Are Dems more into Dirt Tricks than Gops?

Someone on a board I frequent is insisting that the Democratic party is consistently the worst offender when it comes to “dirty tricks” regarding election politics. He has a long list of such dirty tricks by the Democrats.

I wish I knew enough eletoral-political history to be able to say whether he’s wrong or not. I suspect he’s wrong–I feel pretty sure that Republicans are at least as “dirty” as Democrats in this respect. But I just can’t say I know this because I don’t have any real command of the facts.

I’ve searched the internet some, but can’t find any good sites w/ clear information on this topic.

Anyone here able/willing to help?

Here is one of the lists of Democrat dirty tricks the guy posted, to give you an idea of the kinds of things he’s talking about:

2000 Bush DWI (was that 6 days before the election?)

2000 Voter obstruction (keep those military votes outa here!)

2000 Voter Fraud (registering felons in florida and elsewhere)

2000 Voter Fraud (bribing street people with cartons of cigarettes)

2000 Election Manipulation (an electoral system designed and run by flordia democrats failed miserably so they had to change the parameters of recounts over and over and over and over and they still lost by every reliable measure)

2004 The Race Card (Kerry pulled it out prematurely this week, infering that he’s heard voter obstruction will occur based on race)

Now, I also think some of the above items are debatable as to whether they really happened the way he described, and it would be interesting to be able to refute him on that line as well. But mostly I’m just interested in being able to match his lists w/ equally sized lists of my own, if possible.

I’ll reference this site and this post if anyone is able to come up w/ any info, so it won’t be like I’ll be claiming your work as my own.

So… any help?



The problem is that these things are almost impossible to quantify. Of all the “dirty tricks”, how many are ever reported in the news or investigated by the government? How do you compare Democratic dirty trick #309 to Republican dirty trick #287? One may affect 50 votes and the other may affect 5,000 votes. As a general rule, I assume that all parties are equally susceptible to taking any advantage they can, whether or not its legal or moral. The differences are in tactics, due to the types of people who belong to the parties, and the types of people who tend to vote for that party’s candidates.

Give me a break. Republicans are known for taking their gloves off at the first opportunity, and I don’t really fault them for it. Negative attacks can win elections better than the “poor me, I’ve been attacked unfairly” of too many Democrats. However, some of these attacks, in my view, really cross the line.

Let me throw a short list of GOP dirty tricks:

Watergate. 'Nuff said.

Bush allegedly did a push-poll in SC in 2000 that asked voters if “the fact that John McCain has a black baby out of wedlock would influence their vote.” (And yes, McCain has an adopted Indian baby. Cite.

In 1990, Jesse Helms played the infamous “Hands” ad on North Carolina TV stations. It featured a pair of white hands crumpling up a rejection letter, while the voice over talks about how people are losing jobs because they are being given to minorities. That ad did in Helms’ black opponent. Video.

1988, Willie Horton. Somewhat less blatantly racist than “Hands,” but not by much.

And it is pretty clear that voter fraud was rampant in 2000. If that guy thinks that it was all done by the Dems, Rush Limbaugh must have a lock on his brain and there’s no use arguing with him.

If you’re looking for a list of Republican dirty tricks, check out Al Franken’s book, Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look At The Right.

Karl Rove seems to have a penchant for questionable behavior when it comes to campaigning. I don’t know if it counts since it was friendly fire, so to speak, but during the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary “push polls” were used to suggest that John McCain illegitimately fathered a child with a black woman. It didn’t help matters that McCain and his wife adopted a little girl with dark skin (I don’t remember where the girl was from).

The truth is that neither side can claim to have clean hands on this issue. Instances can be pointed to where something seemed “dirty” by partisans of either side. When this happens people can cry about how outraged they are, and how they would never resort to such petty tactics because they love the country so much more. To claim that one side is more or less guilty than the other is naive. This other poster was happy to run off a list of tactics used by Democrats while ignoring, or downplaying those on his own side.

All that said, in my opinion Rove seems scuzzier than most on either side, but for all I know conservatives might love the guy.

I think historically, given many big-city machines were Democratic (Chicago, Milwaukee), you could make the case that in terms of voter fraud, the Democratics have had a pretty good track record.

But in terms of dirty tricks, the Republicans became real good with Watergate and Karl Rove has moved them to a whole new level.

