Trump’s Dangerous ‘Rigged Election’ Nonsense

The Republican nominee is threatening our fragile democracy.

2016 Election Buttons

I agree without reservation with Rick Hasen’s post, “Trump’s Irresponsible Vote-Rigging Statements Literally Putting Our Democracy at Risk.” It defies excerpting, so I’ll let you read it for yourself.

I would only add that, while Trump’s personal attempts to delegitimize the political process are unprecedented for someone at the top of a major party ticket, it’s part of a trend that’s been going on in American national politics for a quarter century. Going back to the 1992 election, substantial elements of the losing party have contended either that the election was outright stolen (2000, 2004) or that the winner was morally (1992, 1996) or legally (2008, 2012) unqualified for the presidency. While those remained minority views, they contributed to a poisonous atmosphere that made governing next to impossible. The old-time notions of a “honeymoon period” and a “mandate” for the winner are now a distant memory.

As Hasen says, “Our democracy is a fragile thing which depends upon accepting the rules of the game.”

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FILED UNDER: Politics 101, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    the election was outright stolen (2000,

    I wouldn’t say ‘stolen’, more like ‘given away’. Not even the signatories of that infamous SC decision were willing to stand behind it.

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    “It’s all rigged unless i win.” is a excellent post election marketing idea. :))

  3. Kylopod says:

    Going back to the 1992 election, substantial elements of the losing party have contended either that the election was outright stolen (2000, 2004) or that the winner was morally (1992, 1996) or legally (2008, 2012) unqualified for the presidency.

    That you lump together the very real controversy surrounding the 2000 election results with the pure fantasy in the other examples is a measure of your taste for false equivalence.

  4. CSK says:

    @Mark Ivey:

    Oh, it’s all about post-election marketing, plus, of course, salving his monster-sized but exceedingly fragile ego. He-men like Trump don’t lose elections to girls. No, they only lose if the election was rigged.

    But this is hardly a new position for Trump. He’s been suggesting this for months: not only that the election is rigged, but the debates are as well.

  5. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Kylopod:

    IOKIYAR forever.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: I would add one thing — the Democrats in congress worked with George W. Bush, and did not treat him as if he was illegitimate.

    No wide-ranging special prosecutors wandering through everything that George W. Bush did in his past and his personal life. No attempts to impeach. No lockstep opposition just to oppose. No denying appointees to the Supreme Court a hearing. They didn’t even seriously investigate torture or why we went into Iraq on bad evidence, or the Brooks Brothers Riot (or any of the other 2000 Florida shenanigans).

    But, the Democrats did oppose privatizing Social Security, so I suppose both sides do it, and it’s just these times we live in, and not a reflection on either party.

  7. CSK says:

    Trump’s doubling down on the incendiary lunacy:

    1. Last night he accused Hillary Clinton of being disloyal to Bill, though he added there was no reason she should be in view of Bill’s extramarital affairs.

    2. He also said: “She might be crazy.”

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @YOURMAMA: I want to thank YOUMAMA Johnson for that example of genuine western gibberish.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    I won’t be at all surprised to see a Trump defeat leading to white supremacist terrorism in this country. They’ll have gotten their hopes up and that’s usually when trouble starts. But I imagine the FBI will make short work of them.

    There has been a long-running and very effective effort on the right to disconnect people from reality itself. It’s been going on for a long time, certainly since Reagan. Reality is incompatible with so-called conservatism as conceived of by the GOP. Rather than adjust their ideologies they’ve simply brainwashed millions of people. And now that the passive, complicit and utterly cynical conservative punditocracy sees what rough beast they’ve summoned from the pit, they’re freaking out.

    Thanks to the Republican party we are as a nation are now stuck with a vast number of intellectual castrati, people who can no longer be reached, people who live in a fantasy world, who can be swayed this way or that by the first ludicrous strong man to come along.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod: They’re all different events. In 2000, as Hasen notes, Gore graciously conceded and refused to engage in delegitimating the outcome. But there’s not much doubt about the actual process: Gore got more votes nationwide but lost every count in Florida. That SCOTUS stopped a recount that was in violation of both US and Florida law was controversial, as were issues with Democrat-designed butterfly ballots that turned out to be confusing.

