Democratic elections serve two purposes. The first is to elect the winner. But the second is to convince the loser. After the votes are all counted, everyone needs to trust that the election was fair and the results accurate. Attacks against our election system, even if they are ultimately ineffective, undermine that trust and – by extension – our democracy.
Because of the inherent unfairness of the electoral college and the rotten toxicity of the conservative right, it is not difficult to foresee a future in which the US never again has a President who is widely viewed by the 'losing side' as legitimate.
Fanny Wolfe of Shakesville looks at the various things over the last 20 years that have contributed to not convincing the loser.
* The Bush v. Gore case before the Supremes, largely seen as a partisan decision and an opinion that Gore would have won of the Florida recount had been allowed to continue. This damaged the credibility of both the election process and the judiciary.
* Throughout Obama’s presidency the GOP constantly challenged his legitimacy to be in the White House.
* Ongoing and increasing efforts to pass laws that suppress the vote, especially in the last year.
* Recognition of Russian meddling in shaping public opinion.
* Recognition that our voting system isn’t secure enough, including perhaps hacking by Russia.
* Bernie Sanders frequent claims that the primary selection process must have been rigged against him. Yes, the perception of faulty elections can be as damaging as actual faulty elections.
* The nasty guy claiming that if he didn’t win the results must be rigged. He still talks about the 3 million more votes his opponent got as evidence of rigging. These claims contribute to the prevalent public opinion that the nasty guy must have done something illegal.
* The nasty guy has created a commission on election integrity that appears to be doing the opposite of its name.
* Bernie and his supporters are already implying that anyone else nominated instead of him is “manufactured” by an unfair system.
Wolfe adds a third purpose of a legitimate election:
Perhaps the most important purpose of elections is to convince the people that the system worked and that we are not, now, under the thumb of cheating despots.
In that endeavor, Trump, his fans, and the Republicans have failed.
Is there a way out? These attacks on democracy must be denounced, particularly by the politicians who benefit from the attacks. Very few Republicans have done this. The mainstream media must also distinguish between threats to democracy and claims of threats. Then they must support democracy. Don’t hold your breath on these things happening. Wrote Wolfe:
For a nation that takes great pride in its democracy, it's notable how so many people care so little about the reckless attacks on our electoral system. But, they should.
Since the first item in the above list is about Bush II, Wolfe notes that his approval in the first few months was in the mid 50% range. Just after the 9/11 attacks he was declared “presidential” and his approval jumped to 90%. His actions seemed to erase the doubts of the legitimacy of his becoming president. But then he lied to get us into Iraq and mismanaged it. He squandered that legitimacy and left office as one of the most unpopular presidents. She wrote:
A lesson from George W. Bush's presidency, then, is that a security crisis can confer legitimacy to a President who begins his term lacking it. And, the people will hunker down and rally behind an undeserving leader during a scary time, out of a sense of fear, loyalty, and nationalism. History shows that bad leaders will squander this trust, rather than accepting it with responsibility and grace.Think about that as you read the nasty guy’s “fire and fury” threat against North Korea