There was a time when politicians worried about a "slippery slope" when it came to political actions. While dirty politics by individuals was always assumed - President Lyndon Johnson set the modern standard for that - overt actions by parties were more thoughtful. The reason was simple; once there was a precedent, the other party could do the same thing when they got into power.

That all changed this century.

President Obama reneging on his pledge to honor campaign finance reform spending caps allowed him to outspend his opponent, Senator John McCain, by double in 2008.  And public financing to keep it about the message and not spending is gone for good. During the Trump administration, an informal agreement not to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice in a campaign year also went away and there is no chance Democrats will honor it in the future.

Just like in baseball, there are unwritten rules, and many of them are designed so that your own player doesn't get hit in the head by a retaliatory fastball. A new paper argues that many such unwritten rules may be gone for good and deterrence has gone by the wayside. Both parties are willing to set off nuclear bombs if it will win a short-term goal. Claims of voter fraud, suppression, and contesting elections are mostly just public relations weapons rolled out every cycle.

There has always been some voter fraud, Republican Vice-President Richard Nixon lost in 1960 thanks to two states that polled in his favor, Illinois and Texas, voting for Senator Kennedy. The latter state has the same Lyndon Johnson mentioned above and the former's population center was controlled by the "Daley Machine" in Chicago. The fraud was clear but Nixon did not contest the election. Yet the authors of the new paper seem to believe fraud, suppression, and manipulating rules in the margins only started in 2020.

They seem to believe that the contested election of 2020 was a concept born in whole form from the minds of Republicans, even though it is still common for older Democrats to insist George W. Bush was not the real President. Democrats contested the 2000 election, all the way to the Supreme Court, just two years after President Clinton refused to resign rather than face impeachment for lying under oath. Two events in two years that found Democrats being less ethical than Nixon. Nixon!

They also seem to believe Gerrymandering is worse now than ever and Republicans are behind that as well. For over 200 years there has been Gerrymandering, named after Massachusetts Governor (and Founding Father) Elbridge Gerry because the legislature during his time in office created a voting district that looked like a salamander. Since then, Gerrymandering was accepted by both sides in a kind of détente. The first party to undo Gerrymandering in modern times in order to marginalize the other party and gain more seats was not Republicans, it was Democrats in California.(1) They ended that détente.

The paper says that it isn't what most of us see as the problem, an acrimonious political climate - cancel culture by 44 percent of the public on each side hoping to cancel the opposite party - but things like requiring an ID to vote that is leading to a breakdown.

Obviously the authors are not scientists but that claim isn't even political science, it's simple advocacy.  

I can't get on a plane, open a bank account, or get my mail at the post office without showing ID. Are those the only things so important it needs ID or the republic shall fall? I can't even adopt a pet without showing ID so claiming that an ID to vote is a way of suppressing Democrats is bananas to most of the public.

That is why positing that attempts to reduce voter fraud by making sure people are legal voters kills democracy doesn't pass the logical smell test. They use efforts to try and prevent fraud for overt criticism of one political party, which is ironic given that the authors lament a breakdown of democracy by deterrence. They protest it while encouraging it.


(1) The 36 percent of the state that was Republican was forced into 20 percent of Congressional districts. Formerly Republican districts are now Democrat. Their Draconian solution was, if I can invoke another Greek, a Pyrrhic victory. Due to it, for the first time in a century, California saw a mass exodus. Democrats tried to blame it on, of all things, the coronavirus pandemic, but dead people don't move to Texas. Driving people out of your state is real electoral tilting.