    I think it quite possible that more people who voted for president in Florida intended to vote for Gore than Bush but thought that the initial count should have stood. Absent evidence of fraud, I’m highly dubious of recounts in close elections precisely because they lead to delegitimation. The side that won the first time only to have it taken away from them will never believe it wasn’t stolen.

    @CSK: Recall that he was playing the “rigged” card throughout the primaries as well.

  11. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    But there’s not much doubt about the actual process: Gore got more votes nationwide but lost every count in Florida.

    He lost a recount that was prematurely halted. Subsequent analysis found that Gore would have won the recount under at least some criteria. (Ironically, he was likelier to win under the criteria that the Bush team favored.) And that’s without getting into the whole Butterfly Ballot fiasco.

    Absent evidence of fraud, I’m highly dubious of recounts in close elections precisely because they lead to delegitimation.

    The controversy of the 2000 results wasn’t over fraud but badly designed ballots and voting technology. It was “stolen” in the sense that the side that had the most to lose from a recount stopped it from happening.

    I agree that groundlessly attacking the legitimacy of election results is damaging to democracy. But you know what’s even more damaging to democracy? Actual illegitimate election results.

    That’s part of what Justice Stevens was alluding to in his famous dissent in Bush v. Gore when he wrote, “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

    To mention the very legitimate objections to the 2000 results in the same breath with the conspiracy theories about the Diebold voting machines or ACORN or the birthers is ridiculous. I like you, James, but here you are demonstrating one of the worst tendencies in modern journalism where you place all accusations into the same category under the mistaken belief that you’re being more “objective” by failing to take a stand on their relative merits. You might as well put Woodward & Bernstein in the same category as the 9/11 truthers, since both accused a presidential administration of engaging in a criminal conspiracy.

  12. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: Recounts generally discover the largest numbers of errors in the busiest, densest and most urban precincts. Are you sure you don’t oppose them just because they tend to favor Democrats?

    There should have been a statewide recount in Florida — not the precinct by precinct crap that Gore was trying to do — and the result may have gone either way, but it would have been far more legitimate than what we got.

    The butterfly ballot was terrible, and there was nothing we could do after the fact.

    Hanging chads being counted differently across the state, however, was a problem that could have been solved. As was the machine counted “fill in the bubble” ballots, where the machines reject a large number that a human can see clear intent from.

    The initial counts are made quickly, and with a decent margin of error. Most elections are decided by something greater than that margin of error, so there is no need to do a recount — but the results are still “wrong”. Everyone even minimally involved in the process knows this.

  13. CSK says:

    @James Joyner:

    Yes. Now that you mention it, I do recall he was carrying on about rigging during the primaries as well. I have to hand it to the man: He’s not smart, he’s not honest, he’s not ethical, and his ignorance is staggering, but he knows how to manipulate the suckers. He once said that he’d played to people’s fantasies. He might as well have said he plays to people’s paranoia. Or, more properly, exploits it to full advantage.

  14. Modulo Myself says:

    The 2000 recount was bizarre. Republicans were genuinely angry at its existence, and they were too dumb to realize that their anger came from their fears that more people intended to vote for Gore than Bush (pro-tip: they did). Now Bush is being hugged by Michelle Obama, but it was his campaign that flew down a bunch of hacks to take over a recount station. And I’m willing to bet all of those morons were probably worried about Dem voter fraud a year later, because of black people etc.

    Trump has just wiped away any pretense: the GOP has always been this inferior, at least for as long as I’ve been voting. It doesn’t get the Democrats off the hook and it’s not like liberals are morally superior, but there’s something fundamentally wrong if you end up as a Republican. I never really believed in Freud or repression and authority being the key to an individual, but holy hell is there a frenetic need to conform and to despise the other in conservatives. Whatever happens next, expect media conservatives to not understand it, to equivocate, and to hide under their beds while receiving paychecks.

