Presidential Campaign

Rigged election? Even if so, Trump needs to say he’ll accept results

Donald Trump - Third debate
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The third and final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was mostly a civil affair, at least compared to the first two. The last one was positively grotesque. This one covered a lot of substance and Donald Trump went a long way toward showing he can be measured and focused.

He scored significant points against Clinton when he raised the argument of misogyny with the Clinton Foundation taking so much money from countries like Saudi Arabia.

{mosads}He put Clinton on the defensive when he hammered home the point that she deleted 33,000 emails even after being under Congressional subpoena, a point which The New York Times fact-checked as true.

And he was right in condemning an Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has left Syria in tatters, hundreds of thousands dead, millions as refugees, and ISIS triumphant.

But Trump blew it when he would not commit to accepting the results of the election.

Why are you running for President if you don’t believe in our democracy? How can you harm the good name of America as a banana republic with rigged elections when you know the whole world is watching?

Granted, Al Gore contested the results of the 2000 election. Some argue he had reason for doing so in that Florida ordered an automatic recount. So, Trump could have said that he will commit to accepting the results barring any hugely unforeseen circumstances. But not committing to accepting the results in general hurt him and it hurt America.

Trump should put it right. Fast.

I know what it’s like to lose an election.

On Tuesday night, November 6, 2012, my campaign manager, James Genovese, turned to me after studying the returns in our congressional district, and told me that I had lost. Game over. 

It was time to call my opponent, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., whom I had battled the previous few months, and concede.

I reached him on his cell, congratulated him (graciously, if I may say so) on his victory, and went to address assembled supporters and friends.

It was one of my favorite speeches, even though I hated losing. And I offered it, believe it or not, with a full and content heart. In the speech, I simply bowed to the majesty of the democratic system. I said that the people had spoken, and Pascrell had won a decisive victory. Pascrell, who policies I couldn’t stand, would now be my congressman. Agree with him or not, he was the legitimate victor and had the mandate of the people.

I said that we Americans are the luckiest people in the world, able to speak our minds, voice our views, run for elective office, and then have the privilege of accepting the vote of the people with a grateful heart.

I cracked a few jokes and tried to make the somber crowd laugh. 

Was I fooling myself? I had just been defeated in my first run for office. What was I so happy about?

I had lost. But I had contributed to the strength of democratic institutions first by running for office and then by acceding to and embracing the voice of the people without reservation.

I lost. But the people won.

Who wants to live in Iran or Saudi Arabia where you can’t choose your leaders?

That’s why Trump should stop saying the election may be rigged.

Unless you have good reason, casting aspersions on the integrity of the American voting system is dangerous.

People have to have faith in democratic institutions. If someone runs for office and wins, they are the people’s choice. That’s what made Trump the nominee of the Republican party in the first place.

Even people who had his guts did not question that he won the primaries fair and square. They could argue with his statements or his policies. But they could not question his legitimacy as the nominee.

It’s nice to win. But if you lose, you have to bow to the will of the people and salute the majesty of the democratic system. The only exception is when there is undeniable and demonstrable proof of election tampering or voter irregularities. 

Hillary Clinton’s support for the Iran nuclear agreement, and her claims that she is its ultimate architect, is downright scary. Will she continue President Obama’s extremely dangerous policy of handing over billions of dollars to Iran so it can kill innocent people the world over? Will she continue Obama’s policy of overlooking Iran’s open contempt and violations of the agreement as it pursues nuclear weapons technology, as was recently confirmed by even German government intelligence? 

But if she wins the election, she’ll be our president. Period.

To be sure, Bernie Sanders turned out to be right in calling the Democratic primaries rigged, at least in part, once it was revealed that the DNC was in Hillary’s corner all along. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairperson, had made the DNC into an arm of the Clinton campaign. Only after embarrassing the party, and distracting from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which I attended, was Wasserman Schultz forced to resign the chair.

So abuses of the system do occur. But there is no reason to believe that American voting is itself rigged and saying so without proof undermines the confidence in our institutions.

This does not mean that American democracy is perfect.

Far from it.

What I learned from my Congressional run is that it’s nearly impossible to unseat an incumbent officeholder. Amid serious corruption allegations, guys like Charlie Rangel have been in Congress since Gettysburg. And severe Israel critic Senator Patrick Leahy has been in the Senate since the Dead Sea got sick. (OK, that’s an old joke.)

Our congressional districts are gerrymandered to the point where, for the most part, they guarantee either a Republican or a Democratic victory. Few districts are competitive, which explains why every two years about 90 percent of incumbents retain their seats. Many of them don’t even bother to campaign.

Even more troubling is the continued imperfection of the Electoral College, which all but guarantees that only a few states actually choose the next president. We call them “battleground” or “swing states,” which makes residents of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania mighty important and citizens of New Jersey and New York almost irrelevant in presidential voting.

If our country had real willpower we would get rid of the silly and outdated Electoral College once and for all and allow this country’s chief magistrate to be chosen by a straightforward vote of all the people, rather than Pennsylvania and Virginia.

But be that as it may, what we cannot do is allege that the votes themselves even in these states is rigged, that the American democratic system is corrupt, that voting in this country is rigged, forcing a potential showdown after an election between a chosen president and the disgruntled supporters of a defeated candidate.

Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 31 books including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior’s Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags 2016 Presidential debates 2016 presidential election Al Gore Bernie Sanders Democratic Party Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Las Vegas Make America Great Again Nevada Patrick Leahy Republican Party rigged election Rigged system United States
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