The Clinton campaign has released a statement about the recounts that are being requested in Wisconsin and perhaps Michigan and Pennsylvania. And this time I actually think their judgment — that there was no point in calling for the recounts but they will participate now that they’re happening — was sound.
Here’s the thing: the chances that the outcome in the three decisive states will be overturned are almost nil. The odds are against Trump losing the Electoral College votes of even one state. And when the recounts validate his Electoral College in his victory, this will serve to legitimize his presidency. There might good-government reasons to do the recounts anyway. But contrary to a lot of arguments I’ve seen, one thing these recounts are not is good hardball politics. They will almost certainly work to Trump’s benefit by suggesting that the election was on the square and serving to mask the many ways in which the election was, in fact illegitimate.
For example, here’s a neener-neener from Alex Pareene’s latest kidding-on-the-square anti-Clinton piece:
Your side spent the last month of the campaign attempting to troll Trump by asking him to preemptively accept the results of the election, assuming he’d lose and claim it was rigged. In doing so, you guys also argued—persuasively!—that rigging a presidential election would be extraordinarily difficult, if not completely impossible. So, sorry, you kinda walked right into this one.If you buy this story, though, and you’re not just clinging to the comforting fantasy that the horrible thing you saw happen didn’t actually happen, you’ll have to explain how the apparently suspicious results that gave Trump his crucial upset victories in those key swing states seem to pretty clearly match up with the results in demographically similar counties in states that didn’t swing Republican. Were the Russians attempting to rig Minnesota and New Hampshire, too, and just came up short? Did they swing a couple upstate New York counties Trump’s way just to make his Pennsylvania victory look more plausible? Maybe! Or maybe you just lost.
Hahaha, you wanted Trump to accept the vote count results as legitimate and now the shoe’s on the other foot SUCK IT LIBS!
But, of course, it is nearly impossible for an election to be rigged in the way that Trump and Republican vote suppressors claim that Democrats rig elections. The recounts are not going to reveal a lot of voter-impersonation fraud or ballot-stuffing. But this isn’t the point. The 2016 election was, in fact, a massive fail for American democracy:
- Trump won because of an indefensible anachronistic presidential electoral system that was designed to put a brake on democracy and overrepresent rural conservatives, and still is.
- A partisan FBI repeatedly threw anvils at Clinton that, while not inevitably decisive, almost certainly were given how the election turned out.
- Republican vote suppression, while probably not ultimately decisive overall, is still illegitimate and may well have been decisive in Wisconsin, one of the states the recount will probably validate and legitimize.
- Wikileaks hacked one campaign and released the material to its stooges in the American media in a way to maximize the political impact against Clinton despite the fact that none of the stolen information revealed any substantial misconduct. It’s impossible to quantify the effect but combined with the media’s obsession with EMAILS! probably played a crucial role in getting Trump close enough to allow the Slave Power to screw up American democracy one more once.
Focusing on one, narrow element of the election that probably wasn’t severely dysfunctional is a great way to conceal and stifle discussion about what really went wrong. Trump will get to trumpet that the election was fair when it was anything but. If this is hardball anti-Trump politics it couldn’t be any more illogical.
To be clear, for once I don’t think Stein is trying to help Republicans here. Given that she’s a sucker for conspiracy theories, she may well think there’s a real chance that this will help Clinton. But, as usual, she’s wrong. The recounts will almost certainly help to legitimize Trump rather than undermining him.