Like Sanders, Trump has to be stopped
Donald Trump is being pilloried for not accepting the results of an election that has not yet happened. And elites on both sides of the political divide are excoriating him for not announcing in advance that he will follow the traditional process of conceding to the numeric winner.
But concession is not always the route taken. Al Gore was perfectly within his rights to challenge the close election of 2000, where a few hundred hanging chads in one Florida county or another would have changed the electoral outcome.
If the election of 2016 has revealed anything, it has revealed how corrupt the political process is. Our system is based on competition between elites who share both an ideological political space and a normative structure within which things are done. Anyone who stands outside that space and structure is a threat to the entire system.
This is why there was no way that the Democratic establishment was not going to do everything in its power to stop Bernie Sanders from becoming the party’s nominee. Not only was the Democratic National Committee in the tank for Hillary Clinton, despite avowed neutrality, but it also shifted monetary resources to her campaign that should have gone to lower offices.
A Sanders victory would have been as much a threat to the Democratic Party as it would have been to the political system. Sanders would not have been beholden to any portion of the political establishment, and this would have been a threat to the way in which party elites circulate in and out of government.
Similarly, if Trump wins, he will owe nothing to the Republican establishment. His election would be a disruption of the system.
It is not Trump’s vulnerabilities that are causing Paul Ryan and other establishment figures to jump ship; it is the prospect that he will win. For a Clinton victory is less of a threat to the Republican establishment than is a Trump victory. A Clinton victory leaves the Republican establishment intact. A Trump victory dismantles it.
Consequently, it is necessary to show that Trump is outside the consensus, and the manufactured outrage about not accepting an outcome that has not occurred is part of that.
After all, it is not as if we live in a healthy, vibrant, and untarnished political system. Recent revelations coming from Project Veritas show Democratic political operatives bragging about their putting the homeless and mentally ill in harm’s way at Trump rallies to draw violent responses to be used as indictments of the campaign.
Beyond that, the Project Veritas tapes show the same operatives boasting of how they pad the electoral roles by registering unqualified voters.
Election fraud is a fact of life. There is a lot of anecdotal data to confirm it. But how it affects specific electoral outcomes is a question that has not been answered.
To pretend the system is without major flaws is simply naïve. The pretense gives both sides an idealized version of the political system around which to rally and a way to work together to tarnish the Trump campaign.
In the end, Trump, like Sanders, presents a threat to the way the elites control and manipulate the system. As the Democrats needed to derail the Sanders campaign, so too the Republicans need to stop Trump.
The continuation of the status quo requires it.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center, Northbrook, Ill.