Donald Trump’s threat to reject election results alarms scholars

Max Fisher writes: Donald J. Trump’s suggestions that he might reject the results of the American election as illegitimate have unnerved scholars on democratic decline, who say his language echoes that of dictators who seize power by force and firebrand populists who weaken democracy for personal gain.

“To a political scientist who studies authoritarianism, it’s a shock,” said Steven Levitsky, a professor at Harvard. “This is the stuff that we see in Russia and Venezuela and Azerbaijan and Malawi and Bangladesh, and that we don’t see in stable democracies anywhere.”

Throughout October, Mr. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the vote will be “rigged” and “taken away from us.” At the final presidential debate, he refused to say he would accept the election’s outcome, and later joked at a rally that he would accept the results “if I win.”

In weak democracies around the world, scholars warned Friday, political leaders have used the same language to erode popular faith in democracy — often intending to incite violence that will serve their political aims, and sometimes to undo democracy entirely.

The United States is not at risk of such worst-case scenarios. American democratic norms and institutions are too strong for any one politician to destabilize. But Mr. Trump’s language, the scholars say, follows a similar playbook and could pose real, if less extreme, risks. [Continue reading…]


The cult of the expert — and how it collapsed

Sebastian Mallaby writes: On Tuesday 16 September 2008, early in the afternoon, a self-effacing professor with a neatly clipped beard sat with the president in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Flanked by a square-shouldered banker who had recently run Goldman Sachs, the professor was there to tell the elected leader of the world’s most powerful country how to rescue its economy. Following the bankruptcy of one of the nation’s storied investment banks, a global insurance company was now on the brink, but drawing on a lifetime of scholarly research, the professor had resolved to commit $85bn of public funds to stabilising it.

The sum involved was extraordinary: $85bn was more than the US Congress spent annually on transportation, and nearly three times as much as it spent on fighting Aids, a particular priority of the president’s. But the professor encountered no resistance. “Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions,” the president reflected. “If you think this has to be done, you have my blessing.”

Later that same afternoon, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, the bearded hero of this tale, showed up on Capitol Hill, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. At the White House, he had at least been on familiar ground: he had spent eight months working there. But now Bernanke appeared in the Senate majority leader’s conference room, where he and his ex-Wall Street comrade, Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, would meet the senior leaders of both chambers of Congress. A quiet, balding, unassuming technocrat confronted the lions of the legislative branch, armed with nothing but his expertise in monetary plumbing.

Bernanke repeated his plan to commit $85bn of public money to the takeover of an insurance company.

“Do you have 85bn?” one sceptical lawmaker demanded.

“I have 800bn,” Bernanke replied evenly – a central bank could conjure as much money as it deemed necessary.

But did the Federal Reserve have the legal right to take this sort of action unilaterally, another lawmaker inquired?

Yes, Bernanke answered: as Fed chairman, he wielded the largest chequebook in the world – and the only counter-signatures required would come from other Fed experts, who were no more elected or accountable than he was. Somehow America’s famous apparatus of democratic checks and balances did not apply to the monetary priesthood. Their authority derived from technocratic virtuosity. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump vs. America

Jamelle Bouie writes: In 1800, Federalist president John Adams lost to Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans, following a painful and contentious contest. And rather than fight or challenge the results, Adams handed his rival the reins of power, the first peaceful transition of power in a democracy and a milestone in the history of the modern world. The act of conceding, in other words, is vital to the functioning of democracy. It confers legitimacy on the winner of an election, giving him or her a chance to govern. To refuse to concede, to deny that legitimacy, is to undermine our democratic foundations.

Surrogates for Trump have tried to defend his comments, citing then–Vice President Al Gore’s conduct following the 2000 election. But Gore didn’t challenge the process; he let it move forward. As ordered by state law, Florida had to do a recount. That recount was then stopped by the Supreme Court. At that point, Gore conceded the election, gracefully and without public hesitation.

In presidential elections at least, there’s simply no precedent for what Trump is promising. The slave South may have seceded from the Union following the 1860 election, but neither of Abraham Lincoln’s opponents denied his legitimacy as the duly-elected leader for the United States. It is world-historic in the worst possible way. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump’s final insult to American democracy

John Avlon writes: “I’ll keep you in suspense.”

