Monday, Donald Trump gave a pretty good speech on taxes. Putting aside the protectionist rhetoric on trade and the obvious negative impact it would have on U.S. exports, the tax portion of his speech was pretty good.
Unfortunately, it won’t get the attention it deserves because it follows a week of self-inflected distractions, the most serious of which being the assertion the election is “rigged.”
The election is not rigged.
For a decade I have traveled the country and the world teaching conservative candidates, political party leaders, and activists the skills necessary to wage strong political campaigns. In addition, I’ve served as an international election observer in countries such as Honduras and Kenya. While America’s political system isn’t perfect, it is among the best in the world, and it certainly isn’t “rigged.”
This is a dangerous assertion for the nominee of a major political party to make, for many reasons. Here are just a few.
It discourages people from engaging in the process – why volunteer, donate, or even vote if the outcome has been predetermined by some all powerful conspiracy? The world is run by those who show up, and assertions that lead people to believe their efforts don’t count will lead to fewer people being involved.
It serves to de-legitimize the ultimate winner of the contest, making it more difficult for the country and its government to function regardless of who prevails. A fundamental quality of strong and resilient democracy is the acceptance of the outcome by all sides. Once the ballots are counted and winners declared, that needs to be the end of it until the next election. The alternative is to have the contest continue either on the streets or in the courts. Both are signs of an unstable government.
It confirms yet again that Donald Trump spreads baseless conspiracy theories and innuendo when it suits him, regardless of the impact it has on others. After all, this is someone who the day after the Republican National Convention again floated his theory that Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’ father, was directly involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. His only evidence: a National Enquirer story that he claims should have won “a Pulitzer.” If your taxi driver said these same things, you’d jump out of the car.
Conservatives have long highlighted the presence of fraud in our voting system made possible by inadequate voter ID protections. Indeed, CBS News in Los Angeles uncovered consistent voting from the grave in a May 2016 story, and it’s not the first time. Yet, there’s a big difference between a few fraudulent votes being cast and the shift of tens of millions of votes that would be needed to get Donald Trump out of his current polling hole.
Besides, when Trump was pressed on what he meant by the vote being “rigged,” he didn’t cite the dead vote, but rather pointed to instances during the nominating process when Ted Cruz supporters won delegate slots in Colorado and Louisiana. The nominating contest is run by completely different rules, administered by different entities, than the general election, and the nominee of a major party should know the difference.
Finally, the false belief that the election outcome is predetermined becomes a mental crutch to avoid doing what must be done to win. Fundraising, the exercise of internal discipline, building a world class campaign organization – these are not the fun parts of a political campaign, but they are absolutely necessary. If we already know the winner, why bother?
Donald Trump retains significant, untapped strategic advantages he can exploit if he will get out of his own way. More Americans trust him on economic matters and challenging ISIS than Hillary Clinton, who is viewed by a substantial number of voters as untrustworthy. That’s why Monday’s economic speech in Detroit was a good step.
Opening the door to worsening political instability in America post-November by asserting our elections are illegitimate is a very dangerous distraction that needs to stop.
Ron Nehring is a former Chairman of the California Republican Party. He has served as an international election observer for the International Republican Institute in Kenya, and as an independent observer in Honduras. He has taught political technology to international audiences for a decade.