Donald Trump is spending the final weeks of his presidential bid declaring he's the victim of an unprecedented vote-rigging conspiracy meant to elect Hillary Clinton.Many top Republican Party officials agree.Interviews with more than two dozen members of the Republican National Committee reveal abiding fears of Democratic voting fraud and widespread belief that at least part of the process or outcome is rigged.
President Obama has heard Donald Trump argue that the U.S. elections process is "rigged," and he made clear at a White House press conference yesterday that such rhetoric should be rejected."I'd advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and try to go make his case to get votes," Obama said. "If whenever things are going badly for you, you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job.... I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It's unprecedented."It was a welcome rebuke, but watching the president's comments, it was hard not to wonder why more Republicans aren't saying the same thing. Where are the GOP officials who care enough about the integrity of our voting process to defend it against absurd attacks?Part of the problem, as Politico reported yesterday, is that too many Republicans actually think Trump is right.
California RNC Committeeman Shawn Steel told Politico in writing, "Should Hillary get 'elected' she is immediately delegitimized. The 1% of Wall Street Bankers, Clinton Machine and [mainstream media] including your employer, Politico, is part of a massive Left Wing Conspiracy to rig this election."For the record, I don't think he was kidding. Some RNC members actually believe using conspiracy theories to delegitimize the results of an American election is a perfectly responsible thing to do.Indeed, it's not just RNC members. Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) expressed concerns yesterday about the integrity of his own state's elections process.In fairness, it's worth emphasizing that there are some notable Republican divisions on the matter. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said through a spokesperson this week, for example, that he has confidence in the nation's elections process. Some other GOP officials, at the state and federal level, have also pushed back against Trump's nonsense this week.Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) this morning compared Trump's "rigged" rhetoric to those who believe the moon landing was a hoax.But these Republicans stand out largely because they're part of a small minority willing to contradict their party's presidential nominee. As the Politico piece added, rather than knock down Trump's conspiracy theories, "most" of the RNC members the magazine spoke to "lauded his focus on ballot integrity and pointed to instances of what they say is fraudulent voter registration as proof that he may be onto something."Why does RNC Chairman Reince Priebus continue to stand by Trump's side, even now? It may have something to do with Priebus having to represent the wishes of far-right membership.It's a reminder: the Trump phenomenon in Republican politics may be absurd, but it didn't just pop up out of the blue. It's the consequence of ridiculousness that already existed within the party that made his rise possible.