We’re not sure who needs to hear this, but Democratic primary voters and the Democratic political establishment starting to coalesce around former Vice President Joe Biden does not mean the process has been rigged against Sen. Bernie Sanders.
It’s not surprising to hear President Donald Trump use this type of hyperbolic, unproven assertion (complete with a juvenile nickname) about our elections. He has used this language before, and it can be politically advantageous for him. But it’s a notion that plays right into the hands of Russia and other adversaries who want to sow chaos is our electoral process through misinformation. And it should be rejected by Sanders supporters, other primary voters and the American public in general.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Sanders campaign advisor Jeff Weaver was pressed about the president’s comments.
“It is not currently rigged, no,” Weaver said about the 2020 process, while referencing documented issues with the 2016 Democratic primary process. “Last time, it was rigged.”
Weaver’s repudiation could have been stronger, but it’s still important — as was his response when Todd asserted that Trump’s comments help Sanders.
“He’s not helping us,” Weaver responded. “What he is trying to do is get people who support Bernie to support him against more establishment Democrats. And we’re not going to play that game.”
All Americans should refuse to play a game that casts doubt about election integrity for political benefit.
The surprising results here in Maine and in other Super Tuesday states signaled a preference among many Democratic primary voters for a more moderate, pragmatic candidate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (who the BDN Editorial Board endorsed in the primary several days prior) and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropping out and supporting Biden cleared room for the former vice president in that lane. But political calculation and cooperation among other candidates — and voters making a choice based on the options in front of them — does not equal a rigged process against Sanders.
Now, it’s similarly irresponsible for Democrats, including Trump’s 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, to attempt to cast Trump as an “ illegitimate president.” Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election, with a preference for Trump, and that has raised alarm bells on both sides of the aisle leading into the next presidential election. It does not, however, change the fact that Trump is the duly-elected president of the United States.
According to a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russia has sought to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.” Claims of rigged elections and illegitimate victories from American politicians add fuel to the fire. Officials, candidates voters, the media — everyone — should take care not to give this blaze more oxygen.
Americans need to recognize the very real efforts to use misinformation to manipulate their opinions and, ultimately, their votes. Leading up to November, it’s critical that this happens without people framing undesired election results as illegitimate election results.