Though voter theft is an American tradition as old as the right to vote, it has not yet become a key focus of scholarship in the field of political science. Thus, this line of inquiry might benefit from a position that is more critical and imaginative than the one professional political scientists tend to develop. This chapter uses hip-hop lyricism to measure how the concept of theft appears in the political philosophy of Malcolm X against the way this strategy for resource redistribution is discussed in the films The Departed and Scarface as a way to enrich political theory. If the concept of theft can be used to track deception in U.S. democracy, certain contemporary forms of lyrical and visual culture might enrich the academic study of politics, since they produce forms of “political distrust” that counteract the presumptions with which scholars in this disciplinary niche tend to proceed.
The looming threat of “theft” ironically reveals its own enchantment with democracy in that it suggests the U.S. system of electoral politics works perfectly well unless momentarily interrupted by rogue politicians, instead of framing duplicity as a problem that plagues this particular form of political representation at a fundamental level. Still, the idea of stolen democracy that surfaces in lyrical and visual culture illuminates a crucial challenge for political theory in its suggestion that, for the past few decades—but even more intensely during the past few elections—the U.S. government has been administered expressly, if not exclusively, by thieves and hustlers.