The Vote Fraud Fraud: Another Way In Which Donald Trump is the Culmination of Longstanding Republican Trends
Jamelle Bouie recently observed that Donald Trump’s preemptive claims that the election is being stolen from him “could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day.” How Trump and his supporters will react to his nearly certain pending defeat is pretty terrifying. And in one sense Trump is an unusually threatening figure — say what you will about McCain and Romney, they actually conceded, in the latter case despite having convinced himself that the polls were SKEWED and he was going to win.
But, in another way, Trump is just the logical extension of the party of Shelby County and Hans von Spakovsky. Talk up the vote fraud fraud enough — raising it up to a threat that not only justifies all kinds of vote suppression measures but effectively justifies reading the Section 2 of the 15th Amendment out of the Constitution — and it’s not surprising someone would follow the argument where it leads. Mark Joseph Stern:
It is interesting that Republicans have chosen to draw the line at Trump’s completely unfounded claims. For the past 16 years, the GOP has fervidly stoked Americans’ fears of voter fraud and repeatedly declared that Democrats were stealing elections without any basis in reality. Trump has merely escalated this rhetoric to a dangerous new level. Republicans are, of course, wise to condemn his wild conspiracies. But they cannot claim the moral high ground at this late date when the entire Republican Party had spent so long priming its base to believe every baseless word Trump utters about election fraud.
The modern movement to persuade Americans that Democrats rig elections began during the George W. Bush administration. Following the harrowingly close 2000 election, Republicans realized that the GOP would benefit from laws that limited Democrats’ access to the ballot—stringent voter ID measures, whose burdens fell disproportionately on minorities, a mostly Democratic constituency. But states needed an excuse to pass these laws, so Bush ordered the Justice Department to uncover and prosecute as many instances of voter fraud as it could find. In reality, there were only a handful of bona fide voter fraud cases throughout the country. But Bush notoriously fired United States attorneys who couldn’t find fraudulent voters to prosecute, signaling to Justice Department attorneys that their jobs depended on rooting out nonexistent fraud.
Between 2002 and 2006, the Bush administration’s crackdown led to a grand total of 86 convictions of voter fraud out of about 200 million ballots cast, a rate of 0.00004 percent.* A majority of the convicted voters had simply filled out registration forms inaccurately or misunderstood eligibility rules. Yet Republican politicians and lobbyists effectively repackaged these meager findings as proof that Democrats were corrupting the electoral system and possibly even unlawfully swinging elections. Over the next decade, state legislatures passed a raft of voting restrictions—including voter ID requirements and early voting cuts—along party lines. As a general rule, Republicans supported these measures and declared that they were necessary to prevent fraud, which they said—again, contrary to all available evidence—was pervasive. Democrats opposed them, recognizing that most voting restrictions had the practical effect of disenfranchising minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.
There’s another way, then, in which Republican claims of vote fraud are Trumpian — they’re pure projection.