5 Insane Strategies That Won Elections (and Changed History)

#2. William Hale Thompson Stages a Political Comeback by Debating Rats

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Ah, Illinois! It's easy to pick on a state where four out of the last seven governors have gone to jail and the largest city's nickname is a jab at how corrupt it is ("Windy City" refers to Chicago's politicians, not weather).

This is the canvas William Hale Thompson painted his political career on. Dubbed "the worst mayor in American history" by later generations, a close ally of Al Capone, a staunch anti-Prohibition advocate, and a happy-go-lucky eccentric who liked to style himself as a cowboy (up to and including riding a horse into the town hall), "Big Bill" served as the city's mayor from 1915 to 1923. After eight years of running the town really badly, he finally had to step down due to campaign shenanigans.

Via Umn.edu
Mostly involving that top hat.

Still, a good man is hard to keep down, let alone a huge, power-hungry bastard. As 1926 rolled around, Thompson had his eye on the prize again. The only issue was that his reputation had been essentially destroyed by, well, the previous eight years of him being in office. Needing a way to restore his political power and dignity, Thompson initially attempted to lure the public to his side with lavish festivals and fireworks. When this proved ineffective and election day was drawing near, Thompson hurriedly drafted a Plan B: act as crazy as possible. With rodents.

On April 6, 1926, a mere eight days before the Republican primary to decide their next candidate for mayor of Chicago, Thompson arranged a political debate session. He walked onto the stage, in front of thousands of people, holding a caged rat in each hand. After introducing them as his two opponents, Thompson spent the next several minutes debating them, unleashing relentless tirades of rat jokes, along with criticisms of their records.

Via Wikipedia
All in all, not dissimilar to the Kennedy/Nixon debate.

But the ridiculousness hid a deeper meaning. The things Thompson criticized the rats for were actually his own screw-ups from his previous stint as mayor, and his "comebacks" recognized the lessons learned from past mistakes.

And the public ate it up. In a single display of political showmanship, Thompson had gone from the corrupt, disgraced former mayor to the crowd favorite for the next election, winning and taking "his" office back in 1927. Naturally, what followed was the worst mayorship ever. Organized crime and corruption ran rampant, padding Thompson's pockets to an impressive size and allowing Al "the worst gangster in American history" Capone's rise to the height of his power. Hey, if you wanted an inspirational happy ending, you shouldn't be reading about politics.

Via Umn.edu
If it makes you feel better, you could always print out this photo and shit on it or something.

#1. Boris Yeltsin Wins the Election With a Brazilian Soap Opera

Yuri Kozyrev/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In 1996, the freshly un-Sovieted Russia was holding its second presidential election ever. The reigning president, perestroika enthusiast Boris Yeltsin, was running a hard campaign against his close rival, Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party. It was such a close race that the government decided to make it a federal holiday to ensure that everyone eligible could exercise their right to vote.

Unfortunately for Yeltsin, the weather was turning out to be very nice, and every single Russian is a gold medal contender in the Not Giving a Fuck Olympics. He realized that an extra day off wouldn't send the city-dwelling constituents -- the vast majority of his supporters -- to the voting booths. Instead, they would just pack their stuff and piss off for a quick holiday in the countryside.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
"Eh, what's the worst that can happen? It's not like we live in an unstable country."

After all, Russians were very inexperienced in the finer nuances of democracy (even though a Communist win would mean the return of goods restrictions, poorly built space shuttles, and statues of Lenin dotting the land), and it never occurred to them to give a damn, as long as they had the day off. Yeltsin needed a way to keep his supporters in the city, where the voting booths were, and off the beaches. His solution took the form of a TV show called Tropikanka, a Brazilian telenovela that was inexplicably popular throughout Russia.

Via Neatorama.com
The only known time a soap opera has ever held any importance for any situation.

Yeltsin's strategy was brilliant in its simplicity: He contacted the TV station that was airing Tropikanka and convinced them to air three all-new episodes of the soap opera on election day. When the news got out, a whole lot of people suddenly rearranged their holiday plans. You see, most Russian country resorts had no televisions, and there was no way they would miss their triple fix of Brazilians pouting at each other. And since they had nothing much to do until the show came on, they might as well take the opportunity to try this "voting" thing they'd heard about.

Boris Yeltsin went on to rake in 54.4 percent of the vote and retain his presidency. To show his respect to the absurdly melodramatic TV shows that had made his re-election possible, he spent much of his career as a wacky character from one.

Ian Walton/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Nothing will ever convince us this isn't Yeltsin's O-face.

Evan V. Symon is a Workshop moderator. When he isn't busy falsifying elections, he can be found on Facebook. Xavier Jackson can be reached at XavierJacksonCracked@gmail.com and has a Facebook page to make him feel like he's important. Micah writes more lists here and helps save the world here.

For more bizarre game-changers, check out 5 Stupid Bets That Changed the World and 6 Mistranslations That Changed the World.

Related Reading: History is FULL of dumb elections, and you can click here to read about them. If insane political ads are more your speed, this link will show you the metalest campaign ad of all time. Need help spotting B.S. political stories in the news? We all do sometimes, and this article will reveal the manipulation in your daily newsgasm. Now- that was a lot of politics. Why not wind things down by reading about political agendas hidden in famous movies. You'll never look at Batman the same way again.

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