Elections, party ideology and other stuff

1. Political ideology – obsolete and misleading classification schemes
Those people who have read more than a small number of my prattlings online (including the people who have had to listen to me actually saying this in person) will know that I am not interested in discussions about the political spectrum that fixate on left vs. right or liberal vs. conservative. I regard those classification schemes as a combination of obsolete, irrelevant and dangerously misleading. (the right vs. left classification originated in the French Revolution, which didn’t exactly occur a few years ago…). The political positions of the major US political parties have actually swapped over in the last 120 years. In the 1860s the Republican and Democratic parties held general positions that are the opposite of where they are today. This is a historical change that is routinely ignored by partisans.
This Tweet storm, converted to Storify, explains many of the slow changes in the positions of the major US political parties in a way that tries to avoid the simplistic liberal vs. conservative dichotomy.

2. What happens if a US election can be shown to be fraudulent? (answer: nobody knows)
One of the big issues that the US faces as a representative democracy at most levels, is what should and can happen if compelling evidence emerges after that the fact that an election was incorrectly or illegally influenced to the point where the result cannot be trusted.
There are no clear rules for what to do in that scenario, at any level in the legal system, including in the Constitution. The courts, understandably, are reluctant to become involved in issues of electoral malfeasance, unless clear violations of narrowly drawn statutes exist (such as rules governing campaign finance). However, the scenario being postulated by many people, where external actors are trying to distort election results, does not fall neatly into any category of legislation. When the Supreme Court was asked to become involved in the recount dispute that broke out in Florida following the 2000 Presidential election, they basically punted, preferring to stay out of what they (probably correctly) saw as a partisan dispute where the law had little of any clarity to say to direct them, and where they would be in a no-win situation no matter which way they ruled.
There is no law that can cleanly and unambiguously be applied to actors who attempt to subvert the electoral process. If, for example, a PAC throws $10bn at a Senate race, that is arguably a gross distortion of the political process; however, due to the conflation of speech with money used to disseminate speech, as laid down by SCOTUS in the infamous Citizens United ruling, spending large sums of money to influence the political process is currently totally legal provided certain funding and expenditure rules are obeyed, and even if the rules are not obeyed, the penalties are irrelevant and trifling when compared with the prize that can be won by the illegal behavior.
The US legal system is not currently organized to punish bad behavior by election actors in any useful or punitive way. If violating electoral law led to winning candidates being immediately disqualified, you can be sure that electoral laws would be respected a lot more, but none of the existing participants in the process wants that to be a possible outcome (remember the old parable of the fox in charge of the henhouse).


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