Back in October, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump decried what he described as a rigged system and warned he might not accept the results of the election.
Trump drew a lot of criticism for his remarks. Back then — just three months ago — his acceptance of the election results was, at least according to critics, essential to the integrity of the electoral process. Even President Barack Obama warned of what effect Trump’s rhetoric might have.
“I want everybody to pay attention here — this is dangerous,” Obama said at a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Oct. 20. “Because when you try to sow the seeds of doubt in people’s mind about the legitimacy of our elections, that undermines our democracy. Then you are doing the work of our adversaries for them.”
Clinton and her allies in public office and in the media threw down the gauntlet. They argued that the country should not fall victim to Trump’s dangerous suggestions — that an expected Clinton victory would be the result of invalidating, electoral shenanigans.
Then, as now, Democrats overplayed their hand.
Three weeks after Obama warned about the dangers of questioning the legitimacy of presidential elections, the unthinkable happened and Trump won the election.
For the people warning about the perils of Trump questioning the outcome, Trump’s victory just did not make sense. Surely the American public would not vote for a misogynist and deny the first woman nominated by a major political party her rightful place in the White House!
No, they decided something else was amiss here.
For the next month and a half, critics offered every possible explanation for Trump’s victory — largely ignoring the obvious, that Clinton was a terrible candidate and Trump offered a fresh, winning message. Instead it was they who determined the election results were the result of some kind of chicanery.
Those critics and Democrats soon identified what they determined to be the real boogeyman — and one more of a threat to our civil society than ISIS, global warming or genetically modified organisms in our food supply: the rise of something called the “alt-right.”
Yes, it was this racist, sinister movement called the “alt-right” that appealed to the worst impulses of some voters and on Election Day pushed Trump across the finish line.
All across the country in major U.S. cities, protesters took to the streets to protest Trump’s victory. It was not clear what these protesters intended to accomplish with the next significant national election two years away. But darn it, they were not going to allow some nebulous political movement called the “alt-right” to rise in America without expressing their disapproval.
Then that storyline sort of went away. Turns out, calling nearly half the country that voted for Trump racist and bigoted under the moniker of the “alt-right” wasn’t good for business.
So they decided something else must have cost Clinton her rightful presidency. Perhaps it was the whole Russia-WikiLeaks thing!
Keep in mind, their theory is that if voters were not exposed to the cesspool of behind-the-scenes Democratic Party politics revealed by WikiLeaks through the alleged efforts of a foreign government, the election outcome might have been different.
That the Russian government hacked the DNC to influence the election has artfully evolved to claims that the Russians hacked the election. Such headlines suggest that the Russian government managed to infiltrate our voting machines. That did not happen.
Nevertheless, President Obama acted in retaliation to the — still alleged and unproven — Russian hacks by sanctioning a handful of Russian officials, expelling 35 Russian diplomats and closing two Russian compounds on U.S. soil.
More important was the message he sent with that gesture: Trump’s victory is shrouded in doubt. For now, even the official position of the U.S. government is that the Russian government’s meddling at least influenced the outcome of the presidential election.
That is in stark contrast to what Obama had said months earlier regarding the sanctity of the U.S. presidential election.
As they did with the pre-election and early post-election claims, Democrats seem to be overplaying what otherwise would be a relatively a good hand with the hacking allegations.
Democrats are sorely misguided if they think flooding the zone with a barrage of claims like this is a magic bullet that will stop Trump and Republican efforts to massively overhaul how things are done in Washington, D.C.
Even if this issue is a sincere valid concern, you run the risk of marginalizing the issue by pointing the finger at Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately after losing the election. In the eyes of many, it is just post-election sour grapes.
There were several factors that led to Trump’s victory, which include the natural cycle of U.S. politics going back and forth from party to party, an enthusiasm gap that likely led to low minority voter turnout and a pushback against current immigration and trade policies.
Way down that list is Russian hacking. There may be some people who stayed home or switched their vote from Clinton to Trump because of the gossip in Clinton campaign operative John Podesta’s email. Swells of people were not, however, flocking to the polls over what amounts to a D.C. process story.
If Democrats want to regain some power in the 2018 midterms, getting bogged down in pedantic theories about why the country voted as it did will not do them any favors.
If you are a Republican, let Democrats waste time and resources going down these rabbit trails. It will be to their disadvantage.