Dear Donald Trump, The Election Isn’t Rigged

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo.
Bettina Inclán is a Republican strategist and communications consultant. The views expressed here are her own. In his first campaign stop since he left the debate stage last night, Donald Trump told Ohio voters he would “totally accept” the results of the election “if I win.” I was still busy picking my jaw up off the floor this morning from a similar assertion he made last night. Yes, Trump told moderator Chris Wallace and the American people that he wouldn’t commit to accepting the election results, something that is literally unprecedented in American history. It’s an understatement to say I was shocked that a nominee for a major political party would trample on the very thing that makes our country one of the greatest on the planet — the over-200-year-long peaceful transition of power. It made me wonder, Does this man really want to be president of the United States of America?

I shouldn’t have been surprised by his promise to keep us all “in suspense” about whether or not he would accept the outcome of the election. Against the guidance of his advisers and his own daughter, Trump has been telling his supporters that the media and political institutions are allowing massive voter fraud to steal the election from him in favor of Hillary Clinton.
As a Republican strategist who has worked on several campaigns, I know what it takes to mobilize voters, and Trump is using tested lines of attacks — questioning voter integrity and calling out the liberal mainstream media’s bias against conservatives — in hopes of galvanizing weak Republican support. Trump, who is seeing a drastic drop in the polls and many reliably red states polling blue, is desperate to rally his base as his path to victory quickly narrows. I can only assume that, knowing he is about to lose, Trump is trying to point fingers in every direction except at himself. Regardless of whether you support him, Hillary Clinton, or a third-party candidate, as an American you should be upset (and horrified) at this attack on our country’s democracy. It is an affront to the U.S. Constitution, and a direct threat to our nation’s stability.

I am personally offended when someone aims to weaken America’s political system. But as a strategist, I also understand why he's saying it and what it means politically.

Intentionally or not, Trump is sowing the seeds of discontent in our election and ensuring that citizens at home, and people abroad, will forever question the strength of America. Trump is telling his supporters that if he loses, President Hillary Clinton will be a usurper. And he is telling the international community that the U.S. has no business preaching about free and fair elections. I grew up in Miami, which counts among its residents many immigrants who have sought refuge from the corrupt political systems destroying their homelands. I was raised to understand that I was privileged to be born in a free country with a long-standing, continuous democracy. It gave me a deep appreciation for the unique freedoms I had as an American and inspired me to pursue a career in politics and honor my own family of immigrants and political refugees, who have not always had the individual freedoms or the right to vote that too many in the U.S. take for granted. For these reasons and many more, I am personally offended when someone aims to weaken America’s political system. But as a strategist, I also understand why he's saying it and what it means politically.
In contrast to his advisers, and even his vice presidential nominee, Trump continues to claim that the election is fixed because of massive voter fraud. While we need to ensure integrity at the ballot box, and there have been some cases in the past, there is no real evidence of widespread voter fraud that could affect a statewide election and change the results of the presidential race. Elections are controlled at the local level, meaning in several thousand different jurisdictions in 50 different states, plus the District of Columbia. Many of the key swing states are led by Republican governors, and Republican secretaries of state are in charge of the election process, including in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia, Utah, Arizona, and Iowa.

I can only assume that, knowing he is about to lose, Trump is trying to point fingers in every direction except at himself.

I’m happy to see that a number of Republicans have called on Trump to stop his attacks on the American election process. Just this week Senator Marco Rubio, running for re-election in my home state of Florida said: “This election is not being rigged. And I’m going to explain to you why it’s not being rigged in Florida, and why I hope he stops saying that — he should stop saying that. We have 67 counties in this state, each of which conduct their own elections. I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election.” But the one thing that all of Trump’s world does agree on is that the media is working against him. He has railed against the “hit job” that negative news stories (and SNL) have done on him and blamed them for his dwindling support.
On this I agree with Trump. In general, there is a liberal media bias, but that is nothing new. I’ve worked as a campaign spokesperson, fielding thousands of questions from reporters for multiple Republican candidates, and I believe there is a bias against GOP nominees. Yet, it is a reality every Republican operative is aware of (though we dislike and wish we could change it) and also the reason campaigns cannot afford to make mistakes. Yet, Trump and his campaign have made enough mistakes to fill dozens of newspapers, and the stories about his misstatements write themselves. I didn’t hear Trump complaining about the extravagant media attention in the primary when it gave him more than $2 billion in free advertising and helped propel him to victory over a crowded GOP field.
Photo: Courtesy Bettina Inclan.
That’s why it troubles me that some Republicans are preemptively blaming an unfavorable outcome on voter fraud or media bias while ignoring the deficiencies in Trump’s campaign, which has been described as "skeletal." As a GOP operative, especially one who’s worried on how all of this impacts Republicans down ballot, it pains me to hear that Trump’s voter turnout operation and advertising are lagging behind Hillary Clinton’s efforts. It makes me wonder, in such a tight contest, why is Trump giving his voters a reason to distrust the integrity of their votes? It might make some voters feel that voting is pointless if the system is rigged. If potential GOP voter suppression wasn’t enough, the third debate did nothing to expand Trump’s base. On the contrary, what could have been a strong debate performance was derailed and instead reinforced many voters’ biggest concerns about Trump — namely, that he doesn’t have the temperament to be president. Once again, no one is talking about the issues; everyone, including me, is focused on Trump’s “wait and see” approach to the election results. Above all, the role of the president is to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Now, more than ever, we need real leadership — that starts by respecting and safeguarding our democracy. Trump could have avoided the endless headlines by just sticking to his campaign manager and daughter's advice by saying: “Yes, I will accept the results, absent overwhelming evidence that there is voter fraud.” But of course, he didn’t.

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