The American people will not take kindly to being kept “in suspense” by Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton has apparently had “psychology experts” advising her on how, among other things, to “needle” Donald Trump in the Presidential debates. Those experts deserve a medal for services to the USA. Clinton’s debate strategy has been a masterclass which will be written about for decades. Those experts have helped smoke out Donald Trump’s true colours in the debate theatre, rather than leaving it to when he might have become President.

The fact that in Wednesday evening’s debate he was reduced to saying “Such a nasty woman” and “You’re the puppet! …No you’re the puppet” betokens game, set and match to Clinton, I suggest.

The universally-headlined exchange from the debate (see transcript) was this one:

CHRIS WALLACE (Moderator): But, sir, there is a tradition in this country – in fact, one of the prides of this country – is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

DONALD TRUMP: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?

It’s not a great leap to suggest that when Trump used the word “you” there, that “you” could be extended from the moderator to the American people. The moderator was asking questions on their behalf, after all.

So Trump is telling the American people that he will keep them “in suspense” about whether or not he will accept a bedrock principle of the United States of America – a concession by the Presidential election loser once the result has become clear and irrevocable. Trump’s statement is as unprecedented as the marked lack of handshakes between the two candidates before or after this week’s debate.

I thank commenter Daniel Walker for reminding me of John McCain’s concession speech in 2008. It’s worth reviewing. It is widely accepted to be the most graceful, dignified and magnanimous concession speech in the history of the American Republic. It really is brilliant.

Surely it’s not beyond Donald Trump, if he loses – which bookie Paddy Power has already accepted he will, to blurt out a least a thousandth of the sentiments of the graceful speech by John McCain, is it?

Or does he really believe his own statements about there being large-scale voting fraud?

The chief concern of a non-concession by Trump is that it may result in a debilitating undermining of confidence in the US democratic system. It is even conceivable that a sizeable chunk of the US populace may consider taking the law into their own hands.

If you want to know what that looks like, then I suggest a study of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Range. Or take a look at these two beauties, and their extraordinary armed starefest outside of a Democratic congressional candidate’s campaign office in Virginia.

I’ll leave the last word to Professor Richard Reuben of the University of Missouri, quoted on the Guardian website:

This is not Bush v Gore. There were legitimate questions about the vote after the votes were cast. The case went through the legal process and Gore graciously accepted the supreme court’s decision, as problematic as that was.

This is a premeditated attempt (by Trump) to delegitimize the result of any decision that doesn’t go his way – unprecedented in American politics in my lifetime.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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20 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Oct '16 - 1:14pm

    He is already stepping right back from his comments, he really is the worst candidate of any party in modern US elections or any !

    How Liberals could be so against Hillary Clinton as to say they are each as bad , is beyond understanding. Her debate content and contributions are of real flair and gravitas, her personality in my opinion, likeable , attractive and or impressive, her down side as of very little compared to the alternative.

    Hillary Clinton in the third debate on most issues showed us a president ready this second to take office.

  • It is perfectly possible have reservations about Hillary Clinton even when many of us would rather die than vote for Trump, were we entitled to. , Yes it’s a no brainer and I shall give thanks if/when she is safely elected. But I shall even more excited if the Democrats get control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives with a fair sprinkling of serious liberals to lobby President Clinton.

  • @Geoff
    Yes, it is perfectly possible to have reservations about Hillary. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of her throughout, but I’m starting to get a little concerned about some of the hawkish things she is saying about Russia. We all know that Putin is dangerous – but the aggressive stance being taken by western countries at the moment is likely to make him more so, not less.

  • Trump is indeed a candidate (how can I say this politely?) not cut from the usual block and with an alarming propensity to be highly offensive. However, some – not all – of what he says is actually rather sensible if you ignore the howls of outrage from the Washington establishment, an establishment that has run America into the ground in recent years.

    For example talking to Russia. What’s wrong with that? With coming to terms with the fact of a multi-polar world? In contrast HC breathes fire and, significantly, some neo-con war hawks have crossed the traditional party divide to support her.

    Then there are TPP, TTIP and other trade deals the US is pushing for which HC enthusiastically supported until Sanders made her rein in her support – for now. (She’s also said that it’s necessary to say one thing in public and another in private so I expect her to revert after the election). Yet earlier deals like NAFTA have helped devastate middle America which is why Trump is picking up so much blue collar support in rust belt states like Ohio.

    And there are those speaking fees, IIRC $150 million for her and Bill over the last few years. How do you earn that sort of money? Not for very ho-hum content that’s for sure.

