Back in June, a Gallup poll found that “The people of the United States have pretty much had it with the country’s major institutions, as faith in everything from the banks and newspapers to organized religion and TV news has taken a big hit in recent years, according to a recent Gallup poll.”
As Gallup’s Jim Norman explained: “Americans clearly lack confidence in the institutions that affect their daily lives: the schools responsible for educating the nation’s children; the houses of worship that are expected to provide spiritual guidance; the banks that are supposed to protect Americans’ earnings; the U.S. Congress elected to represent the nation’s interests; and the news media that claims it exists to keep them informed.”
Christopher Ingram of the Washington Post reports, The Republican confidence crisis that created Donald Trump:
Donald Trump’s campaign has taken a “me-against-the-world” turn this week as the candidate, facing a torrent of new sexual assault allegations, lashes out against what he describes as as a global “power structure” determined to keep him out of the White House.
The players in that power structure, according to Trump’s vitriolic speech delivered Thursday, include the “corrupt media,” “the Washington establishment,” corporations, international banks and global special interests.
President Obama, in a speech yesterday, attempted to cast this anti-establishment furor of the Trump campaign as the natural culmination of years of Republican efforts to sow doubt and distrust in the institutions that have long anchored American society: government, the press, business leaders and “experts” of all stripes.
“The problem is that [Republican leaders] have been riding this tiger for a long time. They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience,” Obama said.
Polling data sheds some useful light on these claims. The General Social Survey, a biennial poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, has asked Americans about their confidence in various major institutions, like the press and the government, for more than 40 years now.
Across all 13 institutions the survey asks about, from the scientific community to organized religion, Republican distrust has remained at unprecedented highs during the Obama era.
On average, 28 percent of Republicans said they had “hardly any” confidence in these institutions in 2014. The previous peak of Republican distrust happened in 1993, when 25 percent said they had hardly any confidence.
Both peaks correspond to the last two Democratic presidents who served two terms: Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Republicans sought to delegitimize both presidencies, as they had previously sought to delegitimize the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy.
Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan wrote earlier this year, This is How Fascism Comes to America, that the Trump phenomenon is an example of what political philosophers have warned about for centuries: “that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms.”
The Washington Post editorialized on Saturday, Donald Trump’s dangerous ploy to destabilize democracy:
And then Mr. Trump, speaking Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., escalated: Beyond merely denying the truth of the allegations about his treatment of women, he recast them as evidence that U.S. democracy itself is no longer legitimate. Follow the logic here, if you can: The country is under the control of a conspiracy, involving not just his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the media, but also the entire political “establishment,” Republicans included, in league with unnamed international banks, whose goal is to enrich themselves by controlling “the central base of world political power . . . right here in America” and imposing “radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people.” Mr. Trump, and the “movement” he heads, are all that stand in the way of this evil cabal. This election, therefore, is no ordinary political contest but “a crossroads in the history of our civilization that will determine whether or not we the people reclaim control over our government.” Ergo, the cabal will destroy Mr. Trump by “slander” — unless the people stand up and resist “a small handful of global special interests rigging the system.”
This language — which he read from a prepared text fed into a teleprompter — is inflammatory beyond any demagoguery Mr. Trump had offered previously. Coupled with his repeated warnings, echoed by his followers, that the Democrats may be cooking up Election Day fraud, the speech seems to prepare the ground for resistance in the increasingly likely event that things don’t go his way Nov. 8. Indeed, anyone who agrees that the alternative to a Trump victory is civilizational disaster, the fruit of a “sinister deal,” as Mr. Trump put it in another Florida speech, would feel obligated to deny the legitimacy of a Clinton victory, should it occur. Trump-for-President is not a campaign to redeem American democracy or even to “take it back,” as Mr. Trump puts it; it has morphed into a campaign of destabilization.
Mr. Trump’s words seek to make accomplices of his listeners. Anyone who challenges the cabal “is deemed a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe and morally deformed,” he told the West Palm Beach audience. “They will attack you, they will slander you, they will seek to destroy your career and your family, they will seek to destroy everything about you, including your reputation.” As if the assembled Trumpkins were just as guilty as he of all those alleged sins.
A greater measure of accountability belongs to the men and women who purport to lead the GOP faithful, and have, with a few honorable exceptions, so manifestly failed the moral test Mr. Trump’s candidacy poses. We are well past the point of urging these politicians to repudiate Mr. Trump for the good of the country, their party and themselves.
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Still, it is not too late even for these GOP politicians to repudiate Mr. Trump’s conspiratorial view of the American political process. They should at least find the decency, and the patriotism, to declare that everyone must respect the results on Nov. 8 — and pursue any protests or disputes through legal channels, not in the streets. Even if Republicans can’t bring themselves to part ways politically with Mr. Trump, they can refuse to cooperate in the trashing of our public discourse and essential civic traditions. Surely that is not too much to ask.
