Is Trump More Dangerous If He Wins Or Loses?

I am reading an old book on the history of our presidential elections. I’m still early in the book, but one thing that has impressed me so far is just how much the players in the politics at the beginning of our constitutional republic disliked and distrusted each other, sometimes for petty reasons and sometimes for important ones. Yes, just like today.

But another thing that has impressed me is just how smoothly—despite the disagreements large and small and despite the animus between the two fledgling political parties (Federalists and Democratic-Republicans)—the transfer of power, the transition from one partisan administration to another, was conducted. Throughout the years, such smooth transitions, which we too often take for granted, have served us well and kept our democracy stable. In other words, there haven’t been many, if any, Donald Trumps around who, quite openly, would vigorously claim after a loss that the election they ran in was rigged and therefore illegitimate.

And that is despite the fact that in those early, early days the elections were in fact much closer to being rigged than today. The outcome largely depended on insiders in the various state legislatures and in the federal government, all white men and all white men who owned property. And those chosen to be electors in the Electoral College–which actually elects the president—were most often not chosen directly by voters in the states; they were chosen by state legislatures. For instance, in the 1800 election in which Thomas Jefferson was first elected, only four out of the then-sixteen states chose their electors by popular vote. That is why, if you look at popular vote records for those early elections, you won’t find any until 1824. The truth is that the Founders just didn’t trust democracy. They actually wanted a system that they could in fact rig when they needed to.

Today, even though the Electoral College is still in place, everyday folks in all fifty states actually choose the electors when they vote for a presidential candidate and running mate. But in only 29 states and in D.C. are those electors legally bound to vote (the vote is on December 19 this year) for the candidate who won the popular vote in their respective states. But there is an ongoing question as to whether those electors who are legally bound actually can be held accountable for a violation of the law, which in most states is just a misdemeanor anyway. And there is actually nothing, except party pressure, to stop those electors in the 21 states without a binding law from refusing to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote.

This has led to a rather muted discussion this weird election season that the Electoral College should, if Trump actually cons enough voters and wins in November, ignore the preferences of those voters—likely only a plurality—and do what the Founders intended when they designed the Electoral College: thwart the “sudden and violent passions” of the people who have been “seduced by factious leaders.” (Those were Madison’s words in Federalist 62, as he defended the creation of a mostly undemocratic Senate in our Constitution.) Now, if that were to happen, all hell would break loose, which demonstrates that the Founders’ distrust of democracy was either valid or not valid, depending on your view of how dangerous Donald Trump is.

Having said all that, a very important discussion on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today caught my attention. It was a good discussion because Joe Scarborough wasn’t there to muck it up. Steve Schmidt, a Republican who worked on both George W. Bush’s winning campaign in 2004 and John McCain’s losing one in 2008, made a point about how dangerous it could be if Trump loses and claims the election was rigged against him. Watch:


When Steve Schmidt suggests that a Trump loss, accompanied by a Trump tantrum full of “rigged election” talk, might undermine “the pillars of how we function as a democracy,” I began to ask myself: Is Trump more dangerous, in the long term, if he wins or if he loses? Why? Because of this:


When Schmidt speculates that if Trump loses he may start a billion-dollar media empire that would feed millions of his cult followers lies and half-truths for years and years, it frightens me to the bone. I realize there has been some speculation about this for months, but there is something in the two video clips above that makes it more real for me. Donald Trump, winner or loser, is a genuine threat to our democracy, to the stability of our nation.

Is all this really happening? Huh? Are we now forced to hope that since Trump has failed at so many other things in his life, that a defeated Trump will ultimately fail to create a viable media company that would allow him to continue to take advantage of his low-information devotees and make it nearly impossible to govern the country?

Or is our only hope a thorough trouncing of Trump in November? One that would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind, except those hopelessly deluded by insane conspiracies, that the country truly and definitively rejected the racist-friendly demagogue?

Wow. What a year.



  1. I hadn’t heard the speculation about a Trump media empire, Duane, but it makes sense. ‘Specially with Roger Ailes now allied with him. What a year! is right.

    For Anson: Remarkable.


