People who say that Donald Trump is “illegitimate” are playing with fire.
That word has two possible meanings. One is moral disapproval of the way in which Trump won the 2016 election.
The other is the claim that his election was literally illegal and that mass public demonstrations should be organized with the aim of turning Trump out of office—like the overthrow of President Yanukovich in Ukraine.
I don’t think anybody has a serious idea of overthrowing Trump, but I think a lot of people get pleasure out of taking part in a kind of psychodrama in which they act as if they do.
The danger of this is that it could provide give Trump an excuse to treat demonstrators as serious revolutionaries and use this as an excuse to clamp down on protest, maybe even exercise martial law.
It’s true that Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. It’s true that Clinton might have won if so many African-Americans and Hispanics had not been prevented from voting for bogus reasons. I don’t think that Trump won due to Russian interference in the election, but many disagree.
But none of these are excuses for canceling the results of the election, and nothing that Trump would do is as bad as setting the precedent for canceling an election.
Suppose Al Gore has won in the Electoral College in 2000 and George W. Bush has won the popular vote. Would Gore have refused to take office? Suppose Clinton has won the electoral vote and Trump the popular vote in 2016? Would Clinton have abdicated in favor of Trump?
The fact is that there is no way of knowing what the outcome would have been without the Electoral College? Clinton’s popular vote total was swelled by huge popular vote majorities in New York and California, states in which Trump didn’t bother to campaign because they were certain to go for Clinton. If all states had been contested, instead of just a few swing states, there’s no way of telling what the popular vote would have been.
It’s true that, as Greg Palast has reported, that hundreds of thousands of African-Americans and Hispanics have been removed from the voter registration records for bogus reasons, such as having approximately the same last name as someone living in another state.
It’s important that voting rights be restored, but that can’t be the basis for canceling the results of an election that already has been held. The validity of an election can’t be challenged on the basis of how people who were prevented from voting might have voted.
As for the allegations of Russian computer hacking and Russian coordination with the Trump campaign, none of them have been substantiated.
There are Constitutional ways for progressives to oppose Trump’s political agenda. Bernie Sanders is showing how. We can try to influence Congress. We can work through the courts. We can try to influence state and local governments. Mass demonstrations with specific demands have a place.
This is a time to be thankful for the U.S. Constitution’s principles of separation of powers and state sovereignty.
One result of focusing on Trump’s personality rather than Trump’s policies is that some of Trump’s opponents only want to restore the previous status quo. They don’t want to challenge the power of Wall Street or the Central Intelligence Agency. Focusing on Trump’s outrageous Tweets blurs this distinction.
Voters don’t always make the right choice. Democracy—even a better functioning democracy than the one we Americans have—wouldn’t guarantee a competent and honest chief executive. Neither would any other form of government. For now, our best choice, whether progressive or conservative, is to work through the form of government we’ve got.
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy and Their Various Reasons by Gary Leupp for Counterpunch.
Counter-Sting Catches James O’Keefe’s Network Attempting to Sow Chaos at Trump’s Inauguration by Ryan Grim for The Huffington Post. Hat tip to Cannonfire.
Conservative Con Artist James O’Keefe Busted for Dirty Tricks Against Trump Protesters by Kali Holloway for AlterNet.
Deciphering the scandalous rumors about Trump in Russia by Fabius Maximus.
What We Heard at the Trump Inaugural by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative. [Added 1/20/2017]