Monday, November 12, 2018


The president wants the vote counting in Florida to be stopped:
The president tweeted [this morning] that the results from Election Night should be accepted and both Republican candidates, Gov. Rick Scott, who's running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson, and former Rep. Ron DeSantis, who's running for governor against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, should be declared the winners of their respective races.

But the president's desire to use results from Election Night, which he tweeted on Veterans Day, would disenfranchise many voters whose ballots are counted after Election Day, including voters serving overseas in the military....

Additionally, there is no evidence that ballots "showed up out of nowhere," but rather ballots continued to be counted days after the election -- largely mail-in, absentee and provisional ballots in slow counties like Broward and Palm Beach, which lean Democrat. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or FDLE, has no open investigations into any claims of potential fraud, ABC News confirmed Sunday afternoon.
Tom Pepinsky, a Cornell political science professor, believes that this is a terrible change for the worse in America:
It is now the official White House position that constitutionally-mandated recounts are illegitimate.

... this development is ... almost incalculably bad for American democracy. I now assume that a substantial minority of Americans believe that the results of the elections in Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and California are democratically illegitimate unless the Republican candidate wins....

When electoral procedures lose popular legitimacy, it is nearly impossible to get that legitimacy back. Elections are one great way of building popular legitimacy, and if by assumption they no longer do, what will?

... The downstream consequences from the loss of electoral legitimacy are nearly impossible to predict. I suspect that one consequence will be an ever-greater tolerance for executive malfeasance, on the logic that Congressional representatives and state governments lack democratic legitimacy.
But we're already there. We've been there for years -- long before the polls closed in Florida last week, and, in fact, long before Donald Trump ran for office.

I'm not saying that Trump didn't make things worse -- he absolutely did. Here are the numbers from a March 2017 Quinnipiac poll in response to the question "Do you believe that 3-5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election through widespread voter fraud, or not?" (a claim Trump made after it was clear he'd lost the 2016 popular vote):

Among Republicans, 50% believed Trump's claim that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election; only 38% didn't believe it. Among Democrats and independents, the numbers were much lower.

Just before the election, a CBS poll found that 85% of respondents who planned to vote for Trump believed that voter fraud happens "a lot" (42%) or "sometimes" (43%), while only 27% Clinton voters agreed (7% "a lot," 20% "sometimes").

But these concerns precede Trump. Back in 2012, according to a Fox News poll, majorities of Republicans, independents, and Democrats backed voter ID laws to guard against fraud, although Republicans were much more supportive.
Overall, 70 percent of Americans say voter ID laws are needed to stop illegal voting. That’s far more than the 26 percent who see the laws as a hindrance to legal voting.

An overwhelming 87-percent majority of Republicans say voter ID laws are necessary to ensure only eligible voters participate in elections. Some 74 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats agree.
Democrats (44 percent) are four times as likely as Republicans (10 percent) to consider these laws an unnecessary deterrent to law-abiding citizens casting their ballot.
Presumably after hearing a lot of propaganda from GOP politicians and the right-wing media in favor of voter ID laws, Republicans in a 2014 Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin expressed significant fear of fraud by voter impersonation:
Voters were asked if they believe vote fraud affects “a few thousand votes,” “a few hundred,” “a few dozen” or “less than a dozen” votes each election in Wisconsin....

Among partisans, 54 percent of Republicans believe fraud affects a few thousand votes or more for at least one type of fraud, while 41 percent of independents and 25 percent of Democrats say so. Partisans are somewhat different in the type of fraud they perceive. Thirty-six percent of Republicans think voter impersonation, the type of fraud photo ID requirements are supposed to prevent, affects a few thousand or more votes, while just 7 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of independents agree.
The numbers vary, but it's clear that Republicans fear illegal voting, and voter impersonation in particular. I'm not terribly concerned that President Trump is delegitimizing American elections now because he and other Republicans and right-wing media propagandists have been hard at work delegitimizing our elections for years.

Pepinsky is probably right to say that the delegitimization of elections leads to "ever-greater tolerance for executive malfeasance, on the logic that Congressional representatives and state governments lack democratic legitimacy." I think that explains why right-wingers will tolerate just about anything Donald Trump does: They don't believe any Democrats, or at least any Democrats outside coastal California, New York, Chicago, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia, are legitimately elected. They believe all the others reached office via fraud. Under those circumstances, of course they don't worry about the norm-shattering things are done by Trump or Mitch McConnell. It's all necessary, you see, because any government with more than a handful of Democrats is by definition illegitimate.

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