On Thursday, speaking about a discredited report on Russia and President-elect Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience, “this is going be a four-year story folks,” because it’s “rooted in the narrative that Trump’s election was stolen by the Russians and it’s not legitimate.
Hours after Limbaugh’s prediction, Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, tweeted, “Was Trump duly elected? Of course, he was. But was the election free and fair by typical Western democratic standards? Absolutely not.” More disappointing: on MSNBC Friday, Rep. John Lewis, who is a bona fide American hero, even said, there was a “conspiracy on the part of the Russians” to get Trump elected.
If Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to “denigrate” Hillary Clinton, he probably failed. The hacking changed very few American opinions of the failed 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. But if the priority was, as the U.S. intelligence report says, to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” he’s had at least modest success—thanks mostly to Democratic hyperbole.
As I wrote about in, “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections,” Democrats have a long tradition of establishing a “we was robbed” article of faith after losing elections. The only wrong part of Limbaugh’s prediction is that this will probably be more than a four-year story.
Democrats didn’t start with clinging to the article of faith that Florida was stolen in 2000 and denouncing George W. Bush as illegitimate. It goes back further. After the 1876 election, Democrats angrily referred to Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes as “Rutherfraud,” conveniently ignoring their candidate Samuel Tilden’s popular vote victory resulted from the party’s violent voter suppression in the south.
The outcome of the 2016 election was at no point in question, as were the 2000 and 1876 tallying that dragged on for more than a month after Election Day. So, the Democrats sour grapes this time is somewhat less excusable. But even when losses were decisive, Democrats would often, for example, say it’s because Ronald Reagan duped unsophisticated masses in those 49 states.
It’s not just the cranks at Daily Kos calling Trump the “Manchurian President-Elect.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote the election was “tainted” in part because Russia “worked to tilt the election” to Trump. The New Yorker’s David Remnick asked, “how is it possible…to count the 2016 presidential election as unsullied?”
Saying Russian “tilted” the election and throwing in “conspiracy” for good measure implies voting was rigged.
This of course ignores that the same intelligence report Democrats were so fond of promoting. That report clearly states “the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.” But who wants to actually read an intelligence report when an emotional talking point is so much juicier.
The Jill Stein recount and a separate attempt to prompt an Electoral College rebellion seemed stuff of crackpots that no Democrat wanted publicly champion.
But Russian espionage—now—that’s something for the sour grapes left to cling to. Putin is something exciting to blame losing on. And Democrats even have a national intelligence report to back it up, don’t they? Let’s not get into pesky details.
Americans of all stripes should be alarmed about Russian hacking into the email of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. If Russians do it to Democrats this time, they would do it to Republicans next time. But no one can possibly think the WikiLeaks revelations are why Clinton is unlikable and untrustworthy to most Americans.
A Gallup poll just days after the election found 84 percent of Americans, including 76 percent of Clinton voters, believed Trump was legitimately elected. That’s slightly better than the post-2000 election numbers for Bush. But with a massive de-legitimize campaign by Democrats that number might well be lower today if a new pre-inauguration poll were taken.
If anything is undermining public faith in American democracy, it wasn’t the hacking itself, but the left constantly implying, if not outright saying, that Russia placed their man in the White House.