The catastrophic effects of a Donald Trump presidency have been well-documented. The self-obsessed, willfully ignorant, lying wannabe dictator has been unable to articulate a specific policy vision for anything from health care to foreign policy. Sure, he offers half-baked rants about President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s co-founding of ISIS or threatens to rip up trade deals that have added trillions to the economy, but remove the teleprompter and the GOP nominee is about as deep as a Trinity student’s knowledge of E-Quad geography.
Too much ink has already been dedicated to Trump’s abrasive words and dangerous policies if he were to be elected president. At this point, his election looks increasingly unlikely. FiveThirtyEight has his chance of winning at 23%, and The Upshot estimates Clinton’s chance of winning in the biggest landslide since 1984 is significantly larger than Trump’s chance of winning at all. Even if you gave FL, OH, NV, GA, and IA to Trump, polls indicate that Clinton would still have 288 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed to make her the first female president in U.S. history. There are two months until the election, and there may be dramatic shifts, but the numbers tell us voters will not be handing Donald Trump the nuclear codes in 2016.
His campaign organization may be a train wreck, but even Trump and his team can read those disastrous poll numbers. Befitting all impetuous bullies, Trump is already crying foul play, and it could have serious consequences. In early August at multiple speeches and rallies, Trump warned, “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged. I have to be honest.”
The baseless fear-mongering continued at a rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania (a state Clinton is leading Trump by an average of 9.2 points). Trump blustered, “We have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching. … The only way they can beat it in my opinion — and I mean this 100 percent — if in certain sections of the state they cheat, okay?”
His insistence that the election would be fraught with corruption defies all fact. Over the past two weeks he has alleged that undocumented immigrants just walk into polling places and vote, that folks in Ohio vote 10 times each, the 2012 election was stolen by dead voters casting ballots for Barack Obama, and more.
Politifact has rated these these claims in their totality as “Pants on Fire,” an apt description of the entire Trump candidacy. Moreover, Justin Levitt, a constitutional law professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, examined instances of voter fraud from 2000 to 2014. He found just 31 cases in over more than 1 billion votes cast.
In other words, no, Donald, that one episode of Scandal where Olivia rigs that voting booth in Ohio is not real life. It’s just another fake TV show, but I’m sure you’re familiar with those.
However, in year where facts and the truth do not seem to matter, Trumps fabrications do damage to the ethos of our democracy and perhaps to future public policy.
When Trump and his surrogates peddle their lies about voter fraud and accusations about election rigging, they erode the integrity of our electoral process. His tens of millions of supporters believe what he says on Twitter and on the stump, and his statements are preparing a large portion of the electorate to distrust the results of the election in November.
Trump has rolled out a new campaign feature that allows people to sign up to be “Trump Election Observers” so they can do “everything we are legally allowed to do to stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election!” Ironically, that very Orwellian action may violate voter intimidation laws.
That, in conjunction with the unprecedented levels of vitriol this cycle, mean millions of Americans might not recognize Hillary Clinton if she is elected President. This “Not My President” sentiment began during the George W. Bush era and gained significant traction during President Obama’s terms. But it could reach a fever pitch this time. Democracy only works when its participants believe in its efficacy and legitimacy.
Beyond undermining the public’s faith in the validity of American election, Trump could also spark a new wave of Voter ID laws. These laws, intentionally or otherwise, disenfranchise millions of voters in states like Texas and North Carolina, where minority and young voter populations are growing. Yes, the Courts have struck down a number of these laws. But softening voter ID laws through litigation often still leaves voters disenfranchised and opens the door for new restrictions couched in legally acceptable language.
In all likelihood, Donald Trump will earn significantly less electoral votes than Hillary Clinton on November 8th. He will not be able to forge an alliance with Russia and he will not be able to subject all immigrants to an extreme ideological test for entry into the United States. But even in defeat, Trump will have stoked irrational fears of rampant voter fraud and chipped away at the faith Americans have placed in their democracy for hundreds of years. All because his fragile ego could not admit to losing. Fair and square.