Three weeks from U.S. voting day, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has grown increasingly shrill and hysterical in his denunciations of the news media, the American electoral system and the supporters of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. His announcement that the system is rigged against him sounded very much like a concession of defeat in advance of the event.
The news media are rigged against him, he contended, in that they have been publishing an avalanche of stories about women who said he inflicted his hands or his mouth on them. After the whole country heard his tape-recorded voice boasting that he could grope and kiss unwilling women because he was a celebrity, he told the audience of a televised debate that he had never done these things. That claim provoked the avalanche of complaints that Mr. Trump considers unfair.
The voting system is rigged against him, he argued, because voter fraud is being organized. But people who have closely observed the mechanics of U.S. elections say that voter fraud is extremely rare. Researchers for the Brennan Centre of Justice at New York University Law School found 31 cases of voter fraud among the billion votes cast in U.S. elections from 2000 to 2014. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top elected Republican, was fully confident this year’s election would be carried out with integrity, his spokesman said.
One troubling attack on the electoral process did happen in Hillsborough, N.C., when somebody firebombed the Republican office for Orange County and spray-painted threats against Republicans. Volunteers and workers for all parties have to be free to conduct their campaigns in all parts of the country without fear of violence. The North Carolina attack, denounced by both Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton, remained an isolated case.
Poll results suggest Mr. Trump has fallen far behind Ms. Clinton. Speaker Ryan has announced that he will not defend Mr. Trump or campaign with him and will focus his efforts on other Republican candidates. With Mr. Trump grumbling that the system is rigged against him, the Nov. 8 election is shaping up as a massive defeat for the Republicans. Observers are wondering how much damage Mr. Trump will inflict on Republican senators, members of Congress and state and local officials.
If Mr. Trump loses and the other Republican candidates also do badly, Ms. Clinton might have more success in Congress than President Barack Obama has enjoyed during his second term. The president has been relying more and more on executive orders because congressional Republicans, enjoying majorities in both houses, would not approve anything Mr. Obama proposed. They would not even hold a hearing to examine the candidate he was proposing to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Even if their numbers in Congress hold up fairly well, Republicans might see a warning in the Trump experience and look for a new way of exercising power.
The warning may be that a refusal to compromise leads to impotence and irrelevance. Republican factions tore their party apart and delivered its presidential nomination into the hands of an entertainer with a poor grasp of the political process. Some of them thought they could rig the game through gerrymandering of districts and refusal to work with a president they disliked. It didn’t work.
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