Inflection points in a culture are not always obvious. In the 1970’s the political culture changed in America, but not everyone was seeing it. Nixon, who relied on the same political tactics used by both parties through most of the 20th century found himself standing on shifting ground. Johnson and Kennedy, after all, played dirty tricks and used the power of their office to help their election chances. Kennedy beat Nixon because the Illinois Democratic machine rigged the election.
Then all of a sudden the rules no longer applied to Nixon and he was hounded from office. The press was not going to merely be an observer of the battles. They were now part of the fight. Ever since it has been axiomatic that the press is liberal and has different rules for covering Republicans and Democrats. The new rules were in place and everyone in the political class had to adapt to those new rules.
In the 1990’s, the political culture changed again. The Republicans had caught up to the Democrats and were winning a lot of elections. The response from Democrats was public relations. The lesson they learned from Reagan was that a good presentation can change minds, even if the argument was flawed. Since they were convinced Reagan was a loon, the only explanation for his success was the presentation.
The Clinton years gave us “spin”, which is just a nice word for baldfaced lying. An army of “spinners” were sent onto TV to tell one whopper after another, often violating the rules of decorum that had prevailed in public affairs broadcasting for decades. Just as important, the liberal press had to be aggressively partisan. It was no longer enough to be biased. They had to aggressively campaign for their side, even if it meant destroying their own credibility.
I think we will look back and see the Bush years as when it became OK to assault the basic institutions of democracy. In the Bush years, the need for vote reform became a hot topic on the Right. The reason is ballot stuffing operations kept turning up all over the country. The left was furiously trying to sign up illegal aliens to vote and the Right was furiously trying to pass laws to stop them.
By the Obama years, nationwide voter fraud schemes like ACORN were in league with major Democratic financial operations like the SEIU. This story is just another example of how much abuse has crept back into the system as the Left tries to get around the limits of public tolerance for their madness. Of course, open borders makes stuffing the ballot box that much easier, as it provides unlimited stupid people.
That’s just one type of abuse. You also have organizations busing around bums and Latinos to vote at multiple locations. The Left cross-checks the death certificates with the voter rolls and suddenly they have thousands of new votes wherever they need them. This is nothing new, of course. Liberal Democrats have been stuffing the ballot box since the 19th century. Today they have better data and better tools to do it. Still, the outright contempt for the idea of self-governance is what’s appalling.
When you look at the serial abuses from the Obama administration that the press shrugs at now, it is fair to say the ground has shifted once again. Instead of ritualized combat between citizens, who agree on the big issues, American politics is looking more like a gang fight. There are no rules, just what you can get away with. Whatever respect the ruling class had for the institutions of the republic is now gone.
What will come next is the security agencies like the NSA, FBI and CIA getting into the political process like we saw with the IRA. When politics is a pirate ship, then the rules don’t matter. What matters is how you use the weapons you have at your disposal. The political class is looking like a Mafia family now. Soon, a Republican president is going to learn like Nixon that the old rule don’t apply.