The subject of the election being “rigged” is a hot topic of late. But what is being, or has been, rigged exactly?
Donald Trump won the primary fair and square, therefore we must respect the will of the voters and accept and support him as the GOP nominee. That’s what we’re told. Relentlessly. Failure to do so will have you named “traitor” in short order. Or “treasonous” or “disloyal” or, and this is by far the most common, all of the above.
But did Trump win fair and square?
Trump and his supporters really hammer the idea that the election is being rigged. In fact not just the election, but that “the system” is rigged, that it’s rigged against conservatives, rigged against Republicans and, most decidedly, rigged against Donald Trump.
At first, many of us took this to mean only and literally rigged. That is to say, people casting fake votes, election officials deliberately miscounting votes – essentially that the election would be, in a very real, literal sense, stolen through fraud or, at the very least, manipulated through unfair rules and practices. But the definition has turned out to be somewhat murkier among the Trump loyal and is used pretty generally to mean “it’s not fair.”
This includes reasons like: the media is in the tank, they attack him and let her skate, the government lets her off the hook for her crimes but nobody lets him off the hook for old videos of him being a pervert. That the system in general is at fault, thanks to special interests and political correctness and societal attitudes toward those who don’t bow to liberal orthodoxy. You know, “rigged”, not rigged rigged.
But also rigged rigged, in that voter fraud does occur and that this is also problem (though far be it from me to suggest it’s not enough of a problem to change the result in this particular election.)
Under these definitions, it’s impossible to conclude that the primary election, the one that resulted in Donald Trump’s nomination, is not likewise and identically rigged. If you, as they do, believe the above means the election is rigged, then you must accept that the primary was rigged.
Consider the following evidence. One of the central arguments the Trump camp uses to claim the election is being rigged is that the strings are being pulled by Hillary Clinton herself. She’s such a creature of Washington and has such influence in the media and on the left that she is able to rig things in her own favor. They state this often, saying that with Obama’s collusion and the compliance of the press she has overtly rigged the system in her favor. Considering the now-infamous Comey FBI investigation, this is more than plausible.
Hillary the lever-puller, the one who can sway an election by her will according to Trump’s own people, actively sought the nomination of Donald Trump, a fact that we know now from the Wikileaks emails. Hillary wanted Trump to win and, just as they argue she is doing now, she used her influence to try and make it happen.
Another way in which the system is rigged, according to Trump’s own supporters, is that the media manipulates people with selective coverage, selective outrage, and framing events to their liking. In the general election, that means against Trump and for Hillary. But what about the primaries?
Here is a fun story, from Fox News reporter Jesse Watters.
Watching debate in enormous room of media in Vegas. Press laughs and cheers for Hillary and groans and gasps when Trump speaks. #inthetank
— Jesse Watters (@JesseBWatters) October 20, 2016
This went viral and was cited thousands of times by Trump supporters on Twitter, on Facebook, and on their various websites as flat-out evidence that the sytem is rigged. I want you to hear what I said. This was presented as proof of things being rigged. One of my favorite websites, Twitchy, referred to it as “chilling.”
Proof. Of being rigged. Got it?
Now here’s another story:
Look at the dates on those posts. I was in the same press rooms Jesse Watters was talking about and during the primary, the press was hooting, whooping and hollering for Trump. When he burned a fellow Republican they ate it up. Everything Watters describe, the press did it for Trump. The correct ox was being gored, you see.
Proof. Of being rigged. Got it?
The free media coverage that Trump received during the primaries is the stuff of legend. Some say over a billion dollars worth of free coverage. His speeches and rallies were carried in their totality on the cable news networks as each scrambled for ratings and waited with bated breath for him to say something outrageous. And you can believe, if it was about Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or John Kasich, they were laughing it up and filing more stories.
And we needn’t even mention the in the tank conservative press, with certain websites and certain news networks and certain brown belts fawning all over him.
So now we come to the final way in which Trump supporters say the system is rigged: actual rigging. Fraudulent votes. Manipulation of the rules. In other words, the actual, literal system itself.
The former, fraudulent votes, is not a real factor in this. But manipulation of the system? Steve Deace puts the number of crossover votes in the Republican primary, ie. Democrats voting, at 12 million. These open primaries don’t merely allow unaffiliated voters to decide who the GOP will nominate, but people who are actually registered Democrats. Neil wrote about the problem at length way back in March. Eventually, as the free publicity and stack of wins sank in, he began to win closed primaries as well. Momentum matters.
In many of those open primary states, too, Trump won a plurality of the registered Republican votes. But how many of those open primaries were winner take all? Of those that weren’t, how many of the delegates he ended up with came solely from the Democrat voting surplus? And speaking of winner take all …
Another problem with the system is the deplorable “winner-take-all” approach to assigning delegates. It allows someone to win in a squeaker, without even a majority of the votes, and then take every delegate from the state. Think about that. Over half of the voters reject you and you get ALL the delegates. Would Trump think that was fair if he had lost the primary because of it? Would his fans and followers?
Additionally, the RNC made a rule that was in effect this year that early voting states would be assigned proportionally. This split system has a double whammy effect. In the early states, candidates with less money can’t build up a large delegate lead like they would if the states were winner-take-all. So as the primary wears on, even if they are winning states, they aren’t dominating in delegates. Then after the “window” put in place by the RNC, the winner-take-all states reward the big cash players who remained competitive in the delegate count. One, two punch.
Look, we’re not here to litigate every nuanced aspect of the Republican Primary system, and as stated above, actual fraud and/or literal manipulation of the system is the smallest part of the Trump theory of rigged elections. But … in the broad view it is impossible to say that it wasn’t a huge benefit to Trump and detriment to his opposition. It favors, by design, a candidate with a lot of money and a lot of press. And, also by design, takes the power away from the traditional conservative base in favor of more moderate and liberal Republicans, as well as Independents and Democrats. Why? Because the establishment wanted people who appeal to those groups more and to conservatives less because they thought it would make them more likely to win a general election by getting an establishment cadidate. You know the type.
cough Jeb Bush cough
Everything Trump’s supporters say about a rigged general election applies to the primary election. The press? Check. Hillary’s influence? Check. Manipulated system? Check. In the current situation, it’s rigged for Hillary. But in the prior? In the primaries? Very obviously rigged for one Donald J. Trump. If you accept, as Trump supporters do, that the general election is rigged, then you must accept the primary was as well, and for the same reasons and by the same people.
And so, here we are.
This would normally be something to save for a post-mortem, but “rigged” is the talk of the town right now, and I simply couldn’t sit there hearing it day after day as people offered evidence that applied exactly as much to the primary. It had to be said.
Really, you can hardly blame Donald Trump for that. He ran the race others designed. The kind where being manifestly unfit for office was not a significant obstacle to overcome.
Instead, blame the same people that Trump himself blames. Blame Reince and Co., blame Hillary, blame the media. If you don’t like where we are right now – facing a loss and the calamitous prospect of a Hillary Clinton monarchy- those are the real culprits.