I don’t think it’s even a matter of differences in tactics so much as which side is unlucky enough to be busted for Violation X.

Neither side is clean in this, and I suspect the question to ponder is which side is actually covered in less slime.

I’d say that it’s the Democrats, personally. Not becausae they’re Morally Superior (insert echo effect here), but because this generation of Republicans seems to be better at it.

-Joe, waiting for this election to get REALLY nasty

I think that thorough the 1950s and 1960s, the Democrats were the champions at the dirty-tricks game. Who remembers the “For Shame!” Nixon Deed?

But in the early 1970s, the Nixon White House took dirty tricks to a new level.

Today, I’d say that the GOP probably has an edge on the Democrats in this area, but neither side has clean hands.

Just off the top of my head, this week alone we’ve got

…Republicans destroying voter registration forms from Democrats in several states.
…Wisconsin Republican officials wanting to print fewer ballots than voters.
…a Republican operative in Nevada trying (and fails) to get 17,000 Democrats stricken from the voter rolls because they’re allegedly “inactive” (with no evidence provided, natch).
…Floridan Republicans (still) trying to prevent blacks from voting.
…a Republican-owned media conglomerate demanding its TV stations air a 90-minute anti-Kerry documentary in prime time, commercial-free – then denies it’s a political contribution.
…a letter from 360-some-odd economists denouncing Kerry’s economic plans, while hiding the fact that they’re all Republican shills.
Lynne Cheney attacking John Kerry for saying something everyone already knew, that her daughter Mary is a lesbian.

And that’s just this week.

I think that the most reasonable response to this question is that you can’t quantify these dirty tricks and that there is no point trying to measure who is worse. The measurements will be different according to the person doing the measuring, so answering the question factually is impossible, but each individual can answer the question for oneself in one’s own mind according to one’s own scales of what is dirty and what is not.

I was going to say that the only reasonable answer is that it is impossible to quantify the dirty tricks, but Bricker’s response is certainly reasonable so I changed my mind.

I agree with Bricker that both sides have their hands dirty, and I think it’s pointless to argue who is worse. It makes more sense to me if you want to compare two individual people, but trying to compare Democrats and Republicans as a whole and which are using dirtier tricks or more dirty tricks will get us nowhere apart from going in circles. Hell, we won’t even be able to agree on whether some specific deeds should be counted as being performed by Republicans or Democrats or neither.

That last post from rjung is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

To the others who have responded in this post, I can tell my interlocuter “of course republicans have done stuff like what you are talking about as well” as well and often as I’d like, but this is nothing like being able to show that all his lists can actually be matched by lists pointing out republican tricks.

I really appreciate any effort anyone can put into either putting such lists in this thread, or giving me tips on how to construct such lists on my own w/out having to make a full time job out of it.

BTW the more recent the better. For example, my interlocuter likes talking about the 2000 election in this regard.


Here is an interesting story about that. Although this CNN story doesn’t note this fact, it was noted in another article that I can’t find right now (I think from the Washington Post) that Republicans actually did not object to the rejection of overseas military ballots in counties where Gore was more popular even while objecting to the rejection of ballots with exactly the same issues when they were in counties that Bush carried.

The problem in Florida was actually having voters who were not felons scrubbed from the registration list. Since the list of ineligible voters had similar demographics to the felon population (because race was one of the things it went on in trying to match up people on the registration list and felons), a disproportionate number of those scrubbed were black. Here (if you click on Chapter 1) is more than you ever wanted to know about this from the (admittedly liberal) guy who investigated the story. Here is a story about the settlement of the case brought against Florida by the NAACP.

So, basically, the guy you are arguing with has this exactly backwards…These two were dirty Republican tricks.

I have no idea why he says the system was designed and run by Florida Democrats.

Oh yeah…I should add that actually Bush wouldn’t have won by “every reliable measure”. Bush would have won under most scenarios if the recount that was underway at the time, which was only in selected counties, had gone ahead. However, if they had done a full statewide recount (which the Gore campaign did originally propose and the Bush campaign rejected…afterwhich Gore fought for recounts only in certain counties) then Gore would have won under at least some scenarios. (See here.)

