Like Shakespeare’s mad King Lear, President Trump realized early on, “In jest, there is truth.” While his quips omit reason and fact entirely, his maniacal followers take every decree for the gospel. His first statements after becoming President-elect were allegations of voter fraud. In late November 2016, he tweeted, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump’s baseless claims were unusual for two reasons. The integrity of the American voting system has never been called into question. Second, as the winner, Trump had no reason to contest the results. Trump’s unusual statements were attributed to his inability to accept that more Americans ultimately rejected him than supported him. Now, on the eve of next Tuesday’s election, his immediate insistence on voter fraud in 2016 appears far more calculating.
In what would become his modus operandi, the President never once identified a single incidence of voter fraud. Instead, in 2017 he appointed The Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity, colloquially referred to as the “Voter Fraud Commission.” The President conveniently disbanded the Commission in January of 2018 before the group published any findings. However, through a court proceeding, the Commission’s draft report was ordered released. The section on the evidence of voter fraud was “glaringly empty.”
While King Lear stated, “Nothing can come of nothing, speak again,” President Trump, to his credit, has created an issue where none exists. Although his biased Committee couldn’t find any evidence of voter fraud, Trump has repeated the claim like a daily meditation mantra. To the point where this week Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, adopted Trump’s fraud argument in an opinion on the legality of Wisconsin’s delayed counting of late-arriving mail-in ballots. “Those States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election.” While the President has undoubtedly created false suspicion, there has never been any evidence of impropriety. Second, previous election results were certified where late-arriving ballots changed the outcome after election day.
Also, by drawing attention to voter fraud to his detriment, the President has kept the focus off his party’s attempts to corrupt the election process. In California, Republicans have illegally set up fake ballot collection boxes. President Trump and his lawyers have also devised a plan to have state legislatures overturn election results they deem unacceptable. To the extent this election involves fraud, it will be committed by the Republican party.
President Trump’s use of fiction as fact to solidify his re-election chances is not limited to allegations of voter fraud. The President’s first “The prince of darkness is a gentleman!” moment came in 2017 when a white supremacist murdered an innocent female counter-protester. President Trump exclaimed there were “Very fine people on both sides.” Racism is not an issue that has sides; it is unacceptable in any form in any society. Nonetheless, the President has repeatedly supported, condoned, and recruited this unwanted element of far-right extremists. His most recent attempt was at last month’s debate when he refused to disavow white supremacy.
President Trump also used that 2017 event to kick-off another false and now standard theme. Initially calling the counter-protesters “troublemakers,” his description of anyone who dares contradict him has grown more vitriolic as the election approaches. He has labeled the far-left Antifa movement as a terrorist organization. He has done so in an attempt to define himself as the “law and order” President. Unlike the Proud Boys, who are “Standing back and standing by,” which is a known extremist violent organization Antifa is not a group. It is a loose affiliation of left-wing elements who largely peacefully oppose the President’s far-right policies.
Rare instances of violence have involved Antifa. However, “a study by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found that right-wing extremists committed 38 of the nations’ 42 domestic extremist murders in 2019 and have been responsible for three-quarters of extremist-related homicides over the last decade.” Making the groups, the President supports far more dangerous.
Baseless claims of voter fraud create doubt around the election results. However, the President’s use of this false narrative to incite violent right-wing organizations poses a threat to every citizen. Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum, cited the risk of violence and intimidation on election day as “totally unprecedented.”
“Tis the time’s plague, when madmen lead the blind.” Fortunately, in America, we have an election, not a coronation. Vote Tuesday, November 3, but don’t do so blindly.
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