  15. Modulo Myself says:

    Also, it’s pretty clear that given a choice, Trump would gladly elect to rig an election in his favor. And all of his advisors. And his voters. And if there was irrevocable evidence that he cheated I’m willing to bet that most public conservatives would be equivocating 24/7.

  16. Modulo Myself says:

    @Gustopher:

    If I remember correctly, the recount laws made it difficult for there to be a statewide recount. The Supreme Court ruled initially 7-2 (again, memory) that only a few counties being counted was unconstitutional. The asinine 5-4 majority then ruled that it would be a violation of a voter’s rights to recount any votes, I think.

  17. DrDaveT says:

    Trump’s personal attempts to delegitimize the political process are unprecedented for someone at the top of a major party ticket,

    As bad as they are, I wouldn’t say ‘unprecedented’. As various colleagues of mine have noted, the echoes of Andrew Jackson are pretty remarkable in some ways.

  18. stonetools says:

    The main form of “election rigging” I see is the Republicans continuing to push their voter suppression schemes, as in Wisconsin:

    Last August, a federal appeals court refused to reinstate a lower court’s order that would have dramatically weakened a voter suppression law in Wisconsin. It did so based on assurances by the state’s attorneys that Wisconsin had already taken adequate steps to mitigate the law’s effect on voters facing disenfranchisement.
    It turns out those assurances were not true. As Ari Berman reports for The Nation, voters in Wisconsin still face potentially insurmountable obstacles between themselves and the ballot box. And these are the very same obstacles the state told the appeals court that it would eliminate.

    Read the whole disgraceful thing.

    https://thinkprogress.org/wisconsin-may-have-lied-to-a-federal-court-in-order-to-get-away-with-voter-suppression-5e0379ee354c#.ojlias9fz

    Meanwhile Trump’s talk seems to hint at the next step-which is that if Trump loses, citizens should take steps to reverse the results of this “rigged” election.

  19. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    Sadly, I think that shining example of authentic frontier gibberish has been deleted.

  20. dmichael says:

    Dr. Joyner: I agree with your conclusion but not your history. Challenges to the legitimacy of the presidential elections goes back before 1992. Our late, unlamented Richard Nixon did the same in 1960. After the 1960 elections, the Republican National Committee launched investigations, demanded recounts in eleven states, and filed lawsuits in Illinois, Texas and New Jersey. I am not even confident that the levels of anger and potential for violence in Trump supporters are much different than in the Nixon supporters back then. President Kennedy was assassinated three years later.

  21. stonetools says:

    @Gustopher:

    There should have been a statewide recount in Florida — not the precinct by precinct crap that Gore was trying to do — and the result may have gone either way, but it would have been far more legitimate than what we got.

    Agree. Win or loss, a total recount should have done, and the Supreme Court should have ordered this, and instead they ordered the recount stopped, with Bush ahead-the worst of all possible outcomes, at least if you want an outcome which everyone could accept as legitimate. But hey, liberals need to just “get over it”.

  22. CSK says:

    I haven’t yet looked for a verifying link, but didn’t Trump at some point last summer or spring predict that if he lost the election because of rigging that there would be violence? He did it in his usual slimy way, not directly making the prediction but using his favorite locution of “many people say that” there will be an uprising of some sort

    I realize one probably shouldn’t take seriously what Trump’s Internet keyboard warriors say about arming themselves, but some of them seem to be salivating at the thought of shooting people.

  23. Gustopher says:

    If Trump wins, I will accept him as the legitimately elected President, barring significant, credible evidence of fraud or irregularities that would have affected the outcome. (2000 crossed that threshold, to the point where I have no idea who won, but 2004 did not). I will be horrified by my country, but I will accept him as President.

    That said, I think voting in this country is messed up — we should have mandatory hand recounts for elections decided by less than 2%, all voting machines should provide a paper audit trail, voters should have to prove they are citizens either when registering or when voting, voters should have is at the polls, that id should be very easy to get (with varying levels of documentation required by age, since it was less than a lifetime ago that people were being born at home in some parts of the country).

    (Note: I oppose all voter id laws until the ids are easy to get — I would want it to be as easy as getting to the post office, not the DMV — there is far more evidence of voter disenfranchisement than fraud)

  24. J.D. says:

    The Rigging WAS Done For The Primaries… By The Dems.. In Favor Of Hillary… And Against Bernie.
    And It Will Continue For The General Election… By The Dems.. Now With An Assist From Department Of Homeland Security (since the dems got caught during the primaries)… In Favor Of Hillary… And Against Trump.

    Don’t Fall For Their Concocted “Russian Hackers” Narrative…. It’s Subterfuge.. Diversionary Tactics. They’re Using That Narrative To (UNCONSTITUTIONALLY) Hand Over TOTAL CONTROL Of OUR Election To DHS…. And Remove ALL Transparency

  25. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @J.D.: o e would think that taking the time to capitalize every single word would give the logic centers of the brain time to catch up to the parts writing the gibberish, but no…

  26. David M says:

    GOP politicians at nearly all levels of government have been pushing voter fraud nonsense for over a decade now. How is that different from Trump?

  27. M. Bouffant says:

    Not even to mention Trump’s recent calls for what can only be seen as voter intimidation.

    Trump’s worry doesn’t seem to be that legitimate voters will be prevented from casting a ballot; his concern is that they will vote.

    And his flunkies make it very clear:

    At that event, Trump told the crowd to “go down to certain areas” and “make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.” Another speaker at the Altoona event, GOP Rep. Bill Shuster, specifically called out one of the state’s largest urban areas, saying that “the people in western and central Pennsylvania have to overcome what goes on down in Philadelphia.”

  28. stonetools says:

    @David M:

    I think the difference is, while those politicians are content to pass voter suppression laws, Trump seems to be urging his supporters to take private action to engage in voter suppression-which goes a step further down the road.

  29. gVOR08 says:

    @David M:

    GOP politicians at nearly all levels of government have been pushing voter fraud nonsense for over a decade now. How is that different from Trump?

    That. A thousand times that. This is the point many of us keep trying to make. Trump is not an aberration in Republican politics. He is the outcome. This is what comes of lying to the rubes for 40 years and creating a Conservative Echo Chamber alternate reality.

    I would have said Trump is the culmination of GOP politics, but I fear ’20 will be worse.

  30. JohnMcC says:

    I’d like to add a thought about the consequences of large numbers of Trump supporters’ waking up on 9Nov with Pres-elect Clinton in the headlines.

    What is so ‘delicate’ and ‘fragile’ about America that we have to tread softly around these people? Are there going to be millions of spontaneously activated ‘2d amendment people’ marching on Washington? Will they besiege the the White House? Will they burn the Reichstag down?

    Somehow I doubt it. There may be some Bundy-critters out there occupying sensitive gov’t facilities like the Malheur Wildlife Preserve. Somehow I think law enforcement is up to the task. If there is a resurgence of white militias of the sort that Timothy McVeigh was involved with probably law enforcement is up to that also; they seem to be damn good at finding nutcases willing to buy fake explosives in the cause of Allah.

    The ‘dangers’ of that sort are in our past. John Brown in Kansas and Harpers Ferry is one. Another is Nat Turner.

    Notice how the nation tip-toed around those dangers to our ‘fragile, delicate’ democracy? Nor do I. Notice a difference? Could it be in their complexions?

    Will millions of working class white men suddenly descend on Belize or Honduras? The thought of hordes of Archie Bunkers rushing for the exits is so amazingly unlikely it would make a good plot for a movie; call it Idiocracy 2.

    Possibly these folks will petulantly decide that they are too good to ever stain their fingers with another US ballot? Wouldn’t THAT be great!!

    Why should I give a flying fig whether millions of Trump supporters get tragically injured feelings on the night of 8Nov? Frankly, I’m looking forward to it with the glee of a Tennessee Volunteer fan watching the faces of the Georgia crowd this past Saturday. (And THAT was delicious!)

    I don’t think that America has a ‘fragile’ or ‘delicate’ democracy. As imperfect as it is (often and very seriously imperfect!) it’s a very damn tough country. It has something in it that brings young Japanese American boys out of barbed-wire surrounded camps to join the US Army and fight for her. Compare their feelings with the tender emotions of Trump supporters and tell me I need to worry about those jerks.

  31. Andrew says:

    I hope that when this cult leader in Trump loses, he and his ilk do a Jim Jones goodbye.

    Wait, I am not a reality television star, con-man, I guess this type of talk will not as forgivable right?

    Oh, well.
    Enjoy the Kool-Aid.

  32. Mister Bluster says:

    WIKI WHOOPS!

    Trump confidant predicts WikiLeaks will end Clinton’s campaign this week
    Roger Stone, who served on Trump’s campaign before leaving in August 2015, tweeted early Sunday morning that WikiLeaks may have some revelations about Clinton coming.
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com

    Report: WikiLeaks cancels highly anticipated Tuesday announcement due to ‘security concerns’
    http://www.foxnews.com

  33. stonetools says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Looks like Clinton’s enemies are out of bullets , whereas the anti-Trump forces are just getting warmed up.Apparently, if you screw people over and over for decades, some of them won’t forgive and forget, but will stick the knife when it counts.

    Who knew?

  34. Mister Bluster says:

    @stonetools:..Looks like Clinton’s enemies are out of bullets , whereas the anti-Trump forces are just getting warmed up.

    I said it several weeks ago and I stand firm.
    “I do not claim the ability to predict the future.
    I do not know who will be inaugurated President USA in January 2017.”

  35. angryswife says:

    Are you really that foolish, blind and biased?? The election WAS rigged in the primary in favor of corrupt Hillary!! PROVEN!
    So far it’s been PROVEN that DEAD people are rising up out of the grave to go vote for corrupt Hillary!!
    RIGGING, CHEATING and LYING have been PROVEN!!
    WOW!

  36. anjin-san says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Dude, the indictment will be handed down any day! Any day, I say…

  37. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @angryswife: If you are going to run around shouting that something has been PROVEN, you might want to include, you know, the *proof.*

  38. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @CSK: Yes it was! And I, for one, am angry that I missed seeing it! This is TOTALLY UNFAIR!

  39. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @dmichael: Post hoc much?

  40. Mister Bluster says:

    @anjin-san:.. the indictment will be handed down any day!

    Quite frankly I think there’s a better chance that Christ will return first.
    But if you say so…

  41. Lit3Bolt says:

    Why should I give a flying fig whether millions of Trump supporters get tragically injured feelings on the night of 8Nov? Frankly, I’m looking forward to it with the glee of a Tennessee Volunteer fan watching the faces of the Georgia crowd this past Saturday. (And THAT was delicious!)

    Agreed on all points, especially this one.

    Georgia tears taste like the sweetest grapes to me.

  42. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mister Bluster:..Quite frankly I think there’s a better chance that Christ will return first.

    Good thing I didn’t say “a better chance that someone will have a 12lb 7oz baby first.”
    https://article.wn.com/view/2016/10/02/Woman_Gives_Birth_To_One_Of_The_Biggest_Babies_Ever_Born_Pho/

    “At one point I got frustrated because Mathew thought I wasn’t pushing hard enough when I really was,” she said. “I think when he finally came out people [realized] what I had been up against.”
    New mom Charlotte Hawthorn 23.

    Trigger Warning! Great baby pics!

