Wisconsin GOP spokesman Alesha Guenther told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “We welcome Kanye West and all other candidates who qualified for ballot access to the race.”*

That was certainly not the case earlier in the year when President Donald Trump’s Wisconsin surrogates made sure the president did not face a primary challenger on the ballot.

“Politics ain’t beanbag” we’re told, but less-than-surreptitiously propping up a third party candidate to siphon off votes from your opponent goes beyond hard ball tactics. One Republican told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the party hoped West’s candidacy would attract as many votes as the Libertarian candidate received in 2016. This is not about the promotion of a candidate or set of ideas but an attempt to undermine the candidacy of Trump’s opponent by fraud.

Worse, the attempt seems to be an appeal solely upon race, as the supposed target of the West candidacy is young Black male voters. Republicans are hoping that Black voters will vote for the Black candidate, regardless of the circumstances.

If former Vice President Joe Biden is to be criticized for implying Black voters lack diversity of thought, how much criticism should Republicans receive for actually acting on a belief Black voters collectively are ignorant enough to fall for this stunt? Which assumption is more racist?

It is tempting to dismiss this as a childish prank that proves there are no adults left running the GOP. We certainly have to question the wisdom of everyone who thought this was a good idea.

However, underneath the veneer of the comedy is a dark, do-anything-to-win, democracy-be-damned mentality of the modern GOP. There are no ethical limits anymore, because the only question is the pursuit of temporary power.

This is not conservative, nor is it pursuing conservative ends. The first principle of a supposedly conservative party is to defend the democratic order. Undermining the support of the citizenry for a fair election process is as damaging as anything Trump’s supporters would accuse Democrats of doing. Using race as the weapon for the tactic just makes what the Republicans are doing worse.

Fortunately, there’s a good chance enough irregularities will be found to keep West off the ballot in Wisconsin. There are now two complaints to be considered by the Wisconsin Election Commission. West has already been denied access to the ballot in Illinois. In Wisconsin, questions have been raised about everything from the timing of turning in the signatures to how the signatures were gathered to the validity of the signatures themselves.

If there was fraud in the nomination signature gathering process, the perpetrators should be punished to the full extent of the law to discourage this kind of behavior from happening again.

The Democrats are not taking West’s possible candidacy lightly and have involved their best election attorney, Mike Maistelman**. This is one time we wish the Democratic Party success in their efforts.

.* Yes, it’s easy to imagine Guenther in the Patricia Eden role in “You’ve Got Mail” answering the question how she sleeps at night: “Ah, I use a wonderful over-the-counter drug, Ultradorm. Don’t take the whole thing, just half, and you will wake up without even the tiniest hangover.

.**Maistelman has done prior, unrelated work for RightWisconsin.