Rigged elections? What is Trump talking about?

Donald Trump has suggested that presidential election might be rigged if he is not a winner. How unsual is such statement from the presidential nominee, does it tell something about Trump? Read few comments.

Robert Y. ShapiroProfessor, Political Science, Columbia University

We never hear statements like this by a presidential candidate himself/herself and especially this early in the process. Trump’s concern about rigged elections was perhaps justifiable during the GOP primaries and caucuses in that there was always the possibility of the GOP changing the delegate selection rules at the convention if not before. Also, the mainstream party leaders–the party itself so to speak (we can imagine there were emails expressing opposition to Trump but open-minded on other candidates?)–made it clear that Trump was the last person they wanted as the party candidate. And of course he pointed to the mainstream media being completely against him and even Fox News people were after him — the case of Megan Kelly. But given that the rules stayed in place during the primaries, Trump’s narcissism seemed to lead him to blame others for any failings he might have as a candidate. His current statement about the general election is more of this, especially now that is candidacy may be unraveling with the Democratic convention bounce for Clinton and the backlash over the Mr. Khan controversy. In the GOP primaries he could point to rules that could be changed and to the media — rigged against him. He can now point to the media again in its coverage of the conventions and Mr. Khan — Khan is taking up the media attention that he has been used to dominating. If he continues to say the system is rigged he will have to point to the rules. This could be the recent court cases on the voting rules that were enacted to prevent blacks who are largely Democrats from voting.

Christopher Larimer, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Northern Iowa

I can’t recall a presidential nominee of one of the two major political parties in the United States making such a comment. It is more likely to come from a third-party candidate who is making an argument about the difficulties of trying to get on a debate stage or the ballot with the two major party nominees. I think what is says about Donald Trump is that he is still looking to play the “outsider” card for the election, that he is still looking to capitalize on voters’ frustrations with the current political system.

William Howell, Professor in American Politics, University of Chicago

It is quite unusual for a major party candidate to suggest that a general election is rigged, particularly months before votes are even cast. But this kind of behavior is hardly unusual for Trump, who spent much of the primaries arguing that the political system is fundamentally corrupt; and who, in his professional dealings more generally, has not been shy about employing a scorched earth strategy. His suggestion may reflect concern that his is likely to lose in November, and that he feels a need for some excuse that does not involve the highly charged, disorganized, and polarizing campaign that he has run thus far.

Nicholas Easton, Assistant Professor, Columbus State University

Donald Trump’s suggestion that the election may be rigged is indeed unusual but not inconsistent with his overall approach and thus perhaps not unusual at all. Let me explain. Trumps approach throughout this election has been to capitalize on considerable discontent in American society over shrinking American influence (our inability to defeat terrorism in the way we were able to defeat prior military adversaries) and declining incomes and other economic problems (the movement of American jobs to foreign countries and the growing disparity in wealth between the very top of our society and the rest). Thus he suggests that the whole system is rigged and that he’s the only one that people can trust. So for him to add that the election is rigged is a way of continuing to motivate his strongest supporters. Does that tell us something about Donald Trump as a person? Again yes and no. Many Americans are shocked that someone would stoop to this level, while others observe that the Republican Party has been slowly drifting in this direction for many years. Examples of this are the way Nixon in 1968 proclaimed his Southern strategy as a way to capture white voters discontented with the progress of civil rights, the parties consistent anti-immigrant stance, and Congress’s unwillingness to cooperate with Obama. Trump seems to have come along at just the right time for someone of his cynical character to capitalize on a very divided nation. Whether or not this will work is still up in the air but more and more people are hoping that it won’t.

Michael Hagen, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Temple University

I know of no presidential candidate in modern American history who has claimed before an election that the process is rigged. One might think that some potential voters who accepted this view would be discouraged from voting, in the belief that their votes would not matter. Mr. Trump apparently hopes that his claim instead will add to the outrage some of his supporters feel, motivating them to get to the polls on Election Day. The wider concern, however, is for the impact of this kind of rhetoric on what happens after the election, when a peaceful and orderly transfer of power from the outgoing to the incoming president depends, at least in part, on the public’s confidence in the electoral system. Voters who believe the system to be rigged would not be inclined to offer much support to Secretary Clinton if she were to win.

Bruce BuchananProfessor, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin

It is highly unusual.  It implies that Trump seeks to “spin” (i.e., dismiss) his possible failure in advance  —  just in case it happens.  If he wins, it counts.  If he loses, the system was rigged. Pretty self-serving.

 

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