Politics & Policy

No, the Election Isn’t Rigged

Trump speaks at a rally in Ocala, Fla., October 12, 2016. (Reuters photo: Mike Segar)
Denying reality doesn’t help.

Donald Trump is playing the sore loser, and he hasn’t even lost yet.

The presidential contest “looks like a rigged election,” he tweeted Saturday. The “election is being rigged by the media, in a coordinated effort with the Clinton campaign.” At a rally on Friday, he suggested that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, a New York Times shareholder, is behind the paper’s recent negative coverage. Trump also contends that the electoral theft is happening “at many polling places.”

Those who paid attention to the Republican primaries will recall this tactic. Back then, the conspiring parties were the Republican National Committee and the congressional “Establishment” and various conservative media outlets, whom Trump accused of trying to “steal” the party’s nomination from him. This time, Trump is suggesting that the entire electoral mechanism by which Americans choose their chief executive has become illegitimate.

As a factual matter, this is, of course, bunk. The electoral process, from bottom to top, is managed by citizens and governed by a dense body of election law. Vote-counting is heavily scrutinized by party officials and independent monitors, and irregularities are subject to legal challenge. The voting equipment used is tested prior to Election Day and carefully monitored before, during, and after. None of this is to say that voter fraud does not exist, or that errors don’t occasionally affect vote totals. But to “rig” an election at the national scale would require logistical know-how seen only in Hollywood capers. To think that the same Clinton campaign that had trouble putting away Bernie Sanders has now arranged to steal an election on a continental scale defies logic — to put it mildly.

As for the media, there is no doubt that the press hates Donald Trump with a passion, and it shows. Unfortunately, media bias is a persistent feature of our system. Shrewd Republican campaigns don’t just complain about it, but work to make themselves less vulnerable to it. As the Trump campaign has spiraled downward in the polls, he has constantly taken the bait from the Clinton campaign and ensured, through his tweets and riffs at rallies, that damaging controversies get more coverage rather than less (although even the best-run campaign would be hard-pressed to cope with multiple allegations of unwanted advances and groping by the candidate).

Inevitably, propaganda outlets such as Infowars and Breitbart News push Trump’s message and prominent backers and surrogates fall in line. Jeff Sessions — the four-term senator from Alabama and member of the Judiciary Committee — told a crowd in Portsmouth, N.H., “They are attempting to rig this election.”It is no accident that the election looked much less “rigged” in mid September, when Trump had closed in on Hillary by embracing a modicum of discipline. He has now cast that aside in favor of unleashing the full Trump id, including his conspiracy theory about the election.

‘They are attempting to rig this election,’ says Jeff Sessions. This is reckless in the extreme.

This is reckless in the extreme. Hillary Clinton is spectacularly unfit for the office of president of the United States; had she a different last name, she would almost certainly be facing felony charges for endangering state secrets. But she is the official nominee of the Democratic party, and if she becomes president, it will be because she was chosen by the American electorate in accordance with our laws. At that point, it will be the most urgent priority of conservatives to resist her agenda, and to begin the task of reconstituting a winning conservative coalition. Neither of those aims will be served by denying reality.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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