After his trouncing at Monday’s presidential debate by Hillary Clinton, one of Donald Trump’s first acts – after declaring himself the winner, polls notwithstanding – was to claim that his microphone was “defective” and the moderator’s questions were “unfair.”
“I’m not complaining about that,” he complained. Then: “I wonder, was that on purpose?” Those seeking clarity might have checked his website. “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!” it says.
Trump is hardly the first candidate to imply that if he doesn’t win, it’s because the fix was in for his opponent. (See: Bernie Sanders.) But few have made cries of foul play such a go-to part of their political playbooks.
“The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development – we may have people vote 10 times,” he told the Washington Post in August.
“The only way we can lose, in my opinion – I really mean this, Pennsylvania – is if cheating goes on,” he told supporters at a rally in Altoona.
Corruption is a concern, but a bigger worry is how the winner will govern if this election is close and the losers view the results as illegitimate.
“They intend to flood the polls with illegals,” insists Stop the Steal, a Santa Ana-based political nonprofit run by Roger Stone, a Trump pal and backer.
Trump has produced zero evidence of liberal vote tampering, rigged debates or even booby-trapped mics, for that matter. His pre-emptive sour grapes are all talk, and in a different year, they could be dismissed.
But cyberintrusions – so far benefiting Trump himself – already are alarming voters. Not only were Democratic National Committee computers hacked, to the embarrassment of the party, but the FBI also discovered attempted intrusions into voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona.
Clinton partisans blame Russian spies, and federal investigators say they may not be off-base. But that speculation, too, undermines faith in the process. No good can come of conspiracy theories that undermine voter confidence; government is paralyzed enough by polarized politics and biased information.
Security is imperative, but this nation has a complex and decentralized election apparatus, and states – particularly California – have experts on the case and layers of oversight to deter mischief. A bigger worry is how the winner will govern if this election is close and the losers view the results as illegitimate.
That is surely why debate moderator Lester Holt asked each candidate whether they’d support the winner. Clinton said yes. Trump replied with a rambling discourse about how “corruption” might have led to voting rights for hundreds of people who should have been deported, or some such. Eventually, he said he would “absolutely” support Clinton if she wins the election. But Holt shouldn’t have had to ask him twice.