05 August 2016
The President recently belittled Donald Trump's fear that the 2016 presidential election could be rigged. To be sure, Trump's statements were worth of rebuke. He had shown already that he has a low threshold of rigging, having complained during the primary season that the abortive collusion of Cruz and Kasich threatened to rig the remaining primaries against him. For Trump, rigging an election seems to encompass anything that reduces the Trump vote from its theoretical maximum. For him to suggest that the general could be rigged against him was incredibly irresponsible, no matter how suspicious you are toward the Clinton machine. The last thing we need is to have Trump's followers assume for the next four years after a narrow Clinton victory that her election and her Presidency were illegitimate. But in his eagerness to admonish Trump and his apparent contempt for the very notion that a presidential election could be rigged, Obama has unconsciously contradicted his own party, if not his own past statements. For is it not a fundamental premise of the 21st century Democratic party that the Republican party is striving constantly to rig elections through the passage of voter ID laws that are assumed always to depress turnout among key Democratic constituencies? Don't they even cite evidence to that effect in the words of one Pennsylvania Republican who promised that an ID law would deliver that state to his party? In fact, it's an article of faith among Democrats that the sole purpose of such laws is to depress turnout and thus rig elections in Republicans' favor. The Republican argument that elections can be rigged by swamping the polls with fraudulent voters is dismissed out of hand, of course, so the Democratic argument against the possibility of rigged elections really boils down to outrage at the notion that they would dare do such a thing. History argues otherwise, and in this case Democratic history is more relevant than it is when Republicans try to identify the party of Obama with its long-gone segregationist past. Both major parties have proven themselves capable of corrupt electioneering many times in the past, and in this most competitive era it seems naive to rule any possibility out as blithely as the President seemed to. What was really objectionable and irresponsible in Trump's speech was the implication that the only way he can lose is if the election is rigged. That may be what his idolators want to hear, but Donald Trump himself probably does more than anyone else to belie that assumption every time he makes an idiot of himself on the stump.