That was Donald Trump, candidate for president of the United States, treating the peaceful transfer of power like a reality-TV show cliffhanger in the final presidential debate.

The hyperpartisan hype man was either teasing the opening season of Trump TV or promising a constitutional crisis. Either way, it’s a display of stomach-churning disregard for our democracy by a celebrity demagogue whose narcissism has already stained our political history.

By now, we’re now used to The Donald treating this election as a vehicle for his vanity. Most sober Republicans have slowly come to the horrified realization that they have a manifestly irresponsible man at the top of their ticket. But the radius of damage seemed contained to the GOP and the quality of our civic debates. Donald changed that Wednesday night.

Once the act-like-an-adult sedatives wore off around 30 minutes into the third debate, he lapsed into his reflexive lying and insult comedy. He lied about insulting a disabled reporter. He lied about his past praise of Putin and his call for Japan to pursue nukes. He called his opponent a “nasty woman” and said she shouldn’t be allowed to vote, let alone run for president.

But those were just the fetid appetizers before the rotten main course that instantly defined the third debate.

The most troubling rumble from Trump’s flailing final weeks has been his suggestions that maybe he wouldn’t accept defeat. He teased this riff repeatedly to crowds only to have it be denied by his designated straight man, Mike Pence. But Trump went full wingnut with his comments in the third debate, refusing to say whether he would accept the results of the election if—as the polls show is likely—he loses on Nov. 8.

Put down the popcorn for a second. Remember that this election is real. It is not a reality show. [Continue reading…]


Trump didn’t invent the ‘rigged election’ myth. Republicans did

Elizabeth Warren writes: Cratering in the polls, besieged by sexual assault allegations and drowning in his own disgusting rhetoric, Donald Trump has been reduced to hollering that November’s election is “rigged” against him. His proof? It looks like he’s going to lose.

Senior Republican leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this dangerous claim. But Trump’s argument didn’t spring from nowhere. It’s just one more symptom of a long-running effort by Republicans to delegitimize Democratic voters, appointees and leaders. For years, this disease has infected our politics. It cannot be cured until Republican leaders rethink their approach to modern politics.

Anyone with children knows that whining about imaginary cheating is the last refuge of the sore loser. But GOP leaders have served up such a steady diet of stories about imaginary cheating that an Economist-YouGov poll shows that 45 percent of Republican voters believe voter fraud is a “very serious problem,” and 46 percent have little or no confidence that ballots will be counted accurately. They hold these views even though there is literally no evidence — none, zero, zip — that widespread voter fraud is a factor in modern American elections. A recent study looked at around a billion ballots cast in the United States from 2000 through 2014 and found only 31 instances of impersonation fraud at the polls. [Continue reading…]

In the following interview, Al Cardenas, former Chairman of Florida Republican Party, is categorical in denying that there is any basis for Trump’s claim that this or any other election can be rigged.



Poll: 41 percent of voters say election could be ‘stolen’ from Trump

Politico reports: The American electorate has turned deeply skeptical about the integrity of the nation’s election apparatus, with 41 percent of voters saying November’s election could be “stolen” from Donald Trump due to widespread voter fraud.

The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll — conducted among 1,999 registered voters Oct. 13 through Oct. 15 — shows that Trump’s repeated warnings about a “rigged” election are having effect: 73 percent of Republicans think the election could be swiped from him. Just 17 percent of Democrats agree with the prospect of massive fraud at the ballot box.

The public sentiment is beginning to reflect Trump’s campaign message. Over the last week, the GOP nominee has intensified his criticism of the U.S. electoral system, much to the chagrin of elected Republicans, who think it threatens the peaceful transfer of power. Trump calls the process rigged, and has said the media is colluding with Hillary Clinton to throw the presidential race in her favor.

Trump’s comments casting doubt upon the process have drawn a gentle rebuke from House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose spokesperson put out what would ordinarily be an unremarkable statement on Saturday: “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.” [Continue reading…]


Most Trump supporters lack faith in democracy

Nathaniel Persily and Jon Cohen write: If there had been any doubt, it has now become clear that this election campaign is about more than the selection of a president: The values that support American democracy are deteriorating. Large numbers of Americans across party lines have lost faith in their democracy, and many will not accept the legitimacy of this election.

