You know that things are bad when a political junkie like myself cannot wait for the election to be over. But will it really be over? Unfortunately, no. The truth is, the 2018 and 2020 midterm and presidential elections are already underway.
Democrats stand a reasonable chance of regaining control of the Senate and making some gains in the House. If Democrats regain the Senate, they will have a slim majority and also at great risk of losing control in two years. Assuming the House remains in GOP control, and regardless of who wins the White House, all Americans can assume that partisanship and lack of cooperation will only increase, leading to more political gridlock at each end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Both political parties can take credit for nominating two of the most disliked and unpopular figures in modern American history. As a result, whether Hillary or Trump becomes our 45th president, either will have political hell to pay — which is unfair not only to the next president, but to the American voters.
However, the very sad fact is that Trump and the GOP, even before the election, have already succeeded in placing a dark cloud over Hillary if she is elected. He has poisoned the political well and she will likely not even have the traditional 100-day honeymoon period.
Just recently, for example, Texas Sen. and failed GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz promised an acceleration of political gridlock on the Hill if Clinton is elected president. There is also even talk on the Republican side of continuing to allow the Supreme Court to operate with only eight justices, as opposed to the required and indeed constitutionally mandated number of nine.
One approach by Trump to delegitimize a Clinton administration is by his repeated claims that there will be widespread voter fraud at the election polls. A few weeks ago while campaigning in Pennsylvania, Trump urged his supporters to monitor polls and “watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.” Indeed he seems to relish in referencing rampant voter fraud and the likelihood of a “rigged” election.
One does not have to be even remotely politically astute to recognize that Trump is referencing minority communities when expressing the need to “watch other communities.” Currently he is polling fewer than four percent among African-Americans.
What better way to delegitimize an election then by planting seeds of doubt among your supporters prior to Election Day or during early voting? Such claims of voter irregularities, though, are greatly exaggerated.
For example, Trump often says, “People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. More than 1.8 million deceased individuals right now are listed as voters.” Here, he inaccurately cites a study by Pew Charitable Trusts.
But according to Lorraine Minnite, professor and author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud,” “This issue of dead people voting is just not substantiated.”
She cites the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which encouraged states to improve the accuracy of their registration lists and to audit election results.
A number of states compared their voter lists to the Social Security Death Index. In some cases, they turned up hundreds or even thousands of apparent instances of dead people voting. However, almost all of those were due to clerical errors or as a result of people who legally voted via absentee ballot or the early voting process and died before Election Day.
Trump has also sought to delegitimize the next president by refusing to commit himself to accepting the results on Election Night if he loses. At the final presidential debate, he said, “I will look at it at the time. I will keep you in suspense.”
Hillary called Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the results “horrifying.” Mitt Romney’s former campaign manager Steve Schmidt called such a refusal “an attack on a foundational level of the institutions of democracy.” Stated conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, “Trump knocked himself out. Contingent talk about results is not within our political norms.”
Trump’s questioning of the legitimacy of opponents has been the cornerstone of his political rise. It will also be the centerpiece of his presidency if elected. Let us not forget the lasting damage that he did to President Obama by leading the “birther” movement. Such actions remain unpatriotic and, in certain instances, outright racist.
I remain hopeful that Trump will be held accountable on Election Day. Only five days to go.
Austin R. Cooper Jr. is president of Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.