Rigged Elections and Sore Losers

Supporters carrying side arms wait for the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Supporters carrying side arms wait for the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

New Orleans   Polls are showing a consolidated lead for Hillary Clinton with three weeks to go and many states already beginning early voting. Republican strategists are warning that it may be too late for a Trump turnaround. The cascade of issues from racism to tax dodging to misogyny and sexual harassment and abuse seem to be baking all of the negatives into Trump’s prospects. Republicans from Speaker Paul Ryan on down the ballot and outsiders, including influential and deep-pocketed donors, have either deserted Trump or are actively arguing that he must be abandoned in order not to inflect permanent damage on the party.

Trump’s response has been to question the very validity of the election and raise the specter of refusing to accept the results of the voters in a direct threat to long and deeply held democratic traditions. Governor Pence, the VP on Trump’s ticket, has said in essence, of course we will accept the results, but Trump has pulled his Twitter-finger and seemingly backed off that pledge, so who knows.

None of this is new. In fact, this has been the Republican tradition in all of the recent elections they have lost and part of their concerted effort over the last eight years to deny President Obama the legitimacy of his two victories. The Atlantic magazine quoted a study in a recent issue saying,

“Backing a losing candidate can also damage voters’ trust in the political system. An analysis of surveys from 1964 to 2004 found that over time, voters who supported losers were less likely than others to see the electoral process as fair. They also tended to be less satisfied with democracy generally.”

It seems that what we are witnessing now is something on the order of “pre-emptive sore losing.” Preparing for a humiliating defeat for a candidate enamored of calling everyone but himself a “loser,” it was predictable that he would whine that he couldn’t win because the election was “rigged” against him and everyone ganged up against “poor little me.”

But, this has been a recurring Republican theme from the very base of the party for years. How else could we explain the fact that the majority of Republicans surveyed without a shred of evidence continued to believe for close to seven years that ACORN had stolen both Obama elections? Or the fact that almost a majority of Texas Republican voters already believe that ACORN is stealing the election for Clinton this time around.

The commitment to democracy of many Republican leaders and much of their hardcore base seems extremely weak. The finger pointing about rigged elections at large cities with minority populations like Philadelphia and others seems totally racist. Inventing excuses for losing elections so that no one has to face the consequences of politics and program seems to argue that party leaders do not want to either learn from their errors or listen to the voters.

It will be interesting once this campaign is over to see how we rebuild a semblance of democratic practice from the thin soup we’re being served in this election. Perhaps I should say “if” we can rebuild a semblance of democratic practice after this election.

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Trump Actually Makes a Good Point

republican-symbolNew Orleans      Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for the presidency, made a very interesting point in a rebuke to Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and also a Republican.  He turned away Ryan’s “wait and see” answer on the question of his endorsement, based on whether or not Trump met certain litmus tests he wanted to use to measure the nature of Trump’s conservative commitments, by not only reminding him that he had 10 million Republican votes mandating change, but also by chiding Ryan on a political philosophy point.  Trump told Ryan, “…I’m a conservative, but don’t’ forget, this is called the Republican Party.  It’s not called the Conservative Party.”

            So, sure, have at Trump.  Call him names, claim he’s a buffoon, or an ignoramus, as Nobel prize economist and Times’ columnist Paul Krugman did, but don’t every make the mistake of believing for one minute that he’s really any of those things.  This guy is clever and quick like a fox.  Underestimating him, as many, maybe most, have done, would, particularly at this point, define stupid, and not the other way around.

            He belled the cow on his comment to Ryan, and on at least this one score all of us have to hope he prevails.

            A republic, classically, is a sovereign state whose authority rests with the people, either directly or through elected representatives.  In a pure, theoretical and practical sense, it differs from a democracy in how it balances individual versus collective rights.  In a republic, individual rights can sometimes prevail over civil or citizen rights.  The United States Bill of Rights protects individual rights.  For example, one vote on a jury can free an accused person in the dock, rather than how the majority might have voted on her innocence or guilt.  In a pure democracy, the majority rules, so 50% plus one assuring the majority interest could make for a democrat and the rights on one individual would make for a republican.  A conservative is by definition resistant to change with a default position respecting how things have been in the past. 

            What Ryan wants is a pledge from Trump that he will genuflect in the direction of what has been the current hard right ideology that has ruled the Republican Party.  The Republican establishment’s disgust with Trump is not necessarily about his xenophobic positions around Muslims or immigrants, but the fact that he is changing the game they have run and the rules they have made.  This dispute with Trump is about power, plain and simple.  Trump is correctly reminding Ryan that a republican is really someone who can cobble the citizens together around their representative positions and respect for their rights.  To the degree Trump has locked into the Republican base, is feeling their pain, and advocating their positions, even when they are abominable, he’s a better Republican, than he is a conservative.  He’s an apostate on the politics and policies of Reagan, the Bushes, the Ryan’s, and a host of others who don’t want change, and he’s all about change.

            Trump certainly shouldn’t be the President of the United States, but on this issue he is one-hundred percent correct, and for goodness sakes all of us have to root for him to blow the bums out of their conservative bunkers and bring change by the bucket load to the Republican ideology and practice.

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