Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Monday cast doubt on the legitimacy of the November general election, expanding on his long-running theme that the political process is stacked against him.One simple explanation for this is making the rounds: Trump is saying this because he realizes that he's trailing in the polls. He's pre-spinning a possible loss.
“I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest,” Mr. Trump told a rally in Columbus, Ohio.
... Monday’s remarks mark the first time Mr. Trump has suggested the general election is stacked against him. After a post-convention bump for him, recent polls have shown his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton climbing back into the lead after her own convention.
I think that's part of what's going on. But there's more.
As Katherine Krueger of Talking Point Memo notes, "rigged election" is a line that's been beta-tested in the last few days by Trump surrogate Roger Stone:
It was a line of attack that longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone pushed on a podcast with Breitbart's Milo Yiannopoulos that was posted online Friday. Stone suggested voter fraud is "widespread" and said if Hillary Clinton wins a state like Florida after polls show Trump in the lead, the election would be "illegitimate."TPM's Josh Marshall sees this as an extension of the racism in Trump's campaign, for obvious reasons -- though I think it's more than that, as I'll explain below:
"If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government," Stone said. He also promised a "bloodbath" if the Democrats attempt to "steal" the election.
It's true that Republicans have been very disingenuously pushing the 'voter fraud' con for years, especially as the power of minority voting has grown over the last two decades.But what's being discussed by Roger Stone goes way beyond the usual racism in voter fraud allegations. Here's some of what was discussed in that podcast:
... What Republicans politicians have virtually never done was use this canard to lay the groundwork for rejecting the result of a national election. This is Donald Trump, not a normal politician. You should not be surprised if he refuses to accept the result of an electoral defeat or calls on his supporters to resist it.
The other point goes to the raced nature of all voter suppression legislation. They focus overwhelmingly on claims that African-Americans commit rampant vote fraud in "inner cities" and that immigrants, particularly Hispanic immigrants do the same. These are of course two of Trump's main group enemies. Combining the animosity he has already stoked among his followers toward these groups with the claim that they will now try to "steal" the election through fraud is nothing less than striking a match in a gas filled room.
“I think your audience knows, I think we all know, that in this day and age, a computer can do anything. These voter machines are essentially a computer. Who is to say they could not be rigged?” asked Stone on the topic of voter fraud....Stone is arguing that the Bush family arranged to steal the 2004 election. He hates the Bushes. Trump hates the Bushes. Many on the right now hate the Bushes, in part because they've had fairly good relations with the Clintons in recent years -- recall Bill Clinton and Poppy Bush's joint Haiti relief effort, and Jeb presenting Hillary with a public service award in 2013.
“I have no doubt that after the last election, when Karl Rove, who was George Bush’s campaign manager and a Romney partisan, insisted that ‘no no, your numbers have to be wrong,’ he said on Fox, ‘Romney definitely carried Ohio,’ and the reason he was so certain is because it was bought and paid for,” he claimed. “He knew the fix was supposed to be in. Therefore I can only conclude that sometimes things don’t stay bought, and perhaps Obama came in with a better offer.”
... “Diebold’s top executives and owners of the company are major donors to the Bush’s. Is this a major factor on how George W. Bush quite improbably beat John Kerry? An election that all truths on paper, Kerry should’ve won, and Bush should have lost,” questioned Stone.
Some of this is an attempt to reach out to Sanders voters. Here's an InfoWars post that went up today:
Having stolen the primary from Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton plans to use every trick in the book to steal the 2016 presidential election from Donald Trump.That's an obvious allusion to the theory that voter registration problems in Brooklyn prior to the New York primary were an attempt to steal the state from Sanders. (In fact, the voters whose names were removed from the rolls were overwhelmingly Hispanic and over 30 -- two groups not known to be pro-Sanders.)
Trump has to keep the message front and center that Hillary Clinton is an illegitimate nominee. She exploited a rigged system to claim victory over Sanders by relying on superdelegate insiders who were in the tank for Hillary from day one.
Despite Sanders winning state after state, as Donald Trump said, the fixed system set up by the Democrats “makes it impossible for a guy who wins to win,” due to the corrupting influence of superdelegates.
... Black box voting and illegal aliens being allowed to vote will be the two primary methods via which Hillary tries to steal the election, cautions Jones.
“If you think Hillary’s going to stop at stealing the nomination, if you think she isn’t going to try to steal the general election, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you,” concludes Jones.
Jones also interviewed Stone in the past few days, and "fraud" is primarily what they talked about. I've only watched a portion of the interview, which went up on YouTube yesterday, but even the short bit I've watched is insane.
STONE (at 0:44): I mean, if you're a true progressive, you can't possibly vote for Hillary Clinton. She's a crony capitalist and a neocon. She wants to rush off to the next war, hopefully, her financial backer thinks, with Russia.(Stone seems to be saying that Hillary's "crony capitalist" backers will persuade her to start a war with Russia if she's president simply because the Russians embarrassed her.)
STONE (at 1:37): I am convinced that they are looking more at the option of stealing it. This isn't going their way. The fact that the Russians will -- or whoever -- is going to continue to drop truth bombs on the American people in the form of their own documents -- Alex, these are like the Watergate tapes.
JONES (at 2:43): ... and we've got Reuters going back in polls that Trump was winning and changing 'em, directly out of 1984 with the memory hole or the Soviet Union. I mean, we've got Google delisting him. They are pulling out the stops, Roger.(The allegation about Reuters, for what it's worth, is here. I'm not sure what the hell he's getting at wuth regard to Google.)
JONES (at 5:15): Every liberal I talk to says they're voting third party or they're voting for Trump, because Hillary stole it. We have real trouble -- this isn't hyperbole -- all over the country, even in Democrat areas, finding people that support Hillary. Now go through super-elite areas? Yeah, there are some Hillary signs. But that's it. Like Tarrytown here in Austin. So it looks like everybody's just been beaten over the head and is scared, but won't say they're voting for Trump, and I think there's a massive -- I know there's a massive -- closeted voter percentage.(Stone thinks it's 5 to 7 percent.)
STONE (at 6:34): And where will the stealing occur? It'll occur in the big-city machines, where they still have control. I'd watch Chicago...(Jones responds with a JFK allusion.)
JONES (at 8:01): Every day in the news I see themes that emerge that aren't from the talking points of the social engineers, but are from the people. And I'm watching the calls pour in for the next segment, and almost every one of them talks about martial law, a civil emergency, race war being launched to try to cancel or scuttle the election.I gave up after that.
Now, obviously, this is ludicrous. Obviously, if Trump actually believes any of this -- and I think he does -- this is as pathetic as the Romney campaign's decision to credit only Republican-leaning polls, but it's that decision on steroids.
On the other hand, while conspiracies like this have kept Republican base voters angry for years, and have frequently gotten them to show up at the polls, we've never had crazy fraud theories being articulated by a major Republican candidate. That gives them legitimacy in GOP voters' minds. That's much more of a call to regard a Democratic victory as illegitimate than we've ever had.
What's going to be the result of that, assuming Clinton wins? It might just be the same result we've always had -- or Red America could go seriously crazy. Trump seems to have a plan to delegitimize democracy in America in a big way. Are we ready for that?