Those were the stark findings from a survey we performed from Oct. 6 through Oct. 8 of more than 3,000 registered voters, fully 40 percent of whom say: “I have lost faith in American democracy.” Six percent indicate they’ve never had faith in the system. Overall, barely more than half — just 52 percent — say, “I have faith in American democracy.” (Most respondents completed the survey before the Oct. 7 release of the video in which Donald Trump bragged about groping women, but the responses of those surveyed afterward were indistinguishable from those who answered the day before.)

This cynicism is widely shared across the electorate, but significant partisan differences emerge on this question, as on so many others. More than 6 in 10 voters backing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton express faith in U.S. democracy, compared with just over 4 in 10 of those backing her Republican rival. Most of Trump’s supporters say they’ve lost confidence in the basic mechanism of governance in the United States.

One of the hallmarks of faith in democracy is a willingness of the defeated to accept the results of elections. Democracy, after all, is not about the selection of particular leaders, but the notion that citizens have the power to select them at all. It relies on the assumption that today’s electoral losers will live to fight another day, so that their faith in the system of democratic selection weathers temporary setbacks. But in this election, we find that a surprising share of the electorate is unwilling to accept the legitimacy of the election of their non-preferred candidate. [Continue reading…]


Enough is enough: The 2016 election is now a referendum on male entitlement

Leslie Bennetts writes: Lashing out at his accusers this afternoon, Donald Trump attacked all the women who say he has groped, kissed or inspected them naked without their consent. He called them “horrible, horrible liars” and vowed to sue the New York Times for reporting their accounts.

Minutes before the Florida rally where Trump declared war on women and the media, Michelle Obama offered a diametrically opposite view of reality and morality at a campaign appearance in New Hampshire. Condemning Trump’s conduct as “intolerable”, she forcefully argued that no woman deserves to be treated this way. The contrast between the two couldn’t have been more dramatic.

“This is not about politics. It’s about basic human decency,” the first lady said, urging her listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton. “It’s about right and wrong. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough’.”

Her words echoed the thoughts of millions of women who watched last Sunday’s presidential debate and heard Trump deny he’s ever sexually assaulted women, even though he himself has publicly described having habitually done just that. What Trump didn’t realize was how many of his listeners were thinking about all the times that men had done such things to them.

By midweek, even before Michelle Obama voiced that thought, the floodgates had opened as a rapidly expanding array of women described various forms of sexual assault they said Trump had inflicted on them – and told their stories, on the record, to the Guardian, the New York Times, Buzzfeed, People magazine, and the Palm Beach Post, among a growing list of publications. [Continue reading…]


Martin Bosma — Geert Wilders’ brain

Politico reports: Look at photographs of Geert Wilders in the Dutch parliament, and the camera often shows a figure seated behind him: Martin Bosma, the polemicist of the Freedom Party (PVV).

A former journalist, whose side-swept brown hair keeps him a youthful 52, Bosma is often described in Dutch media as the PVV’s ideologist. “He’s the brain. He invented the PVV,” said Geert Tomlow, a former parliamentary elections candidate from the party.

Bosma’s ideas are bearing fruit at just the right time, with the PVV leading in the polls five months from a general election that could see the party double in size in the parliament. He and Wilders have helped push the center-ground of Dutch politics to the Right and mainstreamed positions once confined to the fringe.

Since entering parliament a decade ago, Bosma has published two books, each released to a flurry of television interviews and controversy.

The autobiographical “The Fake Elite of the Counterfeiters” takes aim at a left-wing clique he accuses of taking over cultural institutions and allowing immigration in an underhand coup to achieve radical aims by stealth.

“Minority in One’s Own Land” turns to South African history. Bosma argues that the predominantly Dutch-descended settlers, the Afrikaners, became outnumbered by black South Africans and subjected to “cultural genocide” and “Apartheid 2.0” in events he warns could foreshadow the fate of the Netherlands. [Continue reading…]


Is America becoming a police state?