    On the question of voting Trump also has a good point. The US system of voting machines (often with no audit trail whatsoever) is wide open to hacking and there are well-founded suspicions that it is, in fact, happening on a large scale. See for example this short video.

    https://youtu.be/t75xvZ3osFg

    With this sort of thing going on can anyone have confidence in US election results? I don’t and Trump is right to be cautious.

  • As a computer scientist I’ve been well aware for many years of the potential for corruption with electronic voting systems.

    I have always said that we should not use them until we are convinced they are at least as robust as manual systems (which are not perfect, but are manually checked by observers at every stage of the process and do have an audit trail). And the ‘we’ I have in mind are the candidates, agents and their supporters. We quite properly allow candidates to monitor the count – they after all have the most to lose – and they are the ones that have to be convinced that the processes are fair, not just the voters.

    I hadn’t seen the video that Gordon mentions but it is a powerful demonstration of how voters can be hoodwinked, though they come nowhere near meeting my test of ‘Is the candidate convinced?’

  • Does anyone know how many states use that kind of voting machine?

  • The Professor 21st Oct '16 - 9:39pm

    @ Stuart who said “We all know that Putin is dangerous – but the aggressive stance being taken by western countries at the moment is likely to make him more so, not less.”

    Appeasement belongs to the 1930s. Strongmen and dictators respect strong leaders who stand up to them. Hillary Clinton WILL stand up to Putin.

    It was Russia (and others) who guaranteed Ukraine’s territory in a 1994 agreement as a means of Ukraine giving up nuclear weapons.

    As they say in the USA, “How’s that working out for ya?”

  • The Professor 21st Oct '16 - 9:42pm

    @Mary Reid
    Read this useful item titled
    Election Officials Scoff at Trump’s Claim of a “Rigged” Vote

    http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2016/Pres/Maps/Oct18.html#item-8

    I can heartily recommend this website – I read it every day.

  • Stevan Rose 22nd Oct '16 - 8:56am

    And yet, despite all this, Trump is just 4 points behind in the polls, within the margin for error. Which tells us how deeply unpopular Clinton is amongst Americans. Many voting for her are doing so only to stop Trump.

  • My fave statistic so far is that 40% of Trump voters in Florida think Hillary is a Demon. Thats one in six Florida voters. Too much exposure to bright sunlight probably.
    On the state of the Polls, there seem to be lots of averages but most seem to put Hillarys lead at 6%. I couldnt find any at 4%. Most State analyses seem to put Clinton very close to a solid lead already, the Projections with the best record put her massively ahead, if nothing changes.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Oct '16 - 10:33am

    Bill Clinton commented on an opinion poll that forecast his re-election and led to complacency and low turnout. Coat-tails are important. There is also an election for one third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama suffered from Congressional opposition, including the current unprecedented refusal to even consider filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

  • Mary Reid – the only secure voting system is hand marked paper ballots counted by hand in public.

    The link I provided above only addresses one of multiple possible points of failure. Other failure modes abound; they include transmission from polling stations to central tally locations and unintentional or intentional design flaws in the machines or the software.

    It’s not even as if voting machines lead to quick results. Many Americans were amazed at how quickly the referendum result was declared. For example the California Democratic primary was still being counted (with Bernie closing fast as more results came in), IIRC, 10 days after it had been declared for HRC with all the importance of momentum that implies.

    The ‘fog of war’ applies so what DO we know for sure. Well, for starters huge amounts of money and power are at stake. Also we know that spectacular sums are spend on campaigns so it’s a sure bet that cheap and easy (if you can get away with it) vote fixing is going to happen. Both sides do it depending on who has local control of the process in each area which is why I think the political elite is wilfully blind to the problem – it secures their rotten boroughs and marginalises the people.

    For more evidence that vote fixing is endemic see this article which has many further links.

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/02/stealing-election-easier-thought.html

    In the current context HRC has the advantage of a strong Dem ground campaign that undoubtedly can deliver on less-than-legal tactics. In contrast Trump is not by and large supported by existing GOP networks and has a very limited organisation on the ground. So I expect HRC to win irrespective of the votes cast.

    What is happening, however, is that awareness of the problem is rising fast so long term I don’t think the issue will easily be forgotten. Interesting times!

  • The Professor – That web site you recommend doesn’t exactly do critical thinking does it!

