Thursday, October 20, 2016

"I'm going to lose." Poorly.

The quote is from John Cassidy (New Yorker) who explains The real message of Trump's election comments: I'm going to lose. "Poorly" is Scriber's addition to make the admission more Trump-like. Trump's refusal to make a commitment to support the outcome of the election is all over the news this morning. I'll go with some snippets from Cassidy.

If there was any suspense left about which way this election was heading—and I don’t think there was much—the last of it disappeared about two-thirds of the way through this year’s final Presidential debate, in Las Vegas on Wednesday, when the moderator, Chris Wallace, of Fox News, asked Donald Trump whether he would accept the result of the election.

Until that point, Trump had been having, by his standards, a decent night. To be sure, he’d said some nutty and offensive things. At one point, he suggested that women in America are having abortions a day or two before babies are due to be born. Later, he uttered a line that belongs in the Hall of Fame for barefaced whoppers: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.” But, otherwise, Trump had largely kept his cool, played to his conservative base on issues like guns and immigration, and got in some jabs at his opponent on her e-mail server and her flip-flopping on trade.

Then came an inevitable question. Wallace, who handled his duties well throughout the night, pressing both candidates on a wide range of topics without appearing to be grandstanding, asked Trump about his incendiary recent claims that the election in November would be “rigged.” This is how Wallace posed the issue:

Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you. Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you—his words—“will absolutely accept the result of this election.” Today, your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

And this was Trump’s response: “I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time. What I’ve seen is so bad.” Trump went on to lament that a “corrupt media” had “poisoned the mind of voters.” He claimed that there were “millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.” And he said that Clinton “should never have been allowed to run for the Presidency based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things.”

After Trump had finished with his little rant, Wallace reminded him that “one of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power, and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner.” Wallace asked, “Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?”

Trump replied, “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, O.K.?”

And in so doing Trump keeps his base, the potentially violent members at least, fired up over the claimed illegitimacy of the election. Here's more from Cassidy.

Much should be, and will be, written about these answers from Trump, and what they might augur for November 8th and its aftermath, for the long-term prospects of the Republican Party, and, indeed, for American democracy. For now, though, let’s focus on some more immediate points.

First, Trump’s answers amounted to a royal “screw you” to Mike Pence, to his own daughter Ivanka, and to other members of his campaign, including its manager, Kellyanne Conway, who in recent days had all been trying to explain and frame Trump’s “rigging” rhetoric. Just hours before the debate, in fact, Conway had assured reporters that Trump would accept the result of the election. [Scriber: No surprise - Trump built his brand on the backs of people he screwed.]

Second, Trump could easily have sidestepped Wallace’s question, and kept his options open, by saying something like, “I have faith in American democracy, and I fully intend to accept the result, unless the vote is a close one and there is overwhelming evidence of voter fraud.” That, in fact, was pretty much the line Conway went with in the spin room immediately after the debate. One may assume it was the line that she, Pence, and others had expected the candidate to deliver onstage. For whatever reason, he didn’t. [Scriber: Try he doesn't believe in that message.]

Third, the news business operates on story lines. Trump’s statements insured what the story line would be coming out of the debate. Minutes after he and Clinton left the stage, there it was splashed across the bottom of the screen on CNN: “TRUMP WON’T COMMIT TO ACCEPTING ELECTION RESULTS.” Even some of Trump’s staunchest supporters in the media were quick to criticize his comments. “He should have said he would accept the results of the election,” Laura Ingraham wrote on Twitter. “There is no other option unless we’re in a recount again.” Trump’s regular critics were much harsher. Bret Stephens, a columnist at the Wall Street Journal, called Trump’s answers “the most disgraceful statement by a presidential candidate in 160 years.”

... by reverting to conspiracy theories and openly threatening to call the result of the election into question, he made plain that, at this stage, his primary goal is to find someone other than himself to blame for what he, along with virtually everyone else in the political world, evidently sees as an impending defeat. Trump entered the race as a can-do businessman intent on restoring the country to greatness. He’s going out as a sore loser, raving at the world, threatening to unleash chaos.

Some of that chaos is the possibility of violence at polling places. This is a serious worry to real election monitors as bloomberg.com reports in Trump Supporters Monitoring Polls Alarms Voting-Rights Groups. (h/t Lois Connell.)

Bloomberg observes: "The Republican presidential nominee has been exhorting his supporters to be vigilant about the supposed threat of voter fraud, which has been shown to be almost nonexistent in the U.S."

For the first time in a half-century, Americans will go to the polls in November without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. Following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating a key section of the 1965 law, the U.S. Department of Justice has had to curtail its federal observer program, under which trained monitors oversee access to ballot boxes in areas historically prone to discrimination.

The shift comes just as Republican nominee Donald Trump has been exhorting his supporters to be vigilant about the supposed threat of voter fraud, which has been shown to be almost nonexistent in the U.S. “They’re letting people pour into the country so they can go and vote,” he said in an Oct. 7 meeting with the union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents. At a Pennsylvania rally on Oct. 10, he told the crowd, “So important that you watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.” An online movement called Operation Red is encouraging Trump supporters to wear red to the polls so people “will have no choice but to acknowledge the visible truth in a sea of red,” according to the group’s website.

...

Federal law prohibits conduct that would intimidate voters or otherwise discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. That includes direct confrontation with voters, using threatening language or raised voices, and disseminating misleading information on elections, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s democracy program, says there’s a “real role” for citizens to be involved in supervising elections to ensure they’re transparent. But, he says, “the difficulty is that a lot of regular citizens are not going to know what the law is.”

And we certainly do not need our polling places to become a front line for the Trumpian war against America.

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