Column: Was the 2016 election legitimate? It’s now definitely worth asking the question
We need to talk about a forbidden subject: the legitimacy of the current president.
There’s been a code of silence around President Donald Trump’s shady victory in 2016. It’s one of those tiptoe-around-it things that the American family just doesn’t talk about. And with good reason. Whatever your politics, it’s perilous to question the soundness of an American election.
Raising the question of Trump’s legitimacy risks detonating a full-blown crisis of faith — kindling distrust not just in Trump, but also in the system that installed him.
But fear of facing the legitimacy question has not stopped Americans from harboring profound doubts, if only “deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties,” in Aaron Sorkin’s phrasing from “A Few Good Men.”
As more and more facts about Trump’s incongruous victory emerge, the doubts gnaw harder — and grow harder to ignore.
A nation devoted to majority rule has a minority president. Who squeaked into office on an electoral college technicality. Against most data projections. Using dark money. Using voter suppression. Using Russian disinformation.
As more and more facts about Trump’s incongruous victory emerges, the doubts gnaw harder — and grow harder to ignore.
And, most chilling of all, with a massive assist from the Russian military, which not only hacked the Democrats, but also hacked voting software and a voting-system manufacturer.
Some people were motivated to vote for Trump because they believed Russian lies about Hillary Clinton’s health or email. But at least they got to cast their votes, and have them counted.
Others, many who planned to vote against Trump, were kept from the ballot entirely. In Wisconsin, as Mother Jones has reported, discriminatory ID laws prevented 45,000 eligible voters from participating in the election, including 23,000 in two heavily Democratic counties. Trump won Wisconsin by 22,000 votes.
The attorney general of Wisconsin, Brad Schimel, even boasted recently that Trump won Wisconsin chiefly because tens of thousands of eligible voters were turned away.
We’ve long known that Russian hackers attempted to break into the nation’s voter databases. But NBC reported this year that they succeeded. Senior intelligence officials said that Russia compromised seven states, including California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.
There are other good reasons to ask questions about the election. In Florida, exit polls on election day had Clinton winning by 1.3 % of the vote. When the votes were tallied, Trump beat her by 1.2%.
None of this data is conclusive. But it absolutely does not suggest that American citizens should shut up, forget it, and will away all the evidence that something’s rotten in our electoral system. If it didn’t hurt your candidate this time, next time it might.
When, in 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon, he sounded noble. He claimed that to put Nixon on trial would cost the nation its newfound “tranquility.” Why rock the boat by bringing Nixon, who’d already been subject to so much “degradation,” to trial?
Why indeed. Ford was arguing for repression, when oh, say, maybe justice might have been the surer route to real tranquility.
He was telling the nation what abuser apologists tell victims. Don’t press charges. Think of all your abuser has suffered. It’s classier to move on.
Likewise, for years, Justice Antonin Scalia insisted that Americans must move on from Bush vs. Gore, the highly unusual 2000 Supreme Court decision that gave the presidency to George W. Bush. Scalia would get testy when asked questions, snapping at audiences: “Come on, get over it.”
Bush vs. Gore became the case that must not be named. Don’t interrupt Scalia’s tranquility.
Those who kept asking were also called bad sports, still sulking about the election. A protester around the time of the Supreme Court decision mocked those who’d voted the Gore-Lieberman ticket using Gore’s campaign logo. It read: “Sore Loserman.”
Sound familiar? Trump has been desperately trying to get voters to “move on” from the 2016 presidential election and to get special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to “move on” from the Russia investigation.
He’s also shouted into the wind that, against all evidence, the Russia investigation is a plot by sore-loser Democrats.
Aw. Hasn’t Trump suffered enough?
No. It’s the American people — of every stripe — who have suffered, seeing our democracy in such devastating disarray. And the remedy for that suffering is not to suck it up, pretend everything’s fine, and let criminals hold on to ill-gotten power and money.
The remedy is to keep speaking up, work for electoral reform to restore free and fair elections, and of course let justice run its course in the form of the investigations into Russian interference and Trumpland complicity.
In the meantime, typesetters, cue up your asterisks. You might need them.
1919 World Series*
2016 presidential election*
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