What Would Trump Do? How We Respond to a Suspect Election

This one was for all the marbles. A glib way of putting it, perhaps, but I have yet to find anyone who believes that Election 2016 was an ordinary election or that it will bring in its wake anything resembling “politics as usual.” This was not Carter-Ford, not even Carter-Reagan, Nixon-Humphrey, Bush-Gore, Obama-Romney, or any of a parade of elections stretching far back down the street of American history. The direction of America, and likely of the world, has taken a sharp and possibly irrevocable turn.

With Donald J. Trump two months and a coronation away from becoming the most powerful person in the world, the shockwaves are still spreading: protestors are massing in the streets, flights to the United States have fallen off sharply, the calamitous question “What went wrong?” keeps reverberating from NY Times to water-cooler to dinner table (the Dow, anticipating new vistas of business and environmental deregulation, has held its own). Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, has put his critics on notice to “be careful what they say.” Alt-right white supremacist Steve Bannon has been brought into Trump’s White House as his “chief strategist.” The young woman who served me an ice-cream cone yesterday at Baskin Robbins (some have hit the bottle; I have sought comfort in ice cream) had tears running down her face. When I asked her what was wrong, she spread her hands wide and said only, “You know.” America gruesomely divided, at least half of it in shock.

Hillary Clinton conceded; President Obama promises a “smooth transition;” the media busies itself covering the coronation, the cabinet picking, and the demographics and psychologies that fooled every pollster and pundit and delivered this shocking victory. But the victory itself is self-evident; America “moves on.” Soon the protests will have died down, the tears will have dried, the shock will have dissipated, and the moment will have run its course, leaving all the marbles in the gutter where they fell. This is something we have always celebrated about our democracy, the 1860 election and the ensuing Civil War being the one cautionary historical blot.

Before we all move on though, I want to suggest a thought experiment. Have a look at this chart: 


It shows the four battleground states where Clinton was the “Exit Poll Winner” and the “Votecount Loser,” the “red shift” between the exit poll and votecount in each case being outside the margin of error of the poll (note that the red shift in Florida, which spans two time zones, was significantly diminished by the fact that exit polls were not publicly posted until an hour after polls closed and counting began in the bulk of the state, permitting an adjustment to be made that substantially narrowed the gap between the exit poll and the votecount as shown in the chart).

It also shows that Clinton won the national popular vote, her current margin being more than a million votes. If these four states where the exit polls indicated she was the victor were shifted back to her column, Clinton would have won, in addition to the popular vote, a comfortable majority in the Electoral College and would now be president-elect and going about the business of choosing her cabinet. Now look at this chart: 

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It comes from a parallel universe where everything is reversed. Up is down and right is left and blue is red. It shows the same numbers, but now it is Trump who is ahead in the exit polls and Clinton who wins these key states and the presidency when the “blue shift” results in outcome reversals. Trump also wins the national popular vote by more than a million votes, after being at least three million votes ahead per the national exit poll.

Somewhere in this parallel universe, the parallel Jonathan Simon brings this chart to Donald Trump. Trump sees that the exit polls put him comfortably ahead in enough states to win an Electoral College victory of near landslide proportions. He sees, from an expanded chart (which can be viewed, with special parallel universe glasses, at http://bit.ly/2fPkThd), that a mysterious “blue shift” was pervasive throughout almost all the 28 states for which exit polls were conducted, costing him millions of votes all told. He sees that he has won the popular vote by over a million votes, and would have won by a good deal more if the huge national exit poll sample is valid.

Trump had demurred in the third debate when asked whether he would accept the election results if he lost, and he had, up until an odd change of tack just a few days before the election, given vent to suspicions that it would be “rigged.” Indeed, in 2012, when he erroneously believed Republican Mitt Romney might win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College, he had tweeted: “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty...Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us...This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy! ...Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble...like never before...We should have a revolution in this country!”

A travesty. A sham. A march. A revolution. Can we venture a guess as to what would be happening at this very moment in this parallel universe where all the numbers are mirror images and Donald Trump lost? Can we imagine that he would have simply ignored not only his popular vote victory but all the emerging evidence (made public before the next morning’s sunrise) of egregious (he might have said “huge” or “beautiful”) exit poll/vote-count disparities of outcome-reversing magnitude, all the reports of problems voting, machine breakdowns and massive undervotes (90,000 in still-undecided Michigan alone) and graciously conceded? If so, I ask, respectfully, what planet in what universe are we living on?

There is little question that under these precise circumstances, not only would Donald Trump not have called Hillary Clinton (with millions of votes yet to be counted, all manner of forensic analysis yet to be performed) to graciously concede, he would have gone much further. He would have tweeted madly that the numbers didn’t and couldn’t add up (apart from the wildly inaccurate exit polls and pre-election polls, how could his insurmountable early-voting lead in Florida, for example, have evaporated on Election Day, by which point it would have required a 70%- 30% rout by Clinton to overtake him?). He would have sent in his legal team to impound equipment, protect ballots, file for recounts. He would have begun immediately firing up his troops for a mass challenge to the veracity and legitimacy of the electoral outcome, and he would have demanded and received mainstream media coverage for this “bold” move emblematic of the “new politics.”

He said it in 2012 (under far less suspicious circumstances): “We can’t let this happen...We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.” Do we have any doubt that this is just what would be happening, that we would now be looking at the “Million-Gun March on Washington” (or perhaps “50 Million”), egged on by Steve Bannon, Kelly Anne Conway, and the full untrusting rage of the alt-right and, yes, the people? So much for the White House tour and Obama’s “smooth transition.” Quite simply, Donald Trump would not have accepted a vote count and a defeat that he could neither see nor trust. Our President-Elect would not have gone gentle into that good night, crusty old rules of the game be damned.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating a million-gun march on anything. But it is most pungently instructive to consider how radically different the responses of the two “losers” would be, and how categorically typical of the way the New Right and the Old Left handle not just such sucker punches but political adversity in general. This cardinal difference in psyche and behavior is chronic since at least the days of Newt Gingrich, endemic to our nation’s politics, and it goes a long way to explaining America’s perpetual rightward drift.

So what can the nation we hear crying out in the night do to waken from this bad dream that is also most likely a false one?

We can begin by asking, “What would Donald Trump do?” He is after all, our chosen president-elect and soon to be the acknowledged leader of the free world. So who more fitting to ask, who more qualified to answer and guide us?

We can organize quickly (the timeframe is very short); come together in expanding rings of communal cooperation and determination; work with and provide financial support to third-party candidates and independent electoral integrity groups and their legal teams to file suits for the impoundment of suspect equipment and protection and human recounting of computer-tabulated ballots; inundate media outlets with our concerns and demands; tweet up a storm and use the gift of social media for its best purpose; and assemble and march (sans arms) to county election boards, statehouses and Washington.

Our message? “We are entitled to the truth and, yes, we can handle it! Pardon the brief interruption, but the future of our nation and the planet are far too important to turn on what, for all anyone knows or can prove, may be a cheap electronic trick. Russians, home-grown riggers, or a fair count of the votes: there’s far too much doubt. So let’s actually count the ballots (in the open) and find out.”

We don’t have to like Donald Trump to recognize that this is what he would do and to know that it is the right thing. 


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