No rea­son to re­count the bal­lots

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Leonard Pitts Jr. The Mi­ami Herald Leonard Pitts is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices.

I op­pose the re­count. There are, to my mind, only two rea­sons to re-ex­am­ine bal­lots in a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, as Green Party can­di­date Jill Stein has raised money to do. The first is in the event of er­ror or fraud, but there is no ev­i­dence thereof in the 2016 elec­tion, as Stein her­self has ad­mit­ted.

The sec­ond is in the event the mar­gin of vic­tory is es­pe­cially slim. And yes, in the three states where Stein is push­ing for a re­count — Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia — the mar­gins are in­deed thin, par­tic­u­larly in Michi­gan, which Hil­lary Clin­ton lost by just 11,612 votes.

But in a case like that, the re­count must be­gin im­me­di­ately — and prefer­ably au­to­mat­i­cally — to be seen as cred­i­ble. A re­count three weeks af­ter the fact can­not avoid the ap­pear­ance of dirty tricks. In­deed, if the re­sults in any of the states in ques­tion were over­turned at this late date, Don­ald Trump’s sup­port­ers would sus­pect malfea­sance — and be jus­ti­fied in do­ing so.

Don’t mis­un­der­stand: I re­main un­al­ter­ably con­vinced that the new pres­i­dent is an aw­ful per­son and that Amer­ica made a gen­er­a­tions-defin­ing mis­take in choos­ing him. But that does not give us li­cense to ca­su­ally un­der­mine the in­tegrity of the elec­tion.

Be­sides, Trump is do­ing a fine job of that with­out Stein’s help.

You’d think, what with re­cruit­ing the po­lit­i­cal equiv­a­lents of Darth Vader and Vic­tor Von Doom for his cab­i­net and pre­sum­ably or­der­ing a new Oval Of­fice rug with a gi­ant golden “T” in the cen­ter, he’d be too busy for such things, but you’d be wrong. On Mon­day, Trump tweeted, “I won the pop­u­lar vote if you deduct the mil­lions of peo­ple who voted il­le­gally.”

It was hardly the first time he didn’t know what the hell he was talk­ing about. Not only is there zero ev­i­dence this sup­pos­edly mas­sive fraud hap­pened, but sim­ple logic says it could not. To be here il­le­gally is to live off the grid, to be paid in cash, avoid in­ter­ac­tions with police, steer clear of City Hall. Why would one such per­son — let alone mil­lions — jeop­ar­dize the se­cu­rity of anonymity to cast a fraud­u­lent vote?

It’s an id­i­otic idea. News or­ga­ni­za­tions du­ti­fully dubbed it “base­less,” too po­lite to say that his claim con­tained enough steer ma­nure to fer­til­ize Central Park.

And at this point, any­one who ever be­lieved in an ideal called Amer­ica should be un­nerved.

A democ­racy is, in many ways, a frag­ile thing. As Thomas Jef­fer­son wrote, it de­pends for its very ex­is­tence upon the “con­sent of the gov­erned” — mean­ing not our sup­port of every ac­tion a govern­ment takes, but rather, our will­ing­ness to be­lieve in its in­tegrity. It is from this that demo­cratic govern­ment de­rives its power. Democ­racy, then, is an act of mu­tual agree­ment.

In a na­tion of 320 mil­lion peo­ple who share no one an­ces­try, cul­ture or faith, it is also con­nec­tive tis­sue. The idea that my vote mat­ters no more — or less — than yours is the tie that binds an Inuit in Bethel, Alaska, to a Haitian refugee in Mi­ami to an Ir­ish Catholic in Bos­ton to a Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can in San Diego to a Mus­lim in Kansas City. It is the thing that makes us Amer­i­cans.

And it’s the thing Trump burned down in his scorchedearth ap­peal to big­otry and re­sent­ment. Now here comes Stein in a desperate bid to deny the elec­torate its ap­palling choice. Avatars of a de­mor­al­ized left and a hate­ful right, they are alike in at least one re­spect: their ap­par­ent will­ing­ness to dam­age what they pur­port to love.

So we find our­selves at a nowin cross­roads. Trump’s vic­tory is a ter­ri­ble thing.

Steal­ing it would be even worse.

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