The 2016 race: Can presidential elections be ‘rigged’?
“The hypocrisy is difficult to bear,” said Kevin Williamson in NationalReview.com. When at last week’s presidential debate Donald Trump said, “I’ll keep you in suspense,” as to whether he’ll accept the results of the vote on Nov. 8, it sent liberal pundits into paroxysms of exaggerated horror. By questioning whether the 2016 election is being “rigged,” the Republican nominee was attacking the very fabric of our democracy and fanning the flames of civil unrest. This is a curious charge coming from the Left, given that liberals have spent “the entirety of the 21st century” questioning the legitimacy of the 2000 election, and insisting that a “corrupt Supreme Court intervened to rob Al Gore of the presidency” by halting a chaotic recount and declaring George W. Bush the winner. Not only have “Democrats never accepted the result of the 2000 election,” said Andrew McCarthy, also in NationalReview.com, they’ve spent the years since fighting “tooth and nail against every commonsense measure to protect election integrity.” Given the history of shenanigans in our electoral system, why should any candidate, “least of all Trump, presume the legitimacy of an election that hasn’t happened yet?”
Comparing Al Gore to Donald Trump is like comparing “a fire marshal investigating the cause of a blaze to an arsonist,” said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. The 2000 election was the closest in U.S. history, decided, in the end, by the votes of only 537 Floridians—after thousands of ambiguous ballots were discounted. Gore had every right to ask for a recount, and even though he won the national vote by 500,000, he deferred to the court’s blatantly partisan, 5-4 ruling and “conceded with exceptional graciousness.” Gore had some very legitimate grievances, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Thousands of Democrats “failed to have their votes counted” due to “faulty ballot design”; before the election, Gov. Jeb Bush “purged” Florida voter rolls of felons, and in a convenient mistake disenfranchised thousands of non-felons—most of them black. Trump, conversely, is questioning the election in advance, “on the basis of evidence-free conspiracy theories” about “voter fraud,” a crime that multiple studies have found to be so rare as to be irrelevant.
There is indeed “a conspiracy to rig the election,” said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com, but Trump is the beneficiary, not the victim. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, panicky Republicans “launched an aggressive campaign for new voter restrictions” on the state level, using “false stories and insinuations of voter fraud” to make it harder for minorities to cast ballots. That effort continues, in the form of voter ID laws in multiple Republican-run states that courts have found are specifically designed to exclude IDs used by blacks, Hispanics, and students. Voter suppression, not voter fraud, is the real threat to our democracy
Both sides are hurling apocalyptic charges, said German Lopez in Vox.com, but after the election, “American democracy will be fine.” If Trump loses, he may refuse to concede and claim fraud— but other Republicans will denounce his comments and declare Clinton the victor. And the country will move on. That depends, said Darren Samuelsohn in Politico.com. If Hillary Clinton wins by a comfortable margin, then yes, Trump’s claim of widespread fraud will be just a footnote to the history of a wild campaign. But if the election is “a squeaker” like the 2000 race, the work Trump has done priming his supporters to believe the election is being stolen could “matter a great deal.” God only knows what happens then.
Only in America
■ A Wisconsin election official refused to add a polling station near a college campus because the student voters “lean more towards the Democrats.” Long primary voting lines last spring led the courts to order more polling stations, but City Clerk Kris Teske sought to evade the order by arguing in an email that campus polling booths were “encouraging students to vote more than benefiting the city as a whole.”
■ An air passenger boarded a flight in Charlotte, N.C., with her “emotional support animal”—a duck wearing red shoes and a Captain America diaper. Carla Fitzgerald was surprised that photos of her pet duck, Daniel, became an internet sensation because “to me, having an emotional support duck is normal.” She said she suffers from trauma because of a traffic accident.
Good week for:
Clarity, after the Trump campaign ended a Twitter debate about the candidate’s word choices by confirming that he frequently uses the term “big league”—and not “bigly”—as a synonym for “major” or “a lot.”
Christopher Marlowe, after the Oxford University Press announced that the Elizabethan playwright will be given official co-authorship credit on William Shakespeare’s three historical dramas about Henry VI.
Boxing promoters, after Vice President Joe Biden, 73, said he’d like to take Donald Trump “behind the gym” to punish him for boasting about abusing women. “I’d love that,” Trump, 70, shot back, sarcastically calling Biden “Mr. Tough Guy.”
Bad week for:
Answering nature’s call, after some 100,000 beer-guzzling fans at the Alabama–Texas A&M football game were told not to use the bathrooms during halftime due to a water pressure problem. “There are people in the bathroom,” a reporter noted. “But I do not know if they are flushing.”
Fashion criticism, after 400 Rhode Island women staged a “yoga pants parade” in response to a man’s letter to the local paper complaining that women over the age of 20 looked “bizarre and disturbing” in the form-fitting garment.
Risk assessment, after a new Vox/Morning Consult poll found that 42 percent of Americans said they were afraid of clowns, more than the 32 percent who fear climate change.
Boring but important
Ryan faces speaker revolt
Conservatives in the House of Representatives are pushing to delay the upcoming vote for speaker, set for the week after the election, in a bid to oust Paul Ryan as leader for his refusal to back Donald Trump. Several members of the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus criticized Ryan after he said he would no longer defend the party’s presidential nominee following the release of a video in which Trump bragged about groping women. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows and others want the leadership election to be pushed back until December, in part to see how Ryan handles the negotiations of a must-pass, end-of-the-year spending bill to fund the government. Meadows is being floated as Ryan’s replacement, as is House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan.