Yesterday I posted on Paul Waldman’s (Washington Post/Plum Line) prediction about a backlash to a Clinton win. (Updated version is here.) It is looking more and more like Trump has not just gone to war against his own party, the GOP. In fomenting that backlash, he has also gone to war against his own country.
“Rigged”: Trump sows seeds of distrust in American transfer of power
Trump’s claims about the election being “rigged” would be humorous if they were not so seditious. Like most conspiracy theories, his claims depend on the confluence of a series of improbable events (like all the states tampering with their ballots). But his supporters believe this stuff. In the immediate future, it clearly is an attempt to delegitimize a Clinton presidency. As a result, in the longer run, there is a segment of the electorate who will carry a distrust of one of our democratic institutions.
Jill Colvin (AP, Daily Star) reports on Trump’s renewed challenge to the legitimacy of the election.
A beleaguered Donald Trump sought to undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. presidential election on Saturday, pressing unsubstantiated claims the contest is rigged against him, vowing anew to jail Hillary Clinton if he’s elected and throwing in a baseless insinuation his rival was on drugs in the last debate.
Not even the country’s more than two centuries of peaceful transitions of political leadership were sacrosanct as Trump accused the media and the Clinton campaign of conspiring against him to undermine a free and fair election.
In a country with a history of peaceful political transition, his challenge to the election’s legitimacy — as a way to explain a loss in November, should that happen — was a striking rupture of faith in American democracy. Trump has repeatedly claimed without offering evidence that election fraud is a serious problem and encouraged his largely white supporters to “go and watch” polling places in certain areas to make sure things are “on the up and up.”
As I’ve said, Trump does not believe in American democracy. That “rupture of faith” will do lasting damage as Julie Pace (AP, Daily Star) observes.
Donald Trump keeps peddling the notion the vote may be rigged. It’s not clear if he does not understand the potential damage of his words — or he simply does not care.
Trump’s claim — made without evidence — undercuts the essence of American democracy, the idea that U.S. elections are both free and fair, with the vanquished peacefully stepping aside for the victor. His repeated assertions are sowing suspicion among his most ardent supporters, raising the possibility that millions of people may not accept the results on Nov. 8 if Trump does not win.
Trump’s supporters appear to be taking his grievances seriously. Only about a third of Republicans said they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence that votes on Election Day will be counted fairly, according to recent poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
“Corrupt media”: Trump’s narcissism endangers a free press
The Washington Post reports another symptom of Trump’s war on America, The press always got booed at Trump rallies. But now the aggression is menacing. Trump always has been at odds with reporters, especially when they report on things that make Trump look bad. (It’s part of his narcissistic syndrome.) However, the behavior of the crowds at his rallies is sufficiently threatening that the members of the press have become fearful for their safety. Here are snippets from the Post’s report.
Donald Trump’s rallies have never been the friendliest places for reporters. But lately, as Trump has come under increasing fire, an unwelcoming atmosphere for the press has turned into outright hostility.
Reporters who cover Trump on the campaign trail say his supporters have become more surly and abusive in the past week, egged on by a candidate who has made demonizing journalists part of his stump speech.
Trump’s traveling press contingent of about 20 has been met with boos, shouts and obscenities as it entered — as a single group — the venues where Trump has spoken this week. One reporter who is part of the traveling group described it as “a mob mentality,” particularly at larger rally sites.
At Trump’s rally in Cincinnati on Thursday, the crowd chanted, “Tell the truth!” as reporters trooped into the designated pen that the campaign has long used to corral reporters. Another recurring chant this week: “CNN sucks!”
Some 15,000 Trump supporters showered the small group with prolonged boos and heckling during the Cincinnati rally. Several people approached the press barrier to yell directly at the group and to make obscene gestures, “which has made a lot of people uncomfortable,” according to one journalist.
Reporters are now concealing or removing their press credentials when leaving the pen to avoid confrontations with Trump’s supporters. The atmosphere is particularly threatening to female reporters and to female TV reporters whose faces are well known, reporters say. (“The camera draws the hate,” as one put it.) Some reporters have wondered aloud about the need for more security, or at least more barriers to separate them from the crowd as they enter and exit Trump’s events.
Trump has had one of the most contentious relationships with the press of any major candidate in memory. In addition to confining reporters to pens at his rallies, he has banned as many as a dozen news organization at various times in the past 15 months. He has also threatened, if elected, to “open up” libel laws to make it easier for public figures like him to sue news outlets whose reporting displeases him.
Trump’s sowing of distrust of the media is a blow against another of our democratic institutions – a free, independent press. It reflects the totalitarian instincts of a man who knows little and cares less about America the Great. If Trump really, truly cares about “Make America Great Again”, he should be strengthening, not weakening the press.
Trump is the threat from within
Not since the early days of our republic has America been in such a precarious position. To be sure, we have suffered attacks – Pearl Harbor and World Trade Center – that threatened our national security. But those threats came from external sources and we came together and survived. Donald Trump, in contrast, is a clear and present danger. He is so much so because he is leading a segment of America in attacks against itself. To paraphrase Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is some of us.
The path forward for Trump’s deranged campaign is ugly and dangerous to the nation – distrust yesterday to delegitimization today to destabilization tomorrow. We might as well hope that God blesses America. Donald Trump most certainly will not.