Since Donald Trump’s cratering in the polls following the leaked video of him boasting about groping women without their consent and the related sexual assault allegations swirling around him, the GOP nominee has decided on a new strategy. That strategy is to pre-emptively—and without any basis in reality—blame unspecified methods and forces for “rigging” the election against him in the event that he eventually loses. In a recent poll, 41 percent of respondents were buying this malarkey.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama gave one of the sharpest rebukes of Trump’s new tactic, describing how it was destabilizing to our democracy, saying that it rejected both history and reality, and telling Trump to “stop whining.”
It was a joyful and masterful dismantling of political argument that is based on an insane premise—that it’s even possible to rig a national election in the United States in 2016—and one completely untethered from anything resembling “evidence.” It is worth watching in its entirety above, but here are some choice excerpts.
Obama explains how Trump’s comments are by their very nature anti-democratic and anti-American:
One of the great things about American democracy is we have a vigorous—sometimes bitter—political contest and when it’s done, historically, regardless of party, the person who loses the election congratulates the winner, reaffirms our democracy, and we move forward. That’s how democracy survives, because we recognize that there’s something more important than any individual campaign and that is making sure that the integrity and trust in our institutions sustains itself because democracy by definition works by consent, not by force.
Obama explains just how unique Trump is in this regard:
I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented.
Obama explains how all available evidence points to the opposite conclusion of the one reached by Trump:
Every expert, regardless of political party, regardless of ideology, conservative or liberal, who has ever examined these issues in a serious way will tell you that instances of significant voter fraud are not to be found.
Obama explains why Trump’s accusations also don’t make any sense whatsoever from a logical perspective:
Keep in mind, elections are run by state and local officials, which means that there are places, like Florida for example, where you’ve got a Republican governor whose Republican appointees are going to be running and monitoring a whole bunch of these election sites. The notion that somehow if Mr. Trump loses Florida it’s because of “those people” that you have to watch out for, that is … irresponsible…
Obama, who breaks into a bemused smile at this point, notes that Trump’s behavior is that of a—what do you call that type of person … someone who is sore at the idea of losing … Anyway, he describes it better:
By the way, [it] doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you’d want out of a president. You start whining before the game’s even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.
Obama returns to the central theme, which is what the hell is Trump talking about?
The larger point that I want to emphasize here is that there is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections, in part because they’re so decentralized and the numbers of votes involved—there’s no evidence that has happened in the past or that there are instances that that will happen this time
And the money line:
And so, I’d advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.
Indeed. Finally, Obama closes with a tome to the greatness of American democracy even when someone so anti-democratic has the chance to be elected president:
And if [Mr. Trump] got the most votes then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that the American people benefit from an effective government. And it would be my job to welcome Mr. Trump, regardless of what he’s said about me or my differences with him on my opinions, and escort him over to the Capitol in which there would be a peaceful transfer of power. That’s what Americans do. That’s why America is already great. One way of weakening America and making it less great is if you start betraying those basic American traditions that have been bipartisan and have helped to hold together this democracy now for well over two centuries.
The image of that particular transfer of power is terrifying, but not quite as scary as the alternative currently being promoted by the Republican nominee—that Americans reject their own democracy.