“There is tremendous voter fraud,” U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told supporters in Wisconsin this week, before predicting that “1.8 million deceased individuals” will vote for his opponent Hillary Clinton.
Facing a potential wipeout at the polls, Trump has of late used rallies, Twitter and sporadic Fox News interviews to question the legitimacy of an election he is about to fluff.
Studies reveal there is no widespread voter fraud, and, with the possible exception of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the dead don’t vote.
On Tuesday, Trump went further encouraging his supporters to monitor polling stations for electoral wrongdoing, especially in the inner cities.
And fascism’s siren song was heard: “If she’s [Hillary] in office, I hope we can start a coup,” Dan Bowman, 50, recently told The Boston Globe. “She should be in prison or shot.”
“We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes,” he added. “There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed.”
Remarkably, this was posted by an elected sheriff:
Voter intimidation is likely on Nov. 8, especially if Trump’s vigilante “monitors” openly carrying guns.
America has enjoyed a peaceful transition of power after every election since 1876, but the death rattle of Trump’s burlesque campaign is now threatening that long-standing democratic tradition.
As Donald’s surrogates often parrot, he’s an “agent of change.”
Grace in defeat.
Trump isn’t the first to test America’s precariously balanced civics. As recently as 2000, the country looked truly f***ed. An impossibly ugly election was followed by a contested result forcing the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. In a split decision, it ruled that Florida’s disputed votes be awarded to George W. Bush.
His Democratic rival Al Gore won the popular vote, but the Texan took the White House.
Gore had grounds for grievance but noting the potential damage of a continued fight, he conceded victory, yanking the nation back from the brink:
“I also accept my responsibility … to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends.”
Forty years earlier, Richard Nixon gave a terse variation of the same sentiment on national TV:
“I want, I want Senator Kennedy to know, and I want all of you to know, that certainly if this trend does continue, and he does become our next president, that he will have my wholehearted support and yours, too.”
Adlai Stevenson in 1952 promised his support to Dwight Eisenhower, noting: “We vote as many, but we pray as one.” A similar “pledge” was made by Bob Dole in 1996 after he failed to unseat Bill Clinton.
Even McCain’s slapstick bid of 2008 correctly managed the concession, refusing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a platform to deliver her own speech, albeit against the protests of the vice presidential pick, who by this time had gone full “Black Swan.”
Why it is important?
A state cannot function if a third of its citizenry believes the elected leader is illegitimate. As such, the concession speech is a vital release valve after the build up of a lengthy election campaign that cuts deep into the national consciousness.
Yet Trump is now threatening to make the scar tissue permanent with repeated claims of “rigged polls,” “biased” debate moderators and “corrupt media” pushing “false allegations” ― all strings of a marionette controlled by a “global power structure” bent on stealing the election from America’s white working class.
This type of waffle has currency among the orcs and goblins of the internet; a conspiracy theory after all simplifies a complex world. However, for an American presidential candidate, it’s absurd.
In Trump’s defense, he is not responsible for the country’s polarization, nor did he create a society in which truth has lost its value. But he is deliberately exploiting both to undercut the democratic process by claiming the election is “one big fix.”
Why is he doing this?
During July and September, Trump’s flamboyant campaign pulled at the docking ropes threatening to take off. Many national polls showed the portly tycoon level with his seasoned yet very beatable opponent.
The improvement was attributed in part to his newly-appointed campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who successfully yanked Trump’s snout ring around the country giving the impression of a sober operation. However, in October the ship exploded, bursting into flames like the Hindenburg.
The tape and subsequent flood of women claiming to have been assaulted by her boss left even Conway, the smiliest of Stepford wives, floundering and the campaign in a tailspin.
Loyalists cried foul but the tape was revealing. For decades Trump fostered the myth of a dealmaker doyen, a man driven solely by his resolute desire to peak in business.
The video, however, suggested Trump was impelled by nothing more than his perverse need to exert power over women. Perhaps this was already obvious. His willingness to confess to serial sexual assault was not.
Already behind in battleground states, Trump’s turn in the first Clinton debate did little to encourage swing voters. Then came the video and attendant allegations, effectively ending the race.
The second debate proved a turning point, a pantomime of Clinton-bashing that suggested Trump had given up the White House. Instead he would concentrate on maintaining a sizable, hardcore following that he could exploit for cash after the vote.
In Trump’s ear like Grima Wormtongue, Bannon coaxed the willing tycoon to turn on the whole political class ― the Clintons, the Republicans, the media… even the election itself.
The GOP response?
Even Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a man with an almost ideological commitment to cowardice, baulked at fantasies of a “rigged” election, putting out a statement noting he was “fully confident” the vote would be fair.
Which is where we are three weeks out from the vote. The irony for Trump is that his opponent is currently having her soiled underwear shaken out daily by WikiLeaks. If he stopped talking about voter fraud, he could hammer her for the remainder of the campaign on issues far less mythical. But he won’t because his goal is no longer office.
Quoted by Gore, defeated Sen. Stephen Douglas (D-Ill.) told Abe Lincoln in 1860 that “partisan feeling must yield to patriotism.” But Trump requires partisanship to feed his post-election vision.
It appears that after 16 squalid months of race-baiting, lying, debasing women and threatening to upend American democracy, the campaign of Donald J. Trump has yet to reach its nadir. This could end in violence.