“It’s one big ugly lie, it’s one big fix,” Donald Trump said at a rally in North Carolina last week, referring to the 2016 presidential election. He later added: “And the only thing I say is, hopefully, hopefully, our patriotic movement will overcome this terrible deception.” He’s since followed up his claim with a tweet that makes massive election fraud seem like the most natural thing in American democracy since the Boston Tea Party:
Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2016
Before I get into why it’s so dangerous to make slanderous claims about the legitimacy of American democracy, it’s necessary to state that, from where I’m sitting, the increased incidence of Trump’s whining about a “rigged” election seems directly proportional to just how shittily he’s performing in polls. It’s obvious that Trump simply can’t bear to lose and so must temper that loss by claiming the system was faulty. It’s spinning his billion-dollar loss as a genius move meant to outsmart our corrupt tax code. It’s convincing himself that he didn’t stiff his contractors, he was simply unhappy with the work. It’s a shitty workman blaming his standard-issue tools.
The safeguard we have against people like this—who can’t fathom why a plurality of people wouldn’t vote for them, when they like themselves so much—is our system of representative democracy, in which trust is placed by a constituent in a representative and that representative answers to the people. When Trump claims that the entire election is rigged, he’s not just saying Hillary is a liar: He’s saying that the American system is a lie.
He’s saying it because he’s a megalomaniac losing an election. When he incites even more disjointedness in the electorate, he’s not causing any problems that will affect him. He will still be a wealthy man and still spend his time at the ultra-exclusive Mar-a-Lago compound as the American experiment implodes around him. The problem lies with the folks whom he’s worked up into a manic rage with claims that the media and banks are colluding for Hillary—in language almost identical to the rantings of Stormfront neo-Nazis against the “zionist occupied government.” They’re the ones who get jumpy and itchy around the trigger finger at the thought of the POTUS having more pigment or—White Jesus forbid—ovaries.
Trump supporters have been citing studies in the past couple of days that show proof of isolated incidents in which people were registered to vote in two places or whose death certificates had not yet entered into the system by election day as examples of how votes could be altered. Besides the fact that there is no way to prove these dodgy votes would have benefitted one party or the other, this argument misses the point.
There is a huge difference between individual polling places or vote counters not doing their jobs properly, allowing a handful of votes to go through that shouldn’t have, and a vast conspiracy to benefit a single candidate. This is the last desperate gasp of a candidate we should have been able to avoid. Unfortunately, it also could be the bazooka in his pocket if his supporters prove to be as unstable as they seem.