Kept In Suspense Over What May Come Next

October 20, 2016

In my lifetime, there have been two United States presidential elections that were probably decided by fraud.

The second will be remembered by most readers. That was the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore in which the Republican-leaning Supreme Court intervened to stop the vote recounting in Florida, where confusion over the ballots was massive, the Court thus handing the election to Mr. Bush.

The first will be remembered by the older set. That was the 1960 contest between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, which was probably decided in Mr. Kennedy’s favor by widespread ballot fraud committed in the city of Chicago by the administration of Mayor Richard Daley. (To be fair, the Daley actions probably canceled out similar fraud in favor of Mr. Nixon committed by the Republican Party in other parts of the country.)

In 1960, Mr. Nixon could have contested the election, but chose not to. Instead he immediately and graciously conceded (the gracious part being the difficult one for Mr. Nixon), and publicly acknowledged the legitimacy of the Kennedy presidency. In 2000, Mr. Gore did challenge the Florida results to the Supreme Court but, when the Court ruled against him, accepted the result and, as Mr. Nixon had done before him, publicly acknowledged the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. Both men did so because their failure to acknowledge the declared winners of those two elections would have de-legitimized the authority of the declared winners and thus shaken the foundations of both the presidency and the nation itself, with possible and unknown consequences Americans had not seen since the Southern states refused to accept the results in 1860.

That brings us to this week, and the current presidential contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump has been loudly signaling that he intends to go in a different direction than either Mr. Nixon or Mr. Gore if—or when—he suffers defeat. More than a month before voting day—with opinion polls indicating a victory rapidly slipping away from him—Mr. Trump is already declaring the election to be “rigged,” and, therefore, his impending defeat the product of massive fraud.

Mr. Trump made that position plain at the third presidential debate earlier this week. Asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he was “not prepared now to commit to [the] principle” of losers conceding to winners in a presidential contest in order to facilitate “the peaceful transition of power,” Mr. Trump replied, “What I’m saying now is I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense...”

Some of our Republican friends have been comparing Mr. Trump’s actions to that of Mr. Gore, but they are either badly mistaken or deliberately trying to confuse the issue. Mr. Gore never left the American public “in suspense.” He did not, as Mr. Trump has done, spend weeks before the voting announcing fears of massive cheating at the ballot box. Following the 2000 election and the revelation of the Florida problems, Mr. Gore took the legal course available to him, and accepted the result when the Court ruled against him. There is no comparison whatsoever between the rational, practical steps Mr. Gore took and the weeks and months of anticipatory fears and anger Mr. Trump has been stoking among his many rabid—and some unsettled—followers.

And for the past few weeks, political commentators have indeed been loudly worrying that if all this carries through as it appears to be going, Mr. Trump’s actions and attitude will, indeed, serve to undermine the respect of many Americans for the legitimacy of a pending Hillary Clinton presidency. That worry increased a thousand fold after Mr. Trump’s “keep you in suspense” declaration at the third debate.

That’s not what worries me, however.

Because let’s be clear, my friends. The jet plane of the Republican/conservative-fueled undermining of the respect for the legitimacy of the  American presidency pulled out of the airport long ago.

Although most of our Republican and conservative friends never questioned the legitimacy of the electoral victories of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to the extent that Mr. Trump has, many of them in positions of national power certainly questioned the legitimacy of Mr. Obama’s right carry out the normal Constitutional duties of the presidency. That delegitimizing of the Obama presidency was clearly demonstrated by the long-term dragging of its feet by the Republican-dominated United States Senate to act on Mr. Obama’s many judicial nominations, reaching its zenith this year when the Senate simply and openly flat-out refused to even consider Mr. Obama’s nomination for the recent vacancy on the Supreme Court.

That Republican’s irresponsible intransigence has left a deeply-divided Court unable to decide most serious issues because the vacancy kept open by the Republican Senate has resulted in unbreakable 4-4 ties. One can only imagine what might have happened if the Supreme Court had been thus constituted in 2000 when the Bush v. Gore lawsuit was filed and heard.

Many thought that the conservative questioning and undermining of Mr. Obama’s presidential authority was due to disrespect for Mr. Obama’s African ancestral background. That certainly played an enormous part, but was not the cause. That is made plain as we witness similar disrespect even now building against the pending authority of Mr. Obama’s probable successor, Ms. Clinton. Already, more than one Republican Senator has indicated that they will make the boycott of Democratic presidential Supreme Court appointments a permanent feature of Congressional practice, taking away by dictate one of the most important presidential responsibilities mandated by the United States Constitution and breaking the delicate balance between the three branches of the federal government so carefully thought out and crafted by the authors and signers of the original Constitution.

For my part, however, I’m going to let the big powers of this country worry over those big matters, which are way beyond my pay grade, as folks say. Myself, I am more worried about where the blow will first strike by those of his many followers who take to heart Mr. Trump’s loud predictions of an impending stolen elections.

Already, proudly and openly and defiantly, at Trump rallies and on the internet trails of his followers, we are hearing calls for the harming of Ms. Clinton should she prevail in next month’s elections. But we know that few among these followers have the courage to actually follow up on those threats against an installed president, even if they could get past the massive Secret Service protection that will cast its arms around her through her term or terms.

What is more likely is that the blow of the Trump followers’ anger will fall on who Mr. Trump has been blaming for America’s troubles both throughout the campaign and into these final days of fraud-charges: the Latinos, the Muslims, and the African-Americans of this nation. The political commentators are currently worrying about what will Trump supporters do to cause trouble at and around the polls on election day. I am more worried about what trouble they will cause to us and among us and ours in the long days following the casting and counting of the vote.

In my lifetime, and in the lifetimes of many of my readers, we have seen the invasion of African-American communities by racist white mobs for the purpose of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering of single individuals. That was the era of lynching, which stretched from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the civil rights years. I am told that such horrors happened also to our Latino friends and neighbors as well, though those incidents were not as widely publicized.

But as bad as the lynchings were, American racist violence has taken far worse turns.

In the lifetime of my parents and grandparents and those that came before them, beginning most likely with the Irish anti-draft riots during the Civil War, racist mobs invaded entire American communities of color, burning houses and beating and killing at random. There were many stated causes of these attacks, but all of them actually had a common core: racist hatred of anyone not of Western European heritage. Hundreds of my people lost their lives in those racist attacks, thousands more their homes, their livelihoods, and any sense they might have had of the security of living between the American shores.

And while it must be said that those who fomented and participated in this violence are only a minority of our white neighbors, and many white folks stood with us at the barricades over the years to fight off these attacks, they were not nearly enough. Far greater in numbers were those “good and decent white folk” who sat silent and looked the other way, pretending these things had never happened, or were simply unhappy but unavoidable excesses, happening only because of some cause that the coloreds had brought upon ourselves.

There are those among us who naively thought that this scourge of white racism—present at the founding of America—had been tamed and civilized and been buried in the dust of the centuries. It is clear that the beast has only been sleeping—or maybe only biding its time—to be stirred the the racist heralds of these latter days, of which Mr. Trump is only the latest. We have already seen it manifest in the days following 9-11 with the many attacks upon our Muslim faith neighbors and those who even remotely resemble them. It is foolishness, therefore, to say that these things cannot happen here. They already have.

Will we see a return of the massive, anti-color racist violence of the early 1900’s? No-one can safely make such a prediction, but the elements of such a social storm are all beginning to come together. 

So many of my friends worry over what would come of a victory by Mr. Trump. Myself, I worry over what might be coming of his defeat.



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