The Boston Globe published a rather preachy editorial about Trump’s claim that the upcoming presidential election is rigged. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:
“Trump’s claims that the election is “rigged” against him have no basis in fact. Election fraud in the United States is so rare as to be nearly nonexistent. All 50 states and countless local boards control their own elections, and rigging the vote on a nationwide basis would be nearly impossible.”
People understand the word ‘rigged’ in a variety of ways. Voters generally want to have confidence that an election outcome is fair, that institutions with authority follow constitutional procedures to determine the winner in a close contest. When the Supreme Court arbitrarily appointed George W. Bush to the presidency in 2000, that confidence evaporated. No one who witnessed that charade could ever believe that our country conducts presidential elections in a fair manner.
Moreover, nothing that occurred in 2000 could be called fraud. It was all perpetrated in the open. Which leads you to ask the same question we’ve had to ask about so many other governmental acts that violate the Bill of Rights: if our institutions pervert constitutional norms in the open, what do they undertake in secret? If Supreme Court justices blatantly misappropriate constitutional authority in a presidential election, why should we have confidence in anything they do?
So Trump’s prognostications of a rigged election don’t grow from specific charges of fraud at local election boards. His resentments and warnings grow from a general sense that formerly trustworthy institutions do not act according to constitutional or moral constraints. In that sense, Trump’s claim that the election is rigged merely extends Elizabeth Warren’s charge that the system is rigged. Both politicians weave their accusations from the same thread.
Our electoral rules, procedures, political parties, election apparatus, and decision making authorities are all part of an established way of doing things that citizens no longer trust. From Donald Trump’s point of view, the mainstream media, the Democratic party, the Republican party, and other institutions Trump and his supporters stand against are part of the same system. If you don’t trust systemic institutions, you don’t have confidence that presidential election outcomes are fairly decided either.