A “disgraceful” attack on US democracy
If there were any doubt left about the winner of the US election, said John Cassidy in The New Yorker, it disappeared about two-thirds of the way through the final presidential debate last week. “Until that point, Donald Trump had been having, by his standards, a decent night.” He had “largely kept his cool” and had got in some decent jabs at Hillary Clinton over her past mishandling of classified data and her “flipflopping” on trade. But it all went horribly wrong when the debate moderator quizzed Trump about his claims that the election was “rigged” and invited him to confirm that he would accept the result of the 8 November poll if he lost. Trump refused to offer such a commitment. “I’ll tell you at the time,” he said. “I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?” His answer provoked widespread outrage. Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal columnist, called it “the most disgraceful statement by a presidential candidate in 160 years”. I’m no fan of Trump, said Derek Hunter on Townhall.com (Arlington), but he has a point about the election being rigged. “I’m not talking about voter fraud, though we’ll likely see plenty of that. I’m talking about the media.” The press has abandoned any pretence of impartial reporting in this campaign, seizing on every Trump gaffe while giving Clinton a free pass. WikiLeaks recently released a trove of internal emails from Clinton’s campaign, which show her aides colluding with journalists to give her favourable coverage. Footage has also emerged of two operatives apparently discussing how to commit voter fraud and confessing to paying people to incite violence at Trump rallies. The media have barely bothered to cover these scandals. But it’s hardly surprising that Trump attracts most of the critical headlines, given the crazy stuff he comes out with, said John Avlon on The Daily Beast. Hinting that he wouldn’t accept the election result was not a minor gaffe. It was an unprecedented attack – before an audience of tens of millions – on a cornerstone of US democracy. The “most generous explanation is that Trump just doesn’t have the psychological capacity to admit defeat”, and is unaware of the “historical ghosts he is stirring up”. But whether that or a calculated attempt to foment trouble in the wake of the election, his remarks are very dangerous. There are plenty of paranoid people out there who will see them as validation of their warped theories. “We are rapidly coming to a point in this country when half of the people are going to be convinced of the illegitimacy of this administration and its designs upon our liberty,” a patriot militia man once told me. “Need I remind you that this side is the one with most of the firearms?” Many people are now worried that events could “take an ugly, violent turn” on or after election day, said Daniel W. Drezner in The Washington Post. But I think these fears are overdone. The first rule with Trump, remember, is that “the hype will always far exceed the reality”. Even though his website includes a form to sign up as a poll watcher and “help me stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election”, local officials in battleground states say they have seen no rush of Trump backers wanting to volunteer. We needn’t worry too much about a violent “Trumperdammerung”, agreed Ross Douthat in The New York Times. His supporters are mostly pensioners rather than “testosterone-addled” young men. They might vent their fury online, but they’re unlikely to take to the streets. Besides, if Trump loses by “the largest landslide in post-Reagan political history”, it’s possible that “a ‘to the barricades’ rant could look a bit, well, ridiculous even to his deepest-dyed supporters”.
Trump: “stirring up historical ghosts”