President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a stream of thus-far baseless claims of voter fraud Sunday, indicating that the Hillary Clinton campaign's involvement in an election recount was hypocritical.Trump, who himself suggested that he would not concede the election during the campaign if he had lost, used his Twitter account to declare that "nothing will change."
Many have made the point, quite reasonably, that the political world is too quick to overreact to random Donald Trump tweets, turning every foolish missive into a major story. It's a fair point, which will be worth remembering if the president-elect continues to tweet after Inauguration Day.But occasionally, Trump's Twitter messages tell Americans something very important about his perspective, his critical thinking skills, and discomfort with reality. Yesterday was just such an occasion.
And if he'd just stopped there, it would hardly be worth mentioning. But, alas, Trump is still unable to help himself."In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide," the president-elect wrote, "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Trump, making up details that do not exist in reality, went on to insist there was "serious voter fraud" in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California. Pointing to the imaginary problem, Trump asked, "[W]hy isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!"Soon after, the president-elect complained that a shift in campaign strategy would've made it "easier" for him to "win the so-called popular vote."Yes, that's right, the popular vote has become the "so-called" popular vote.These may be some of the most interesting and important comments Trump has made since Election Day. Let's unpack what we've learned from the president-elect's latest online tantrum.* He's lying. Trump didn't win the Electoral College in a "landslide." Millions of Americans did not vote illegally. There is no evidence of "serious voter fraud" in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California. The president-elect just made all of this up, hoping his followers will simply accept fiction as fact.* These are self-defeating lies. If Trump had lost the election, one might expect him to whine incessantly about the integrity of the voting process, but in case anyone's forgotten, Trump won. There is no sane incentive for the prevailing candidate to question the legitimacy of the election, falsely claiming that millions of illegal ballots were cast. Whether he realizes this or not, Trump is effectively endorsing progressive calls for audits and recounts, though his self-interest suggests he should be doing the opposite.* This is the dumbest possible way to talk about the popular vote. As of this morning, Trump trails Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by more than 2.2 million votes (and counting). The proper response from the president-elect and Republicans in general is to downplay the significance of this metric. Instead, Trump wants Americans to believe he actually won the popular vote -- making the metric more important, not less -- thanks to imaginary evidence he cannot and will not produce.* There will be no pivot. Many continue to hope that Donald Trump will eventually pivot, becoming more mature and sensible once he comes to terms with the seriousness and weight of the presidency. But three weeks after the election, Trump is still Trump. He still loves bizarre conspiracy theories that don't make sense. He still disregards facts he finds inconvenient. He still lies in lazy and easily discredited ways. He still lacks discipline and self-restraint. He still lacks the temperament of an adult. I've looked for differences between Candidate Trump and President-elect Trump, but so far, I've come up empty.* Is Trump setting the stage for policy changes? As a rule, Republican leaders make up claims about widespread voter fraud as a pretense for imposing harsh voter-suppression laws. Trump recently met with Kansas' Kris Kobach, who had a visible memo in his hand when he greeted the president-elect, which appeared to reference "amendments" to the National Voter Registration Act. Don't be too surprised if yesterday's nonsensical tweets were intended to help lay the groundwork for placing new hurdles between Americans and their democracy.* He's delegitimizing the elections and the democratic system simultaneously. NBC News' First Read team had a good piece on this morning on the consequences of Trump's ridiculous theories: "They end up delegitimizing the media -- and the country's democracy. Think about it: Every time Trump claims, without substantiation, that millions voted illegally, and every time the news media call him out for it, that only delegitimizes the media among Trump's supporters. And then when the same media write and cover Trump's conflicts of interests (or policy proposals or anything else), those same supporters won't believe a word of it. Will the media be alone in this challenge? Or will members of BOTH parties decide that what's happening to two key institutions -- the press and the vote -- is worth fighting for?"