A “dis­grace­ful” at­tack on US democ­racy

The Week Middle East - - News -

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”

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