Yup, Trump has the most delicate ego in all the land, but his voter fraud claims are about more than just that. The media has spent the last 2 days chasing down Trump’s increasingly absurd claims of fraud in the 2016 election. Trump had resurrected the stale topic on Monday during a reception with congressional leaders (most likely set off by his stung feelings from the debate over inauguration crowd size and the attention given to the overwhelming turnout at the women’s marches).
At his afternoon press conference yesterday, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s claims, but when asked the logical follow up about whether they’d be launching an investigation into this supposed fraud, he only answered with “maybe we will” and when further pressed clarified that he didn’t really mean to suggest anything by that, just that “anything is possible.”
Trump clearly didn’t like the implication that his claims weren’t serious, because early this morning he sent out a pair of tweets to let us know he would indeed be launching an investigation into these claims:
Spicer was again questioned about the topic at today’s press conference, with one reporter noting that even Trump’s own lawyers stated during the election recounts that all the evidence indicated there was no fraud in the 2016 election. He wondered how Spicer could square that with these currents allegations. Spicer’s reply made clear which two states Trump’s tweet referred to:
There’s a lot of states that we didn’t compete in where that’s not necessarily the case. You look at California and New York, we didn’t look at those two states in particular. I mean, as the president has noted before, he campaigned to win the electoral college, not the popular vote.
If you haven’t yet read my recent post Coast-ing to Victory please go read it now. If you have already read it, keep it in mind as you consider Spicer’s reply. In that post, I examined the efforts by Trump supporters to convince the rest of us that Trump really won the popular vote – if you just don’t count California or New York. This is a widespread, popular theme on the right, and underlying it is an ugly sentiment that divides the country into “real Americans” vs all others. “Real Americans” don’t live in big cities, they don’t live on either coast, and they especially don’t live in California or New York.
What Trump and Spicer are doing now is taking this ugliness and raising it to the next level. They are moving up a step from symbolically labeling certain Americans as not being “real” because they don’t fit certain ideas of what an American “should” be, to literally accusing some voters of not being real Americans (and not real voters) – whether it’s because they’re not citizens or because they’re dead (i.e. stealing the identity of a dead person) or because they’re duplicates (i.e. stealing someone else’s identity, or possibly someone voting multiple times in different locations with their own identity).
And remember, numerous studies and investigations show that there is absolutely no evidence to support these claims. The Secretaries of State who are in charge of running the elections in each state – many of them Republicans – have said there is nothing to support these claims. It’s simply another way for Trump and his people to rev up his base by giving them an enemy be angry at, the same way Trump thrills them by targeting Mexico or the “thugs” in Chicago or the protestors at his rallies or the lying media, this time it’s those “illegal” voters in those terrible blue states who are the source of the country’s ills. Sure, a lot of this is about the fact that Trump’s ego needs 24/7 tending. But there’s a reason they’re choosing this particular method of going about it.
But don’t be surprised if Trump’s “investigation” turns up amazing discoveries of fraud like you wouldn’t believe (the details of which they’ll keep promising to provide to us “next week”). After all, we’re talking about a man who blames the media for creating a rift between him and the intelligence community just days after we all say him publicly compare the IC to Nazi Germany, a man who told us he sent investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama’s birth certificate and “they cannot believe what they’re finding” and “at a certain point in time I’ll be revealing some interesting things,” yet we’re still waiting for that report almost 6 years later, a man who presented to the public as his medical records during his presidential run a letter from his doctor stating that “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” So we’re talking about a man who creates reality as he wants it to be and expects the rest of us to simply accept it. If it serves him in the future to find voter fraud, he will find it. But in the meantime, don’t forget exactly where they are aiming this investigation. This is a theme you will see repeating itself a lot in the next few years.