And it's great that he's doing that.
But is it really necessary to do it in a history-begins-today mode?
"There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even -- you could even rig America's elections," Obama said at a press conference at the Rose Garden Tuesday, while pointing out how decentralized U.S. elections are and the lack of evidence of fraud in the past.I won't rehash the points I made yesterday. And I haven't seen the full text of Obama's appearance from which he's quoted. So I can't even say that he missed an opportunity to use the issue to highlight the Republican Party's continuous segregationist misdeeds in voter suppression.
He also suggested that Trump's "unprecedented" attempt to "discredit" an elections process before it has even taken place shows the he does not have "leadership and toughness that you'd want out of a president."
"You start whining before the game's even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job," Obama said.
Trump has in recent weeks gone beyond his usual claims of a political system vaguely biased against him, to suggest that there would be voter fraud at the precinct level, a claim that has troubled observers and lawmakers across the political spectrum.
Obama on Monday said that one of the "greatest" things about U.S. democracy is bipartisan tradition surrounding the transfer of presidential power.
"Historically, regardless of party, the person who loses the election congratulates the winner, reaffirms or democracy and we move forward," Obama said. "That's how democracy survives, because we recognize that there's something more important than any individual campaign, and that is making sure that the integrity and trust in our institutions sustains itself, because democracy by definition works by consent. Not by force." [my emphasis]
Also for reasons I discussed yesterday, including the Republicans' voter suppression program, I'm not so comfortable seeing the Democratic President simply brush off even the possibility of a Presidential election being "rigged." For one thing: Grand Theft Florida 2000.
Digby Parton takes up the issue today in It’s the Republicans who rig elections, Donald: The GOP history of voter suppression goes way back Salon 10/1//2016:
Some Republican leaders have tried to reassure voters that the election will not be stolen, but it’s too little, too late. After all, Republicans have been trying to manipulate elections for decades going all the way back to Operation Eagle Eye during the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign when future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was a young lawyer intimidating black and Latino voters in Arizona. Then, as now, this was done in the name of preventing unauthorized people from voting.The President is right insofar as the idea of successfully "rigging" a Presidential election via the kind of in-person voter fraud he's warning against - and which has been the non-problem at the center of the "voter fraud" campaign - is virtually impossible with our current election laws and practices. Trump is also saying that media coverage he doesn't like is also "rigging" the election, which is just silly. Whether Trump was helped or hurt overall by the mainstream media coverage he got is another question. So is the question of the general quality of media coverage of politics these days. But bad press is not the same as "rigging" an election, at least not in any normal usage of "rigging."
In the 1980s, there were consent decrees in place all over the country as various local arms of the GOP got caught violating federal election laws by trying to suppress minority votes. In the wake of Jesse Jackson’s highly successful voter registration drives, Republicans instigated a campaign to purge voter rolls in African-American communities throughout the South and urban areas. They professionalized and nationalized their operation by recruiting lawyers and training them in the election laws of different jurisdictions so they could more efficiently challenge Democratic votes.
By the 2000 election they had hundreds of trained election lawyers at the ready and they all swooped in on Florida when Al Gore asked for a recount. (The state party under Jeb Bush had already taken care of the purge of African-Americans from the voter rolls, which helped make it so close.) Ironically, the chief justice of the Supreme Court was William Rehnquist and naturally he cast the deciding vote to stop the recount and hand the election to George W. Bush.
Immediately upon taking office, Republicans began to work on their next big vote suppression project.
But I wince inside when I see Obama or others calling this "unprecedented." Aside from Grand Theft Florida 2000, a disputed Florida vote also played a role in the 1876 Presidential election. Rutherford B. Hayes is now remembered for his singular first name. And for the drama around his selection as President. From the Britannica Online entry for him, on the 1876 election:
An economic depression ... and Northern disenchantment with Reconstruction policies in the South combined to give Hayes’s Democratic opponent, Samuel J. Tilden, a popular majority, and early returns indicated a Democratic victory in the electoral college as well. Hayes’s campaign managers challenged the validity of the returns from South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, and as a result two sets of ballots were submitted from the three states. The ensuing electoral dispute became known as the Tilden-Hayes affair. Eventually a bipartisan majority of Congress created a special Electoral Commission to decide which votes should be counted. As originally conceived, the commission was to comprise seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one independent, the Supreme Court justice David Davis. Davis refused to serve, however, and the Republican Joseph P. Bradley was named in his place. While the commission was deliberating, Republican allies of Hayes engaged in secret negotiations with moderate Southern Democrats aimed at securing acquiescence to Hayes’s election. On March 2, 1877, the commission voted along strict party lines to award all the contested electoral votes to Hayes, who was thus elected with 185 electoral votes to Tilden’s 184. The result was greeted with outrage and bitterness by some Northern Democrats, who thereafter referred to Hayes as “His Fraudulency.”Before that, there was at least some serious talk among High Federalists after the 1800 election about forcibly preventing Thomas Jefferson from taking power as the elected President.
And after the election of 1860, it's safe to say that the opposition among Southern slaveowners was not a model of a peaceful or graceful transfer of power. And the 1864 election took place during the Civil War started by the Slave Power after the 1860 elections.
I'm not sure whether I would include 1824 in the list, though Andrew Jackson's partisans did say forever afterward that the outcome was the result of a "Corrupt Bargain" between John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay.
We know America is Exceptional and all. The guy who was state chairman of the Florida Republican Party in 2000 said yesterday on the PBS Newshour, "America is a beacon of light for people all throughout the world who want their democracies to work our way." This may come to a bit of a surprise to people living in parliamentary democracies who find the American two-party system baffling. The way the 2000 Presidential election was decided didn't exactly impress everyone outside the US, either. Still, what he and the other person being interviewed say about how the US election system actually works is pretty good. Including why stealing a Presidential election via in-person voter fraud is effectively impossible.
Why Trump’s ‘rigged election’ claims are wrong and dangerous 11/17/2016: