Donald Trump, never one to worry about the impact of his words, says the November election may be rigged. This is long before any ballots are cast, which makes the allegation shaky on its face, but it gets worse than that: He says the election may be rigged because courts are throwing out laws that had the plain and disgraceful goal of depressing minority turnout on Election Day.
In Texas and North Carolina, the courts have recently invalidated these transparent efforts to rig the vote. The laws requiring particular voter identification were passed, proponents said, to eliminate voter fraud on Election Day.
But there has been not a shred of evidence that such fraud exists, certainly not in any way that threatens the legitimacy of election results. And, uniformly, the laws are passed in states controlled by Republicans and require forms of identification that poor and minority voters are less likely to have.
These are devious laws, being passed in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling that canceled aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The hard-won law was adopted after years of legal roadblocks thrown up against African-Americans who were demanding nothing more than the right to vote. Now, some states are trying to set the clock back, and they’re not even sly about it.
In North Carolina, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that aspects of the law “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” In Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a federal judge’s ruling that a similar law there created a “stark, racial disparity” between those who could readily get the required forms of identification and those who could not.
Other rulings have struck down laws in Kansas, North Dakota and Wyoming. These laws are not about preventing voter fraud; they are about stealing elections under color of law.
Against that backdrop, Trump lobs the ludicrous claim that the November election may be “rigged” against him because of the court rulings. More likely, he is preparing his excuse for what seems an increasing likelihood that he loses in November. Polls conducted since the Democratic National Convention have showed Hillary Clinton reclaiming a notable lead, even as Trump sabotages his own campaign with a torrent of ill-considered attacks, accusations and smears.
It’s one thing for Trump’s ego not to be able to comprehend the possibility that he could lose a fair election – in his mind, other people are losers, not him. But to assuage himself in a manner designed not only to delegitimize a potential Clinton victory but to damage voters’ confidence in their own election system – and to do so without any evidence – is truly vile.
The tradition in this country – and it is an essential tradition – is for the loser of the presidential election to congratulate the winner and to pledge support, at least within the bounds of being the loyal opposition.
Trump is moving to make that occurrence impossible by encouraging his supporters – three months ahead of time – to reject the results of the election. That’s flat-out dangerous.
Americans have usually been smarter than that. We have our bad moments – falling, for example, for the red-baiting smears of Joseph McCarthy, whose adviser Roy Cohn was one of Trump’s early mentors. For the most part, though, Americans know a con when we see one.
Rather than rigging an election, the courts are upholding the basic constitutional rights of citizens to vote.