  43. Mr. Bluster says:

    OTB July 9, 2012
    Republican Group To Name Donald Trump “Statesman Of The Year”
    This would also seem to suggest that, whether nor not he has a speaking role, Donald Trump will be a presence, and an attraction for the media during the Republican Convention. That will end well, I’m sure.

    Fiona says: Monday, July 9, 2012 at 14:10
    Why anyone would pay to see Trump if it didn’t involve a chance to piss on him is beyond me.
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/republican-group-to-name-donald-trump-statesman-of-the-year/

    Gotta’ luv that gal!

  44. al-Alameda says:

    Loyola University (in Los Angeles) reviewed the results of 1 billion ballots cast in the period 2000 to 2014 to determine the magnitude of in-person voter fraud, and, by way of MediaMatters.org:

    “Loyola University Law School professor Justin Levitt, who investigated “any specific, credible allegation” of in-person voter impersonation fraud, found a total of “about 31 different incidents” since 2000 out of over 1 billion ballots cast. From an August 6, 2014 piece Levitt wrote for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog:”

    Think about that: 31 out of 1 billion, or 0.00000003 of one billion, 3 millionths of one percent. Yet, a majority of Republicans polled now do not believe that their votes will be fairly counted.

    In-person voter fraud is potentially less a problem that absentee voting, but Republicans do not care about absentee voting at all, likely because in the past absentee voters tended to be Republican votes. In-person voter fraud is far less a problem than the dumbed down Republican voters who believe that it is a problem.

  45. barbintheboonies says:

    It`s all rigged so what else is new. When our democracy was destroyed by money and special interest. It has been this way from the dawn of time. Greed has no bounds. We get to pick between the few that may be the best for our special interest.

  46. Pch101 says:

    @al-Alameda:

    Yet, a majority of Republicans polled now do not believe that their votes will be fairly counted.

    American conservatism today is driven by passionately held views that are based upon assertions that are demonstrably false. It has become a joke, a sort of handicapped parking space in the political sphere for room temperature IQs with lousy research skills.

    They insist on having their own media because credible sources won’t back them up. Oddly enough, they have taken a page from Holocaust deniers who also insist that the mainstream suppresses their views and who rely upon their own alternative media to both spread their views and provide them with a sense of community, given that reality will not accommodate them.

    The best way to steal an election is to control the intake and counting of the ballots. An individual voter does virtually nothing to change the result of an election, but a registrar who can bar discourage and not count the votes of the “wrong” kind of voters certainly can. In the worse case scenario, they’ll simply avoid counting blocs of ballots that they suspect will go against them.

  47. DrDaveT says:

    @angryswife:

    So far it’s been PROVEN that DEAD people are rising up out of the grave to go vote for corrupt Hillary!!

    Anyone want to take bets on where she ‘learned’ this ‘fact’?

    1. FOX News
    2. The voices in her head
    3. Anonymous phone tip
    4. Bible Study at Westboro Baptist Church
    5. Pravda, as re-tweeted by Trump
    6. Bernie Sanders’s barber
    7. …?

  48. anjin-san says:

    Trump’s Dangerous ‘Rigged Election’ Nonsense

    Republican Party actively working to undermine democracy in America.

    FTFY

  49. al-Alameda says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Anyone want to take bets on where she ‘learned’ this ‘fact’?

    1. FOX News
    2. The voices in her head
    3. Anonymous phone tip
    4. Bible Study at Westboro Baptist Church
    5. Pravda, as re-tweeted by Trump
    6. Bernie Sanders’s barber
    7. …?

    7. …? = Vince Foster

  50. DrDaveT says:

    @al-Alameda:

    7. …? = Vince Foster

    Zombie Vince Foster… for the win!

  51. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    She sounds a lot more like a Bernie or Bust dead ender than a Trumpkin.

  52. Tyrell says:

    The1960 election also had some problems, in the Chicago vote counting.
    I had a relative pass away last year. I am sure that I could go vote using his name with no problem.