Trump said that there could be fraud in the presidential election on Nov. 8 – naturally fraud against him that will favor Hillary Clinton.
In 240 years of U.S. history, the losing presidential candidate has always conceded defeat in the end and congratulated the winner.
Trump purposefully employs conspiracy theories. They are highly dangerous because the American society is already strongly polarized.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign remains chaotic. After the Republican candidate refused to support powerful fellow party member Paul Ryan for Ryan’s own re-election, Trump’s vice presidential running mate called up support for Ryan. In Florida, Trump proudly relates that he met with six “Gold Star” families whose children have died in war, yet he refuses to apologize to the family of Muslim soldier Humayun Khan, the soldier who fell in Iraq.
The real estate mogul cannot be pleased by the current polls. At the conservative cable television network, Fox News, Trump is 10 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton. Her lead at CNN is similarly large. So the Republican candidate continues to crank out new slogans. After he labeled the Democrat candidate “the devil” on Monday, he now calls her the “founder of ISIS.”
In the general turmoil (yes, Trump also had a mother with a screaming baby removed from the hall), another disturbing statement by the businessman was almost drowned out. On Monday in Ohio, he said that there will be fraud in the election on Nov. 8 – naturally fraud against him that will favor Hillary Clinton. Word-for-word he said, “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest.”
Since then, the 70-year-old candidate has repeated this statement on Fox News and at his events. It is well-known that Trump likes to purposefully employ conspiracy theories. His political career began with loud doubts about whether Barack Obama was born in the United States and could, as a result, become president. If it is to his benefit, then he also speaks about whether Ted Cruz’s father could have had something to do with the murder of John F. Kennedy.
In April, the businessman, whose success is based on his outsider image, fueled his fans by complaining about “unfair rules” and “stolen delegates.” At the same time, he also began to label Clinton as a crook and call her “crooked Hillary.”
It would, however, be incorrect to just write off these slogans as a simple diversionary tactic during the Khan controversy. Society is already polarized now and these theories lead to the fear that all discussions will continue just as heatedly after Election Day and that even a minimal conciliation will be possible. Whatever is driving Donald Trump (does the “I always win” candidate already need a story to justify his defeat?), his statements about election rigging are extremely dangerous for American democracy for many reasons.
In 240 years of U.S. history, the losing presidential candidate has always conceded his defeat in the end and congratulated the winner. This is true for Samuel Tilden and Al Gore, who in 1876 and 2000 received more popular votes respectively than Rutherford Hayes and George W. Bush. In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Trump evaded this question. The 70-year-old candidate reiterated that he would “not be surprised” if the election were rigged. “The idea that the person who won the presidency did so illegitimately is not new,” said Jesse Walker, the author of the book “The United States of Paranoia.” “What’s new is the possibility of a possible loser in the presidential contest making an issue out of it. I can’t think of another example in the last century,” Walker said.
It could already be observed at the convention in Cleveland that the “right wing is the new middle.” As an official presidential candidate, Trump, with his ruminations about election fraud, makes Republican conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and his website infowars.com socially acceptable. Before his appearance in Ohio, Trump’s old friend and former adviser, Roger Stone, advised the real estate mogul in an interview with the online troll Milo Yiannopoulos to “constantly talk about the pending election rigging. If you can’t have an honest election, nothing else counts.”
According to Stone, the Republican Mitt Romney actually won against Obama in the crucial swing state Ohio—because he paid for it. Stone blusters about a “bloodbath” that will occur if the illegitimately elected Clinton takes the oath of office in the beginning of 2017. To be sure, Trump does not make this radical statement completely on his own, but he in no way distances himself from it.
Trump’s new remarks therefore also deserve attention because many U.S. citizens have great doubts in the accuracy of election results and the functioning of election computers. Each of the 50 states independently organizes voting. In the 2016 primaries, long lines occurred. What is apparent is that supporters of the party that sits in the White House are always more confident. According to the Pew Research Institute, 45 percent of Democrats believe that all nationwide votes cast were correctly tallied in 2006; among Republicans it was 79 percent. In 2012, during Obama’s presidency, the number sank to 21 percent.
With his talk of widespread “election fraud,” Trump is picking up on a favorite topic of Republican politicians at the state level. In order to guarantee a fair election from their viewpoint, the corresponding laws have changed. They require identification for voting, often documents with a photo, and make peculiar distinctions. Thus a firearms license is acceptable as identification, but not a university identification card. (A U.S. representative boasted in 2012, “Voter ID is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”)
Several court rulings in recent days have declared the new rules in North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Kansas to be invalid because they would quite clearly disadvantage poorer U.S. citizens as well as members of minorities. Every political observer in the U.S. knows that the large majority of these groups vote Democratic. When Trump talks about how election fraud purportedly worries him, then he is, like so many times before, playing one group of society against another.
Little Evidence of Election Fraud
Is there really a problem with voting irregularities in the U.S.? The work of Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, is considered one of the best studies of the subject. Over a period of 14 years, he found exactly 13 cases in which there was possible fraud – all told in a period in which about 1 billion votes were cast.
These studies will certainly not keep Donald Trump from continuing to warn about a rigged election. If he should not be elected as the 45th president of the United States on Nov. 8, he and his staunch fans already have an explanation.