Trump is on solid ground to suggest that the political system is rigged against him, but he is off-base to suggest that if he loses, it will be because of fraud in the voting process. It is not widespread voting fraud that threatens to corrupt the election, it is the system itself that is rigged against candidates like Trump. In truth, there are few elections – at any level – that are pure and without some modicum of mistakes or fraud. But Trump does harm to his cause by focusing on insignificant voting irregularities rather than the core issue that the system itself is rigged.
By focusing on “voter fraud” and petulantly suggesting he may not accept the outcome of the election, Trump opens the door to vituperative criticism from both the Republican and Democratic establishments who want to divert attention away from the uncomfortable truth that the system itself is rigged.
Those of the establishment power elite echo the same criticism that, “Trump’s comments threaten the very core upon which American democracy is based.” The critics are correct on that point, but the inherent fallacy in their argument is that the American system of government is a “democracy,” because it is not and was never intended to be one.
The writers of the American constitution wanted to create the illusion of a “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” but the truth is they feared true democracy as much as they detested a monarchy. Those who constructed the constitution – the elite of American society at the time – did not believe that the “common man” had the knowledge or temperament to be granted the power to govern themselves. But they did recognize that if they were to govern the country effectively it would require the trust and support of the people. The ingenious solution was to create a republic governed under a “representative democracy” and “sell” the illusion to the people that it was a true democracy.
This political slight-of-hand was accomplished in a number of ways: The people would be allowed to directly elect representatives – though not senators or the president – who would be empowered to govern the people. Even at that, initially only about eight percent of all Americans (mostly white male landowners) were eligible to vote. Senators would be elected by state legislations. The president would be elected by a complicated new contrivance – twice removed from the voters – called the “Electoral College.” All of these machinations were intended to give the illusion of a democracy, while in reality they were mechanisms rigged to keep the elite establishment in power; and it has worked for 200 years.
Those who defend the system point to how it has changed and adapted over time. They cite “universal suffrage” enabling any American citizen to vote as an example of greater democracy. But even so, it is voting within the same “rigged” system. But there are still vestiges of fear over giving the “common man” the power of the vote. Evidence of this attitude is exhibited in the recent systematic efforts (mostly by Republicans) to inhibit the right to vote. Under the suspicious guise of preventing “voter fraud” (very little of which has been shown) there have been efforts to purge eligible voters from registration rolls and unwarranted use of stringent voter ID requirements. All of these actions suppress democracy by making it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote.
There is a very thin veneer separating myth from reality when it comes to “power for the people” and for this system to continue to work, the “common man” must continue to buy-in to the belief that they live in a democracy and that their vote gives them power to determine how they are governed. Think about it: There are maybe 3,000 people making up the politically powerful elite in this country who seek to govern, control and determine the future and fate of over 300,000,000 citizens. For this to work, those 300 million must buy the myth that their government is a democracy “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
And this is the rub when it comes to Trump calling the system “rigged.” Even though Trump is focused on perceived fraud within the system rather than the system itself, his criticism is so close to the truth that those who control and benefit from the status quo have a near-panic fear that the illusion of a democracy will be peeled away and it will become impossible for them to effectively govern the country.
It is not my intent to suggest the system is bad. (Although I do believe it has been corrupted by convoluted gerrymandering of Congressional districts that reduces the power of the voter; restrictive voter ID requirements and a lack of term limits for Congress.) The inspired efforts of those who wrote the constitution creating a representative democracy fit the needs of the country at the time and considering the size and dynamics of America today, it is still the best system. But the best way to protect and preserve it – maybe even improve it – is to admit what it is, rather than hiding behind the myth of what it is not.
The problem for the power elite is that today’s “common man” is much more educated and sophisticated than their counterparts in the 18th century. In short, the common man of today can recognize when they are getting the short end of the stick. When the average person can see the elite getting more and they getting less and the effort to bring about real change is thwarted by the system, it becomes more and more difficult for them to buy-in to the myth that they live in a democracy. This explains why the financial and political elite have such a visceral panicked reaction when one of their own suggests the system is rigged. When this happens, the response of those who control the system is to mock, deride, castigate and degrade the evil apostate in a full-frontal assault intended to protect and preserve the myth of democracy. Such is the fate of Trump.