Written by Timothy Dillon
Trying to determine which of the two major political parties is the “dirtiest,” as it turns out, is a more insurmountable task than trying to find an honest lawyer. First off, there’s the initial challenge of defining terms: how do we define the “parties” since prior to the Civil War they had different names entirely. Furthermore, there is the subjective nature of “dirty” (one man’s dirty-minded pervert is another man’s well-meaning public servant).
For instance, is Anthony Weiner “dirty” for tweeting his wiener? From that, should sex scandals be included or just scandals that directly involve taxpayer money? Do we include politicians that have been officially convicted of crimes, or do we also include the peripheral participants in political scandals? Do we dare talk about the dirty fighting and bickering that has been waged by super PAC spending in every major swing state? No. We are not going to talk about all that mudslinging; though, it would be fair to include it as dirty politics. (For some interesting ones check out this article).
No matter how you do it, your analysis on political party dirtiness is most likely to skew in one direction or the other, depending on how many sources you’ve dug up. After some careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to say which political party is dirtiest. That being said, I was able to find some truth, some humor, and a whole lot of mischief surrounding America’s political parties.
The most recent political scandal that comes to mind is former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying to sell the then-newly elected President Barack Obama’s former state senate seat. You could tally this one up as a major recent violation by the Democratic party, but it would be unfair considering this type of corruption is fairly constant in Illinois. In fact, just this past year a report was published, entitled, Chicago and Illinois, Leading the Pack in Corruption, produced by the University of Illinois’ Institute for Government and Public Affairs. It details the shameful political climate that Illinois and its residents have had to put up with. Of the four convicted Governors of Illinois, three of them were Democrats. George Ryan, who was in office just before Blagojevich, is still serving his sentence.
Though Chicago is notorious for being a breeding ground of political corruption, Illinois didn’t even make the bottom eight most corrupt states in the Union. Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia all received failing grades and evaluations from the Center for Public Integrity. If we are tallying red and blue states here, that’s three for the Democrats and five for Republicans. Let’s not forget, however, that these ratings came from evaluating the governments, which happen to include both parties. These statistics are a collaborative failing on the part of all of the state governments, and so I award equal (dirty) points to both.
The list of political officials who have been convicted of crimes is staggering, which made fact-checking them a nightmare. Well over 80 confirmed crooks have held public office. Kicking it off is the entirety of Ulysses S. Grant’s administration in the infamous whiskey ring, where the manipulation of whiskey taxes and kickbacks led to over a 100 convictions. Ted Kennedy tragically drove his car into a river, killing the passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. President Nixon joined the league of political liars when he declared, “I am not a crook.” The truth of course was that he was fully aware of the true nature of the Watergate break-ins and the conspiracy surrounding it. The smoking gun tapes were able to prove his involvement and promptly lead to his resignation as President.
Sewergate is a stain on the Reagan administration, but it could be argued that what Reagan was able to accomplish in office legally was worse that any of his illegal activity. Former Chief of the EPA toxic waste programs Rita Lavelle was convicted of giving preferences to businesses and politicians that were friendly to the Reagan administration, and was inevitably sentenced to six months in prison. In addition, Lavelle would be forced to pay a fine of $10,000 for lying to Congress.
These few examples barely scratch the surface.
The more you look into it, the more disheartening it gets. With numerous scandals still unsolved, and new cases being built daily, it is inevitable that these parties will level out for a tie. If I had to declare a winner for this category, it would go to Republicans. They may be the part of Lincoln but they are also the party of Nixon, and that is a hard fact to swallow, even for deep throat.
The Federal Government has sex. They have a lot of sex. Who can blame them? I certainly can’t. In the past ten years the federal government has had a staggering amount of confirmed sex. More so than myself. Republicans have been putting up steady numbers and recently Herman Cain stole the limelight for most controversial due to his bid for the Republican nomination, though the incidents occurred in the late 90’s. My personal favorite has to be former U.S. Representative Eric Massa (D), or as I like to call him, “the tickle politician”.
Massa resigned after allegations of sexual assault and “tickling parties”. On the surface, this is a great sound byte, worthy of ridicule on The Daily Show, Colbert Report or SNL’s Weekend Update. Beneath the scandal, though, lies a bit more darkness. Shortly after his resignation, Massa reportedly attempted suicide on two occasions. Good for a sound byte, but up close the details make me cringe. Somewhere beneath the comedy of juggling a facade of sexual innocence (or ineptitude) there are serious consequences. My rough estimate of political sex scandals in the past decade is up around 50. Some of them are pretty humorous, but they all seem to end the same way: resignation.
Some of the most famous political sex scandals become larger parts of our culture, i.e. everyone who lived through the Clinton administration knows the name Monica Lewinsky. A breathy, seductive rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song is immediately identified as President Kennedy’s extramarital affair with Marilyn Monroe. Of course she was nothing but a notch on his belt; Kennedy has been widely regarded as having numerous extramarital affairs, acquiring the title of “womanizer” on the way. Kennedy may have had the busiest “johnson” in the White House, but his VP Johnson’s johnson had a reputation of its own.
Extramarital affairs, secret sex lives, children born out of wedlock. These are common to both parties. Former Senator John Edwards recently faced the sex scandal of the decade, his indiscretions leaving him fighting for his freedom up until this past May, not to mention a child. Personally, this scandal counts twice against Democrats. This affair was not only handled terribly by Edwards and his campaign, but the whole legal ordeal ended up being a huge waste of resources by the justice department. The point of the trial was to prove that Edwards had indeed stolen taxpayer money to hide his affair, and all it ended up doing was wasting money. Pragmatically, you could say that after the trial, he did in fact waste our money.
In the end…
In the end, both parties have enjoyed their fair share of time under the sheets in order to get on the covers of our newspapers. The rough estimates are Democrats with 27 federal sex scandals since the Civil War and Republicans with 30. Too close to call? Perhaps. Or maybe that just shows us how similar the two parties can be. After reading about scandal after scandal I have come to only one conclusion: Democrats love to have sex and Republicans love to pretend they hate having sex.
There really is no winner here. If we declare one party to be the winner, then the other is not the loser. The real losers are the American people. President Obama took office under the banners of hope and change with a promise to change the political climate of Washington. He discovered shortly thereafter that this was impossible, and has been caught up in the same shady super PAC funded dirty campaign race that Romney started.
So, after all the investigation, the answer to the question: which party is the dirtiest could only be: There’s too much dirt flying around to keep track.