In America, we aren’t used to asking ourselves how we can ensure that we continue to have free elections in four years time. It’s time to start.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has emerged from obscurity to play a newly prominent role in American politics by calling for a recount in three key states won by Donald Trump. Stein’s recount is very unlikely to have any effect on the election results, but its greatest utility is the reaction it has exposed from Trump and his team – one that is fundamentally hostile to democracy.
A recount has to be triggered by a presidential campaign filing a lawsuit, and since Hillary Clinton’s campaign declined to do so, Stein raised the money online. Stein raised the suspicion that Russia may have interfered in the election by hacking electronic voting machines. While that sounds like the realm of a kooky conspiracy theory, the idea has taken a prominent hold among the media and democrats who want to believe that the results of the election just can’t be true.
There is no concrete evidence that Russia played any role in influencing the U.S. election, but this audit is still important. In an election where there is doubt about the results, every possible step should be taken to ensure that they are valid.
Donald Trump should welcome a second look at his close margins of victory in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. After all, the idea is more than likely a baseless effort from his political enemies to discredit him. He should have more to gain than to lose by allowing a recount.
Instead, Trump and the people who surround him are viciously opposing it. They’re digging in their heels by insisting that simply counting the votes again would be unfair. Trump has even said on Twitter that he only lost to Clinton in the popular vote because millions of votes for her were cast illegally.
Trump could enter the White House without this cloud of doubt, but opposing the recount means holding onto a much more powerful card: the idea that the election was rigged against him.
This is blatantly untrue. The American electoral system, if anything, unjustly favors republicans through everything from voter I.D. laws to the electoral college itself.
But if Trump promotes the idea that illegal votes are cast in favor of democrats all the time, he can argue if the audit does turn out in Clinton’s favor, it’s only because of corrupt voting. That will also allow him to rationalize policies that place even tighter controls on voting, under the guise of fighting corruption.
With control of Congress, the presidency and most state and local governments in the country, the republicans have the infrastructure to impose whatever restrictions on voting they can argue are necessary to keep elections “fair.”
They can, in other words, undertake exactly the course of action you can follow to steal an election.
And if worse comes to worst, and Trump loses the 2020 election, he’ll have a long established narrative that he can use to declare the results invalid. That’s something so far outside of the realm of normalcy for Americans that we have no idea how to deal with or avoid it.
So if you’re wondering what Jill Stein knows that we don’t – maybe she’s giving America’s democratic institutions one last chance to spare us from a president who may destroy them. You have to admire the effort.