    Its “Election Officials Scoff at Trump’s Claim of a “Rigged” Vote” is extraordinarily weak. For instance “election expert Rick Hasen” claims there can’t be rigging because the are about 14,000 separate elections each with its own equipment, procedure and administration. He describes a context of no overarching federal law, erratic state legislation and no technical standards that is right as far as it goes. But I suggest that systems anarchy – for that is what it amounts to – is the perfect breeding ground for, um, dubious practices.

    No-one is suggesting that a single top-down fix is used. In fact common sense dictates that fixing would be targeted at swing counties in swing states which happen to have particularly dodgy systems and/or individuals involved. And in the anarchic US system there are bound to be plenty of those.

    The author of the article is right about one thing though – there are almost no cases of “in-person” vote fraud but specious claims that it is endemic (largely by Republicans) have been used as the excuse for several instances of large scale voter suppression (a different approach to fixing elections) by making difficult-to-achieve requirements for voter identification, typically targeting blacks and/or less educated voters.

  • This week’s issue of Moneyweek magazine has a leader about the US election. The article is primarily about the impact of Trump’s candidacy on future US policy, not on the result itself:

    “The popular appeal of Trump’s protectionism, anti-immigration views, and his rages against the “elites” has influenced Clinton’s policies… He is the only candidate to have articulated – however incoherently – the anger of voters who feel that their interests and concerns are being ignored… If Trump wasn’t so blatantly repellent… he’d probably be in rhe lead right now.”

    It is hard to disagree with the analysis but I think the author is mistaken in thinking that a corporatist like Clinton is doing more than paying lip service to the genuine anger that has fuelled the rise of a demagogue like Trump.

  • “The Professor” :-
    “Appeasement belongs to the 1930s. Strongmen and dictators respect strong leaders who stand up to them.”

    So why is this not working with Putin? He’s becoming more aggressive, not less.

    Things have changed since the 1930s. Having read many biographies of Hitler, I think it’s 99% certain that if he had had nuclear weapons, he would have been fully prepared to use them. I’m not suggesting we “appease” Russia, but I do think some of the anti-Russian rhetoric coming from the West at the moment is not at all helpful. In the case of Syria, it’s downright hypocritical given our own recent record in the region.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Oct '16 - 7:32pm

    This week’s Economist magazine has a three page article on why people hate Hillary Clinton. They have an international readership and need to be credible in USA.
    They quote Republicans who have worked with her on some issues ad opposed her vigorously on others. She works hard, she keeps her word, she wants to serve the American people. This is not tactical politics for an election, she has always been like that.
    She is not great with technology and does not use a computer, preferring to send all her messages from her mobile ‘phone. They do not mention that President Obama mocked her on this issue in front of a dinner for the White House press corps.
    The Economist concludes that it does come down to the fact that Donald Trump is opposing a female candidate.
    If only men were allowed to vote Trump would win.
    If only women were allowed to vote Hillary Clinton would win by a landslide.

  • I hope this discussion helps to dissuade those in this country who have pushed the case for electronic voting. For voting to be fair there has to be transparency – which is where postal voting on demand falls down – and the possibility of an audit trail, which electronic voting can never satisfy. Large scale fraud is not impossible with non-electronic systems – Mayor Daley and Lyndon Johnson delivered the 1960 Presidential election for JFK for example – but it is much more difficult to get away with.

  • Steve Trevethan 24th Oct '16 - 1:21pm

    “War and Peace” starring Mr & Mrs Clinton and Mr Putin!!!

    Mr Clinton associated armed interventions – 29 [President 1993-2001]
    Mrs Clinton associated armed interventions – 13 [Secretary of State 2009-2013]
    Mr Putin associated armed interventions – 5 [Various Leadership Roles 2008 – Now]

    CLINTONS 42 – PUTIN 5

    Since 1991 there have been at least 71 USA involved armed interventions and 13 Russian.
    [Look it up on Wikipedia!]

    Which of these two nations has been, and so is likely to be, the bigger threat to peace?
    [Please do the maths!]

  • Richard Underhill 30th Oct '16 - 9:47am

    The Financial Times knows about different types of averages and yesterday quoted the median income of a sample of Trump supporters as $20,000 above median income. The FT has an international readership and need to be credible in USA.
    A long analysis leads to a conclusion that the election (and re-election) of an African-American President upset attitudes about “social order” and see a Democratic Presidency as Obama’s third term (to be compared with the “third term” of the Reagan-Bush presidency?).
    The conclusion is, regrettably, that these voters are racist and Donald Trump knows it.

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