Monday, October 17, 2016

Republican hysteria about an upcoming "stolen" election

The Republicans, and the Trump campaign in particular, are making a big hoopla right now about the possibility that the November Presidential election will be stolen by the Democrats.

For Democrats, this is pretty befuddling in its content. One, because most Democrats wouldn't want to do such a thing. And two, because most Democrats can't imagine the national party leadership having the gumption to consider such a thing. Such a thing is, after all, illegal, un-Constitutional and anti-democratic.

Laurel Raymond has a roundup for Think Progress of some of the latest outbreaks of this fearmongering from Republicans in Sheriff openly calls for riots as Trump says election is ‘rigged’ 10/15/2016.

The Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence used the accusation in a somewhat mealy-mouthed way on Meet the Press yesterday with Chuck Todd (Meet the Press - October 16, 2016):


Will you accept the results of the election?


We will absolutely accept the results of the election. Look, the American people will speak in an election that will culminate on November the 8th. But the American people are tired of the obvious bias in the national media. That's where the sense of a rigged election goes here, Chuck.


The more you say--


--the media comes in with an avalanche of continuous negative attacks against my running mate instead of focusing on the real, hard evidence coming--


Do you--


--out about corruption and pay to play--


--are you at all--


--in the Clinton Foundation years. It's why people are frustrated. But look, we'll--


--the more you say rigged election--


--find a way to get through to November the 8th. And we'll accept the will of the American people. You bet.


Governor, you keep saying rigged election. Are you concerned that the more you say it, the more you actually undermine our democracy unintentionally?


Look, one of the great traditions of America is the peaceful transfer of power. And elections, Chuck, you know, you're a student of history, elections always get pretty rough. I expect they're going to stay just as rough as they are right now going into November the 8th. The stakes are so high in this election.

But as Donald Trump said in that first debate, I'll say to you again today, we're going to accept the will of the American people. But between now and election day we're going to work our hearts out against all odds, against most of you in the national media. We're going to go lay out a story for a stronger more prosperous America.
The Pod Pundit Panel proceeded to address the issue in an unsurprisingly feckless way. Kristen Walker:

Well, my takeaway was the end of your interview with Mike Pence, when you asked him if he would accept the election results, he said yes, of course we'll accept the results. Donald Trump is sending out the complete opposite message. And he's trying to lay the groundwork for this idea that the election is rigged. And yesterday you had the Clinton campaign and Paul Ryan coming out in very strong terms, saying we will respect the results of this election. And the republicans are increasingly concerned that they need to be louder about that so that whatever happens on election day is respected. [my emphasis]
This kind of knee-jerk conservative reaction is partially self-defense of the media, whose worst problem is not so much Establishment bias - which they certainly have - but bad reporting. And, no, Pence was not saying the "complete opposite" of Trump. He brought up the theme of media bias rigging the election but took the stock position that they will accept the results of the November election because Trump will win the November election. Joy-Ann Reid at least seems to have noticed that Pence was sticking to the campaign's position:

But I think you also see the sort of struggle within Mike Pence. Because he's trying to yield to what are clearly the candidate's talking points the candidate wants, which is that the election is rigged. Because he's said that you. And then he said of course we'll accept it. But he still has to sell this idea. Look, Jeff Sessions is also selling this idea. I think for the Republican Party, just as an institution, there has to be a righting of the ship because the integrity of the United States election I think is bigger than any candidate. [my emphasis]
Chris Cillizza offered this syntax-challenged comment:

And I think it's so hard for me to imagine that what he [presumably Trump] says and tweets over this last week, somehow three weeks from now, he says and I just want to say I've announced that I've placed a call to Hillary Clinton to congratulate her. Like, I can't. I literally struggle to wrap my mind around him doing that. I think it's in all of his business interests, conservative media network, a Rump faction of the Republican party. So all of those suggest that he not concede. And this idea that like Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan say that we concede.
I'll pause here to make a few observations that aren't restricted to the talking points of the week.

  • The 2000 Presidential election was contested with Republicans and Democrats fighting over the Florida vote count. The world didn't collapse. Neither did the Constitutional system.
  • Voter suppression implemented by our old friend Kathleen Harris in Florida in the form of disproportionately purging African-American voters from the registration lists played an essential role in the Florida vote being close enough for the Supreme Court to hand the Presidency to Shrub Bush and Dick Cheney.
  • The media consortium that did their own recount of the Florida vote in 2001 found strong evidence (to put it mildly!) that Gore actually won the statewide vote in Florida. One could make a good case that the Democrats did contest the results long and hard enough.
  • The outcome of the Florida fiasco of 2000 may not have ended the Constitution. But the upshot did some real damage to it. I took the image below from a Democratic fundraising letter several years ago signed by Al Gore:

  • Whether we call it "rigging" or "stealing" or whatever, one of the most serious dangers to democratic governance in the US today is the long-standing, Segregation 2.0 drive of the Republicans to suppress the votes of black and Latino citizens by the same sorts of tricks, subterfuges and bad laws the Southern segregationists used to keep the federal gubment and democratic voting out of the Deep South from the mid-1870s to the mid-1960s.
  • Republican accusations of "voter fraud" are not new. On the contrary, they are a central claim in the Republicans voter-suppression efforts.
  • Honest and fair elections are extremely, extremely important. Poll watchers are a necessary and entirely legitimate tool to keep them honest.
  • Intimidating voters at the polling places with threats or weapons is not legitimate poll watching. It's not legitimate at all. In fact, it's the kind of Ku Klux Klan actions that were a key element in disenfranching African-American citizens in the South in the 1870s going forward.
  • The Clinton campaign with active help from the Obama Administration is promoting the dubious idea that Russian hackers favoring Trump could commit election fraud on Trump's behalf via hacking voting machines.
  • Democrats have been complaining for years, and with very good reason, that voting machines need to be adequately maintained and audited. And that harcopy backups are needed in case their are substantial questions about the accuracy of the machines' recording of voters.

As in every other aspects of politics, the Democrats need to be able to walk and talk at the same time. Rejecting phony Republican complaints about voter fraud and election-stealing is necessary. So is fighting back against false claims used by Republicans to justify segregationist voter-suppression laws and practices. Insisting on honest elections is something the Democrats should be doing whether the Republicans join them in the effort or not.

Digby Parton focuses on how the Republicans long-standing voter-suppression rhetoric feeds directly into the Republicans' current peremptory warning about a stolen Presidential election in Where did the GOP think this would lead? Hullabaloo 11/15/2016:

... Trump didn't invent this theme and the GOP leaders who are now expressing alarm that their voters believe the election is being stolen have only themselves to blame. All over he country they've been pimping the thinly veiled racist voter fraud meme for years, passing laws to suppress the vote and otherwise try to rig elections! They've admitted it dozens of times. ...

They [the Republicans] are trying to "rig" the vote and they admit it. And the way they do it by accusing the Democrats of rigging the vote.

Now the GOP leaders are upset that this sociopathic demagogue is fomenting violence by running with this theme they've been subtly pushing for decades. Look in the mirrors boys. You built the road he's careening down at a a hundred miles an hour.
Allegra Chapman describes the state of the legal fight against Republican voter suppression in Voting Rights: Will Court Protections Deliver? The American Prospect 09/26/2016.

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