Heading into Election Day, voters on all sides seemed to agree on one thing: the madness of this soul-crushing and seemingly endless presidential election would be blessedly over. Fat chance.
President-elect Donald Trump, behind by about 2.2 million votes, tweeted one week after the contest that, “If the election were based on total popular vote, I would have campaigned in N.Y., Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily.” It’s a fair argument.
But that was before Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein said she’d fund, thanks to still-in-denial donors, a recount in Wisconsin, and possibly ones in Pennsylvania and in Michigan, a state added Monday to the Trump column. The Hillary Clinton campaign said it would throw in with Stein. So let’s hear it for three more weeks of breathless recount updates from Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
None of this makes sense, and all of it seems to further usher in the “post-truth” strategy Trump pioneered. Stein, who garnered less than 1 percent of the votes nationally, has raised more than $5 million for the recounts. She’s provided no credible rationale for questioning the results, but the greenbacks will help fund the Greens’ attempts to get on all 50 ballots in 2020. The Clinton campaign says it has looked hard for evidence of fraud or election-count hacking and found none. It believes the recounts will have no effect, but it will participate.
So on Sunday, infuriated by the recount, sore winner Trump, tweeted, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” That’s a statement with no basis in fact and an unacceptable one from a man responsible for both leading this nation and healing it. Four minutes later, still on Twitter, Trump went back to arguing that he could have won the popular vote if he had campaigned differently. Then he returned to the fraud argument, tweeting about “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.” Really, massive fraudulent votes by immigrants here illegally in New Hampshire? Are we now counting moose from Canada?
Trump spent years cynically propping up a “birther” movement that falsely said Hawaii-born President Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya. He understands the power and danger of delegitimizing a president all too well. And Trump is not wrong to worry that his popular-vote loss will undermine bragging rights to a mandate. For sure, Democrats will raise it often throughout the next four years.
Stein and Clinton have a right to this recount, but no rationale. It won’t change the outcome, and it will increase divisions in a nation turning into a permanent grudgeocracy of “us against them.”
Trump, though, must change. Tweetstorming untrue accusations of voter fraud in response to a move by opponents to make sure there weren’t irregularities is irresponsible — and counterintuitive. If Trump is not producing excuses or distractions, if he believes his tweets, he should call for an investigation of any fraud and fight to secure future elections. Instead, his transition team had to tell reporters on Monday there was no credible evidence to support Trump’s charge.
Having earned the biggest job in the world, Trump simply must stop being so small. — The editorial board