    • It has been out there for months now. It didn’t hit me as meaning much until Ailes and the Breitbart freak signed on with Trump. What a trio those three make. Talk about a nuclear triad.


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  September 8, 2016

    I was hoping that you would have posted your views of the Commander-in-Chief “show” last night. But this is a good topic as well.

    I rarely watch any day time TV. But this year, yes, a “remarkable” year, Janet keeps MSNBC running several hours during the day. I can honestly say that the slant on that network is just as bad, or worse, than the reverse spin seen on Fox. Right or wrong for either network is strictly in the eye of the beholder.

    Last night Brett Hume, Greta’s replacement, held a very good discussion focused on “Can any Presidential election be rigged?” Very hard to do was the obvious conclusion if one thinks of “rigging” as false numbers recorded and counted on ballots around the nation. How can any organization secretly “get into” a lot of voting machines to rig the results, nationally, as opposed to maybe swinging a few hundred votes in a particular precinct? Conclusion by all concerned (Dems and GOPers) was it would be nearly impossible to do so.

    But “rigging” an election can be suspected in a very different context. Both conventions this year had public displays of “rigging accusations” against the party, both parties. Of course their expressed concern was manipulating convention or party “rules” that favored one candidate over another. Both Bernie and Trump, as outsiders, expressed such concern and their supporters raised a moderate amount of hell agreeing with them.

    Then of course there is the now routine accusations of media bias. Can media bias actually “rig” an election. I don’t see that as a huge problem at least today. The simple fact is that both candidates have exercised terrible judgment, repeatedly, over the course of their careers. Yes Fox continues to just try to beat the hell out of Hillary, but my God, watch what MSNBC does all the time against Trump. In terms of invective, the media in a broad context is having a field day pointing out terrible examples of terrible judgment against both candidates. As well each biased network concocts the party line “explanations” why such historical decisions were in fact “just one mistake” or …….

    As for a grave danger to the country if Trump decides to create a new news organization, so what I suggest. We will then have MSNBC, etc. saying Dems can do not wrong, Fox saying the GOP is always right, BUT THEN a Trump channel or newspaper saying both side are all screwed up. That has been his theme for over a year now and 40% or so of the adult population sort of likes that kind of talk!!



    • Only at night is MSNBC slanted anymore, Anson. It has gone almost full-on Fox/CNN from the early morning to late afternoon, except when the great Joy Reid is hosting an hour or two. MSNBC has also been right in there in attacking Hillary Clinton several times an hour over what amounts to nothing, both with the email server issue and the Foundation issue. They participate in the “it raises questions” bullshit, which tells us nothing about it. Every damn thing “raises questions,” especially an unhinged presidential candidate who is in bed with the goddamned Russians.

      As far as that ridiculous Commander-in-Chief Forum, it was bullshit. Lauer started out with a number of email questions that had nothing to do with the topic, only to prove he was sufficiently anti-Clinton. Then he let Trump off on a couple of dozen or so lies he told and rarely challenged him on any of it. Utter bullshit and accomplished nothing of value, except that it revealed she knows what the fuck she is talking about and he is a goddamned liar and know-nothing. He has shit on the military, over and over again, with his unhinged rhetoric and, I guess, they eat the shit up, if you look at the polls. There is a dark part of me that wishes they could have the sonofabitch for a commander-in-chief. But so many innocents would get hurt that that is a dark wish indeed.

      As far as the rigged system, I agree the national election is about as clean as elections get. Very hard to cheat. As for the primary process, neither the GOP or the Democratic process was rigged in any significant way. Trump claimed it was when he thought he was beginning to fade (and perhaps start his media empire), but he won the damn thing. Sanders complained about what was obvious: Hillary was an establishment Democrat whom the establishment Democrats favored over a person who routinely trashed the party and refused to become a Democrat until he wanted to be president.

      You hit on something that is bothering me more and more. Too many people have lost faith in all of our institutions. And a demagogue like Trump, who is out to make as much money as he can off the dupes he attracts, is a perfect man for this hour. I am sickened by it all and, more important, frightened by it all.


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