Only one day after Donald Trump made the outrageous claim that the only way Hillary Clinton could win in Pennsylvania was by rigging the election, the Republican nominee issued a call for "Trump election observers."
NBC reports that Trump, on his website, is asking for volunteers – as well as donations – to support this newly minted effort. Given the fact that Trump is well behind in the polls in Pennsylvania and massively behind nationwide, Trump's charge has to be taken with a massive grain of salt. But Trump – with his usual disdain for annoying facts – seems to be moving ahead with the formation of his no doubt elite Trump election observer corps.Despite the evidence from current polls, Trump is essentially suggesting at rallies that the only way Clinton could win in Pennsylvania – and by extension elsewhere – is by rigging the election. This and no other reason – obviously! – is why Trump wants his legion of election observers surrounding polling stations vetting anyone going in or out.
As reported by CNN, at one rally Trump said, "We're going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don't come in and vote five times," Trump continued, "If you do that, we're not going to lose. The only way we can lose, in my opinion -- I really mean this, Pennsylvania -- is if cheating goes on."
Trump made his rambling allegations in Pennsylvania, which at one point he had hopes of actually winning. However, recent Pennsylvania polls show Hillary Clinton well ahead of Trump. All of this makes Trump's election observers seem unnecessary – unless of course they serve some other purpose than preventing fraud, such as intimidating legitimate voters.
In many ways, Trump's accusations of voter fraud are in line with the perennial suggestion by the Republican Party that voter fraud – particularly among Democratic voters – is rampant across the country. It's one of the reasons the Republican Party has such a bee in its bonnet about voter IDs.
Of course, all of this talk about fraud by the Republicans totally disregards studies that show voter fraud in the United States is almost nonexistent. It could be argued that the real reason the Republicans want voter IDs is because it will make it more difficult for poor voters – who are more likely to vote Democratic – to actually go to the polls and vote.
In doubling down on his conspiracy theory and demanding election observers, Trump is merely reinforcing his previous innuendo – and direct accusations – that the entire 2016 election will be rigged. While this extremist rhetoric and demagoguery may appeal to Donald Trump's supporters, many in the media and government argue that this sort of talk is damaging to our political system.The fact that Trump will almost certainly lose Pennsylvania – even without the intervention of imaginary illegal voters – doesn't come as a great surprise. According to the polls, Trump is losing this election in virtually all of the battleground states, from Virginia and Florida to North Carolina and even Georgia. If he can't win them, how could he possibly win Pennsylvania? Or will Trump want his election observers in every state?
To borrow a phrase from Trump himself, "many people are saying" that Trump is complaining about rigged elections almost 3 months in advance of the election itself to provide himself with an excuse for losing. Of course, Trump's conspiracy theory totally ignores the national and state poll results, which clearly point to an almost inevitable Clinton victory in this election – perhaps even a landslide.These so-called "observers" that Trump says he wants to introduce at polling places clearly raise a number of troubling questions. Voting laws make it quite clear that such independent observers could easily be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate voters and influence the election outcome. The states themselves are supposed to provide such observers. But Trump – as usual – is apparently unconcerned about appearances or even legality.
Of course, it's debatable whether Trump will even be able to deploy his personal squad of election observers anywhere near the polling stations in Pennsylvania. In all probability, such an effort would be challenged in court on the grounds that these observers would represent voter intimidation. But whether this really is a Trump plan for intimidating voters or just an attempt to deflect blame for a massive loss, Trump's election observers idea reveals just how desperate his campaign is.
[Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images]