A political strategy that works as follows:
- Pick some minority of the population that your opponents have some connection with. Prefeably this group should have some kind of stereotype about them so that disaffected voters can hate them or can be made to hate them.
- Demonise them -- make them look opportunistic, greedy, treacherous, dishonest, etc.
- Associate your opponents with the minority group, thus undermining their reputation. Your opponents are faced with two options: either disown the minority (and possibly in the process undermine their own party line), or face political oblivion
- Romp home to an election victory.
The concept, although quite general, seems to have got its modern impetus
and name (though sources are ambiguous) from Lee Atwater
, a former advisor to George Bush Sr
in 1988. In that particular case, Michael Dukakis
was accused of being "soft on crime".
In recent history, John Howard has become a master of the art of the wedge. He has won three elections on the trot using it -- the first in 1996, where the minority were welfare recipients; in 1999, when the wedge issue was Kooris' rights to native title and the Wik decision; and in 2001, where boat people and refugees were the minority in question.