Donald Trump continues warning his supporters, as well as others, that the election, and the political system generally, is rigged. He has refused to back down from these declarations, even when challenged with evidence that elections are not rigged. Even when his running mate, his campaign and Republican officials and leaders argue the election will not be rigged. When asked by moderator Chris Wallace in the third presidential debate if he will accept the outcome of the election, and if he loses, concede to the winner, Trump responded, “I’ll keep you in suspense, OK.”
But there isn’t much suspense. Trump’s claims of a rigged election are a campaign tactic which plays into his larger arguments regarding how “the system” disadvantages regular Americans. Donald Trump has made voter fraud a political strategy. This is largely understood. Immediately following Trump’s answer to Wallace, Hillary Clinton clearly outlined Trump’s claims of something being rigged.
“You know, every time Donald thinks things aren’t going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him. The FBI conducted a yearlong investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case. He said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus, he lost the Wisconsin primary, he said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then, Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering. He claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.”
Donald Trump never loses. When he does it’s not his fault. He cries of a rigged system when it appears he will lose. He claimed fraud in the Iowa caucus but then was fine when he won the Republican nomination. At a rally the day after the debate Trump proclaimed, “I would like to promise and pledge, to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.”
Not only was there little suspense in his initial comment, Trump was unable to build any suspense for himself. The day after the debate he declared his intentions. Trump’s claims of a rigged election and refusal to declare he will accept any outcome is dangerous and damaging to American democracy, but it is not suspenseful. There is no anxious uncertainty ascribed to his statement. Most people understand what Trump is doing because he has done it before. It’s a strategy, and a woeful one.
Donald Trump is no Alfred Hitchcock.