Danger on November 9th

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall with the Retired American Warriors, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Herndon, Va. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
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I’ve been wanting to discuss this. But so much has been happening it keeps getting pushed back to the next day or the next post. Quite simply, everybody needs to be paying close attention to what happens on November 9th.

It now seems quite likely that Hillary Clinton will win the November election and become the next President of the United States. But Donald Trump has been for months pushing the idea that the election may be stolen from him by some mix of voter fraud (by racial and ethnic minorities) or more systemic election rigging by persons unknown. Polls show that large numbers of his supporters believe this.

Now, here at TPM we’ve been writing and reporting about the GOP’s ‘vote fraud’ scam going back almost 15 years. It’s a hugely important issue. But to date it has mainly been used to heat up Republican voters and drive state-based voter suppression measures. After a decade-plus pushing the idea, Republicans passed various voter suppression measures in numerous states after the 2010 midterm election. But to date, the ‘voter fraud’ scam has never been fully weaponized as a way to delegitimize and even resist a specific election, certainly not a national election. As Rick Hasen explains here, Donald Trump is doing that now. And he is succeeding in as much as he’s convinced substantial numbers of his supporters that if he loses it will be because the election was stolen.

It is a very, very dangerous step when a presidential nominee openly threatens to jail his opponent if he wins. It’s no less dangerous when a candidate pushes the idea that an election will be stolen and lays the groundwork for resisting the result. That’s happening. It is difficult to overstate the societal benefit of being able to take it almost as an absolute given and assumption that no matter how intense and close-fought an election gets, virtually everyone will accept the result the day after. Undermining that assumption is of a piece with introducing into the political arena the idea that people who lose election might lose more than the election: loss of money, freedom, or worse etc.

The good news is that it now seems possible that Clinton’s margin will be large enough even to convince many Trump supporters that he legitimately lost. But there’s no guarantee of that. And in his currently expanding war against the GOP, we’re seeing – if we needed more evidence – that Trump will act in the most destructive ways imaginable when he’s losing and angry.

I’ll put a pin in the discussion for now. But this is something to watch very closely as the next thirty days unfold. It is a very, very big deal. Trump has been making this argument explicitly for weeks. As I said, we’re had the voter fraud racket for years. It’s never been weaponized like this As the pressure on him grows and his own anger mounts there’s every reason to think he’ll keep upping the ante.

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