It’s almost over. Will we heave a sigh of relief, or shriek in horror? Nobody knows for sure, although early indications clearly point to Hillary Clinton, the Democrat candidate. Whatever happens, however, let’s be clear: This American presidential election, in fact, is a rigged election.
The election was rigged by state governments that did all they could to prevent non-white Americans from voting: The spirit of Jim Crow is very much alive — or maybe translate that to Diego Cuervo, now that Latinos have joined African-Americans as targets. Voter ID laws, rationalised by demonstrably fake concerns about election fraud, were used to disenfranchise thousands; others were discouraged by a systematic effort to make voting hard, by closing polling places in areas with large minority populations.
The election was rigged by Russian intelligence, which was almost surely behind the hacking of Democratic emails, which WikiLeaks then released with great fanfare. Nothing truly scandalous emerged, but the Russians judged, correctly, that the news media would hype the revelation that major party figures are human beings, and that politicians engage in politics, as somehow damning.
The election was rigged by James Comey, the director of the FBI. His job is to police crime — but, instead, he used his position to spread innuendo and influence the election. Was he deliberately putting a thumb on the electoral scales, or was he simply bullied by Republican operatives? It doesn’t matter: He abused his office, shamefully.
The election was also rigged by people within the FBI — people who clearly felt that under Comey they had a free hand to indulge their political preferences. In the final days of the campaign, pro-Trump agents have clearly been talking nonstop to Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and right-wing media, putting claims and allegations, that may or may not have anything to do with reality, into the air. The agency clearly needs a major housecleaning: Having an important part of our national security apparatus trying to subvert an election is deeply scary. Unfortunately, Comey is just the man not to do it.
The election was rigged by partisan media, especially Fox News, which trumpeted falsehoods, then retracted them, if at all, so quietly that almost nobody heard. For days Fox blared the supposed news that the FBI was preparing an indictment of the Clinton Foundation. When it finally admitted that the story was false, Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager smugly remarked: “The damage is done to Hillary Clinton.”
The election was rigged by mainstream news organisations, many of which simply refused to report on policy issues, a refusal that clearly favoured the candidate who lies about these issues all the time, and has no coherent proposals to offer. Take the nightly network news broadcasts: In 2016, all three combined devoted a total of 32 minutes to coverage of issues — all issues. Climate change, the most important issue the world faces, received no coverage at all.
The election was rigged by the media obsession with Clinton’s emails. She shouldn’t have used her own server, but there is no evidence at all that she did anything unethical, let alone illegal. The whole thing is in orders of magnitude less important than multiple scandals involving her opponent — remember, Trump never released his tax returns. Yet, those networks that found only 32 minutes for all policy issues combined found 100 minutes to talk about the Clinton emails.
It’s a disgraceful record. Yet, Clinton still seems likely to win.
If she does, you know what will happen. Republicans will, of course, deny her legitimacy from day one, just as they did for the last two Democratic presidents. But there will also — you can count on it — be a lot of deprecation and sneering from mainstream pundits and many in the media, lots of denial that she has a “mandate” (whatever that means), because some other Republican would supposedly have beaten her, she should have won by more, or something.
So in the days ahead, it will be important to remember two things. First, Clinton has actually run a remarkable campaign, demonstrating her tenacity in the face of unfair treatment and remaining cool under pressure that would have broken most of us. Second, and much more important, if she wins, it will be thanks to Americans who stood up for their nation’s principles — who waited for hours on voting queues contrived to discourage them, who paid attention to the true stakes in this election, rather than letting themselves be distracted by fake scandals and media noise.
Those citizens deserve to be honoured, not disparaged, for doing their best to save America from the effects of badly-broken institutions. Many people have behaved shamefully this year — but tens of millions of voters kept their faith in the values that truly make America great.
— New York Times News Service
Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and distinguished professor in the Graduate Centre Economics PhD programme and distinguished scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Centre at the City University of New York.