In a much-discussed speech last month at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event, President Obama told the audience
, "If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake. All the progress we've made is at stake in this election. My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot."
This notion that democracy itself is facing a historic test resonated, and the president has started incorporating the line into other remarks
But it's worth pausing to consider what the argument means, exactly. Why do Obama and other progressives believe democracy itself on the ballot in 2016? It's probably because Americans have arguably never seen a major-party presidential nominee as hostile towards democratic principles and institutions as Donald Trump.
The dynamic is actually getting worse as it appears more likely that the GOP candidate will lose. In recent weeks, voters have seen Trump call for the imprisonment
of his rival candidate and her attorneys
, condemn the free press
and threaten to sue
news organizations he disapproves of, attack the legitimacy of the American elections process, and suggest he may not concede
the outcome of the presidential race. (This followed months in which Trump praised authoritarian regimes
There is no precedent in the American tradition for a presidential hopeful to demonstrate quite this much hostility towards democratic norms -- and we haven't even gotten to Trump's calls for "poll monitoring." The Huffington Post noted
yesterday that Trump "has explicitly and repeatedly warned of voter fraud -- and told his supporters to serve as poll monitors in precincts where illegal voting is most likely."
He's mentioned the issue on at least three occasions in rural or western parts of Pennsylvania, warning about the possibilities of cheating in Philadelphia. The argument has obvious racial overtones, since his audiences are almost entirely white, and Philadelphia, like most large cities, has a significant African-American population. [...]
[Mike] Pence, appearing on CBS "Face the Nation," also endorsed the call for poll monitoring, brushing off concerns that doing so might intimidate minority voters who would be more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.
"People that are concerned about this election and about us preserving the one person, one vote that's at the very center of our American democracy, should become involved, should volunteer at their neighborhood polling place," Pence said. "That's how we ensure the accountability. Frankly, that's how we protect the integrity of the vote for Republicans, Democrats, Independents."
And what does this mean in practical terms? The Boston Globe talked to
one Trump follower in Cincinnati who vowed to heed the candidate's call. read more