At any rate, no serious person doubts that Gore would also have won if that butterfly ballot problem hadn’t occurred in Palm Beach County. Admittedly, that was not fraud and was not something that could easily be fixed afterwards…and it was a ballot that some dumb Democratic person in that county signed off on. But, clearly Bush owes the Presidency to the confusion over that ballot. So, even if he won it in a legal sense, that is only because the intent of thousands of voters was not registered correctly in the final vote tally.

Clearly, Kerry meant to say something like “blacks have taken the highest percentage of casualties” rather than “blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties”. The first sentence could still be a little ambiguous but would more obviously mean that if you look at the percentage of different racial or ethnic groups that have been killed (or injured?), it is highest for blacks.

So, Kerry made a small misstatement over 30 years ago…Stop the presses!

(By the way, if you watch the movie “Going Upriver” you will hear that Kerry had a lot on his mind that day…It is not surprising he’d make a misstatement. He was one of the main coordinators of the entire protest of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and he was literally running around doing other stuff until a few minutes before the meeting. Besides which, I think it was only earlier that week…maybe even the day before…that he found out he was going to testify at all. He was literally picked out by one of the sympathetic senators [Fulbright(?)] when that Senator went down to the Mall and met with the protest leaders because the Senator was particularly impressed by Kerry and thought he would be the best spokesperson for the cause.)

And, clearly that last post was meant for a different thread!


Actually, if you look at the truth of each of these instances, you’ll find that none of them are dirty tricks at all. These characterizations are pretty self-serving and dishonest.

I wouldn’t classify this as a dirty trick. Yes, it’s insincere posturing, but it isn’t an attempt to actually steal the election through dishonest means.

The more I think about it, the whole premise of the person being described in the OP really is illegitimate. The poster that the OP describes is conflating two kinds of things – misleading things that people might say in order to cast aspersions on their opponents on the one hand and, on the other hand, “dirty tricks,” which are actual attempts to subvert the political process. Ironically, some of the examples given by the poster constitute infractions of the first category, which puts forth the notion that putting forth a statement characterizing an issue or an opponent’s position or actions is equivalent to subversion of the democratic process. It’s pretty sneaky.

True, but it’s still a cheap shot, especially since the Cheneys didn’t make half as much of a fuss when Alan Keyes said worse about Mary.

Anyone interested in this thread should also check out the current “Republican voter intimidation tactics” – – where we have discussed the following Republican dirty tricks reported in the media so far this year:

From The Nation website, “The Daily Outrage” column, September 23, 2004 –

From the Daily Kos, 9/27/04,

Secretary Blackwell is, by the way, a Republican.

Meanwhile, Pubs in Nevada and Oregon are trying a new tactic: Get Dems to “register,” then destroy their registration forms after the deadline, so when election day comes it’s too late for them to remedy their status.

From Nevada – :

From Oregon –

From South Dakota –,35221:

From West Virginia –

We’ve had another recent thread: “Right-wingers trying to block college-student voter-registration drive” – At the University of Arizona, the local Fox News team showed uo a campus voter registration drive of the Network of Feminist Student Activists and accused them of committing and tried to intimidate the organizers, telling them they might be committing a felony if they registered any student whose permanent address was not in Arizona. The really disturbing part is that the Pima County Recorder actually appeared on that Fox News report and backed up their position, declaring that students who do not intend to stay in Arizona indefinitely are not allowed to register to vote in Arizona. Which is not the law. In fact, any otherwise eligible voter who goes to register up to 29 days before the election, and plans to remain in Arizona for that 29 days, is allowed to register and vote. The Arizona Secretary of State and the Pima County Registar’s Office were forced to issue a retraction. Fox News ran a correction but placed all the blame for the error on the public authorities. From the website of the Feminist Majority Foundation –

I just came across an article in the October 2004 issue of The Progressive –
“Bullies at the Voting Booth,” by Anne-Marie Cusac – – which provides the best summary of this problem I’ve seen to date. The article looks closely at Republican voter-intimidation tactics being used this year in all the “swing states” – Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Dakota (SD is not a swing state in the presidential election, Bush has it sewn up, but there is a tightly contested Senate race – the Pubs are trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle). It’s well worth a read.

Oh, and in answer to the OP – no, I don’t think Dems are more prone to dirty tricks than Pubs. Not this year, anyway. :mad: