Op/Ed

Editorial: Trump’s willingness to stoke violence over validity of ballots shocks experts

In post debate analysis, President Trump’s failure to reject white supremacy in Tuesday’s debate and, as importantly, his effort to discredit the validity of the election results and urge his supporters “to go into polls and watch very carefully” — a thinly veiled call for voter intimidation — have dominated Wednesday’s news cycle and forced Republicans to distance themselves from Trump’s remarks.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is in a close race for his seat in Kentucky, criticized the president for his failure to disavow white supremacists, prompting Trump to lamely capitulate. 
Of Trump’s efforts to discredit the validity of mail-in ballots and to lay the groundwork for potential political violence, election experts were shocked at Trump’s irresponsibility. Here are a few of those reactions, according to a report by the New York Times:
 • “This is the type of comment that international observers typically would latch onto as an attempt at foul play,” said  Judith Kelley, the Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, who has studied international election monitoring. “As far as the rest of the world, this is the kind of comment we would expect in a more authoritarian environment. Certainly not in a country that purports to be a beacon of democracy.”
• Thomas Carothers, the senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that “it is unprecedented in modern U.S. history having a sitting U.S. president attack the integrity of the election before an election — there is no parallel.” Mr. Carothers said that the president’s call for his supporters to go into the polls to watch raised concerns about possible voter intimidation. “He’s preparing the ground for violent conflict over the election, and preparing the ground for a lack of legitimacy for the process,” he said.
• Rosa Brooks, a professor at Georgetown Law who organized a series of exercises in June aimed at identifying potential risks to the election and transition, said that she found the president’s remarks shocking, and added that election monitors and political violence experts would view them as “a major early indicator of potential problems.” 
“His rhetoric is dangerously and profoundly anti-democratic,” she wrote in an email. “It’s the kind of language you might expect from a dictator, not from the supposed leader of the free world. His job should be to unite Americans and foster stability. Instead, Trump’s comments increase the risk of political violence — which is shockingly irresponsible from the president of the United States.”
 

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