It was too much to ask for Trump’s surrogates on the Sunday morning bobblehead shows. Rudy Giuliani: Democrats commit election fraud because they “control the inner-cities”:
In most years, what Rudy Giuliani said on today’s Sunday morning talk shows could be dismissed as a conspiracy theory with no greater consequence or relevance. But this isn’t most years.
“Dead people generally vote for Democrats instead of Republicans,” Giuliani said on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, insinuating that American cities are hotbeds of widespread voter fraud. “If you want me to tell you that I think the elections of Philadelphia and Chicago are going to be fair, I would have to be a moron to say that.”
This is flatly wrong. Despite Giuliani’s dystopian fever dreams, election experts are clear that voter fraud is extraordinary rare, had no impact on the 2012 race, and isn’t expected to be a problem in 2016. As Tapper correctly pointed out, even the Republican Party of Philadelphia agreed that there was no voter fraud in the city.
But the big problem with Giuliani’s comments is not just that they’re factually incorrect. It’s that they’re contributing to the dangerous and widespread delegitimization of the electoral process — one that’s being dramatically amplified as we barrel toward Election Day.
Donald Trump, of course, is leading this charge. Trump has already begun warning about a cabal of global elites planning to “rig” the election for Hillary Clinton. Millions of people are primed to believe him: majorities of independents and Republicans already say that they won’t trust the election results regardless of its outcome.
As Vox’s Dara Lind has argued, Trump is breaking with previous Republican nominees by himself voicing and validating these fears. “That raises the possibility of violence on Election Day,” Lind writes. “It certainly lays the groundwork for anger and denial afterward.”
And then there was disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Says Trump Supporters Should “Monitor” Polling Stations:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on Sunday encouraged Donald Trump supporters to “monitor” polling stations on election day in order to make sure the election is “not stolen,” continuing the Republican presidential campaign’s spread of a unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
On ABC’s This Week, when host Martha Raddatz asked Gingrich if he thought Trump fans should monitor the polls, he responded, “They should.”
Gingrich is the latest of Trump surrogates to publicly complain of the election being “rigged” against Trump, blaming the media’s focus on Trump’s treatment of women for the candidate’s slipping poll numbers. On Sunday, Trump himself said Saturday Night Live was part of the media conspiracy against him.
According to a poll released Sunday from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Clinton is leading Trump by 11 points among likely voters on a ballot that includes third-party candidates.
“I think that without the unending one-sided assault of the news media, Trump would be beating Hillary by 15 points,” Gingrich said Sunday.
“This is not about election officials at the precinct level, this is about last Friday when the networks spent 23 minutes on the Trump tape and less than one minute … on the Hillary Clinton’s secret speeches that were being revealed on WikiLeaks,” Gingrich said.
But later on Sunday, Trump made clear he wasn’t just blaming the press, tweeting that the election was “absolutely being rigged” by the media “but also at many polling places.”
Trump and his surrogates have encouraged his supporters to monitor voters in “certain areas” of Philadelphia and Chicago, making reference to a debunked conspiracy theory from 2012 that there was election fraud in predominantly black areas in those two cities, causing Mitt Romney to receive zero votes.
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Gingrich was not the only Trump supporter embracing conspiracy theories on the Sunday morning shows, with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani suggesting Democrats could steal the election by having dead people vote.
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Some of Trump’s supporters have enthusiastically responded to the campaign embracing conspiracy theories and calls to monitor polling places.
Donald Trump, once again, is at odds with his running mate:
Despite also criticizing the media’s coverage of the Republican nominee, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence told CBS on Sunday morning that he and his running mate will “respect the outcome of this election,” no matter who wins.
“The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of American history,” Pence said.
As President Obama said, Republicans “have been riding this tiger for a long time. They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience.” They are playing with fire and inciting violence, if not insurrection and rebellion against the American government in favor of their desired authoritarian regime. It is anti-democratic, and anti-American.
As President Obama says in campaign speeches, ‘Democracy itself is on the ballot’.
UPDATE: Jamelle Bouie writes: “These rhetorical time bombs, in other words, could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day. And if that violence and intimidation strikes, it will be against the chief targets of Trump’s campaign: people of color.” Donald Trump Is Setting a Time Bomb.
UPDATE: The Boston Globe reports, Warnings of conspiracy stoke anger among Trump faithful:
[If Republican presidential candidate Donald] Trump doesn’t win, some are even openly talking about violent rebellion and assassination, as fantastical and unhinged as that may seem.
“If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country.”
He then placed a Trump mask on his face and posed for pictures.
I’m sure this fool has probably already received a visit from the Secret Service.