suggesting campaigns prod their opponents into bad behavior: “Consider ways to engender such situations,” the guide says. “Try to set up situations which demoralize the opposition.”

But the guide also shows a softer side that has been lost to current politics: “Always be clever, not blatantly vicious.”

I guess the party’s elections guide must have dropped that advice over the years.

Larry Persily


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