The Daily Beast reports: Documentary filmmaker Craig Atkinson wants everyone to know he doesn’t hate cops.

Far from it — he’s the loving son of a cop.

“My perception of law enforcement was always very favorable — and I still have a favorable opinion of police officers,” he told The Daily Beast. “I have great respect for my father. Growing up, I had a very biased view of my dad as an officer, and I knew he had a great deal of integrity as an individual. I assumed that all police officers operated in the same way he did.”

Yet Atkinson’s new movie, Do Not Resist — opening Friday at New York’s Film Forum and later nationwide — shows that actually they don’t. It depicts local police departments deploying military-grade equipment, in many cases armored vehicles gifted by the Homeland Security and Defense departments direct from Iraq and Afghanistan, while using brute force to control, and occasionally abuse, economically depressed minority communities.

Atkinson’s movie is especially timely as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to protest this year’s spate of police shootings of African American men — from Ferguson to Tulsa to Charlotte to, most recently, the suburbs of San Diego, where on Tuesday night cops shot Alfred Olango, an unarmed mentally ill person who was wandering in traffic. [Continue reading…]


The ebbing of democracy in the Western Balkans

Judy Dempsey writes: A meeting of international donors, foundations, and multilateral funders opened in the Serbian capital Belgrade on September 21 amid growing concern from young grassroots and philanthropic organizations that the Western Balkans are drifting backward. And in a dangerous way.

It is a backwardness characterized by growing corruption, increasing intimidation of the media, and political elites across the region who pay lip service to reform.

With the EU now focused on ensuring security, controlling its external borders, and stemming the flow of migrants reaching Europe, the union is paying little attention to the negative trends taking place in its immediate backyard. The emerging message from the Balkan Donors Forum, spearheaded by the European Fund for the Balkans and the Open Society Foundations, was that donors and NGOs need to rethink their role in this part of Europe.

The decision by Britain in June 2016 to quit the EU has dealt a blow to reformers in the Western Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. For reformers and those who support the region joining the EU, Brexit will mean a weaker Europe. Brexit also robs the EU of a strong advocate of further enlargement. [Continue reading…]


How a Russian fascist is meddling in America’s election

Timothy Snyder writes: The president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, once described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a “geopolitical catastrophe.” But the political thinker who today has the most influence on Mr. Putin’s Russia is not Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Communist system, but rather Ivan Ilyin, a prophet of Russian fascism.

The brilliant political philosopher has been dead for more than 60 years, but his ideas have found new life in post-Soviet Russia. After 1991, his books were republished with long print runs. President Putin began to cite him in his annual speech to the Federal Assembly, the Russian equivalent of the State of the Union address.

To complete the rehabilitation, Mr. Putin saw to it that Ilyin’s corpse was repatriated from Switzerland, and that his archive was returned from Michigan. The Russian president has been seen laying flowers on Ilyin’s Moscow grave. And Mr. Putin is not the only disciple of Ilyin among the Kremlin elite.

Vladislav Y. Surkov, Moscow’s arch-propagandist, also sees Ilyin as an authority. Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev, who served as president between 2008 and 2012, recommends Ilyin to Russian students. Ilyin figures in the speeches of the foreign minister, the head of the constitutional court and the patriarch of the Orthodox Church.

What are the ideas that have inspired such esteem?

Ilyin believed that individuality was evil. For him, the “variety of human beings” demonstrated the failure of God to complete the labor of creation and was therefore essentially satanic. By extension, the middle classes, political parties and civil society were also evil, because they encouraged the development of personalities beyond the single identity of the national community.

According to Ilyin, the purpose of politics is to overcome individuality, and establish a “living totality” of the nation. Writing in the 1920s and ’30s after his expulsion from the Soviet Union, when he became a leading emigré ideologue of the anti-Communist White Russians, Ilyin looked on Mussolini and Hitler as exemplary leaders who were saving Europe by dissolving democracy. His 1927 article “On Russian Fascism” was addressed to “My White brothers, the fascists.” Later, in the 1940s and ’50s, he provided the outlines for a constitution of a fascist Holy Russia governed by a “national dictator” who would be “inspired by the spirit of totality.” [Continue reading…]