The months leading up to the 2016 presidential election included a great deal of freaking out over the possibility that Donald Trump and his followers might not “accept” the election results. This was seen as a dangerous attack on the sanctity of American elections and the stability of the American political order.
After Trump’s smashing victory, however, the tables were turned: it was suddenly liberals who were unwilling to “accept” the results of November 8. To be fair, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the establishment seemed willing to concede the legitimacy of the election readily enough, but much of the liberal base was having none of it.
This is actually a regular feature of American politics. For all its hand-wringing after Trump waffled about “accepting” the election results, the Left itself is often noticeably unwilling to tolerate any displeasing election results. Liberals who are outwardly the most concerned about the integrity of our political institutions are the same people who are frequently most eager to discredit those same political institutions when it suits their purposes.
I Reject Reality and Substitute My Own
Case in point: in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, the slogan “not my president” began spreading like wildfire throughout the liberal ranks. It was termed a “liberal rallying cry.” Multiple protesters were arrested in multiple states. In California, students walked out of their high school declaring “Not my president!” College students said the same thing. Vandalism and mayhem were present at many protests. Some protesters burned Trump in effigy while chanting the slogan.
It would be bad enough if this whole “not my president” meme were a one-time thing. But this has happened before: liberal hatred of former president George W. Bush was so strong in 2000 and 2004 that anti-Bush liberals created a T-shirt declaring that Bush was “not my president.” If you have any clear memories of the Bush years, you will probably recall at least one liberal (and likely many of them) saying of Bush, “He’s not my president.” This was a relentless slogan during Bush’s two terms.
But of course Bush was every American’s president, and soon Trump will be, too. That’s how U.S. elections work, even if the Left isn’t willing to accept it.
Also, Elections Are Rigged!
Some of this can be chalked up to rhetorical excess. But plenty of people genuinely seem to mean it when they say a Republican is “not my president.” You can see this sincere conviction in the way liberals often accuse presidential elections of being corrupt, fraudulent, and rigged.
Liberal accusations of rigged elections have been rampant in the wake of Tuesday’s results. Many progressives seemed to believe “voter suppression” was a key factor in helping Trump win. There was apparently something called a “war on voting rights” that may have given Trump a boost. Vox’s Ezra Klein heavily implied that the Electoral College is a rigged affair. So did Phillip Bump at the Washington Post. So did George Takei. So did around four million people who demanded that the Electoral College “ignore [the] states’ votes” and elect Hillary Clinton president on December 19.
But—again—we’ve seen this behavior before. After the 2000 election, liberals went bananas insisting the system had been rigged to favor Bush. Clinton herself implied as much! This “rigged” election had such an indelible effect on the liberal psyche that they’re still talking about it years later. After the 2004 election, John Kerry allegedly told at least one person he believed the election was stolen from him. An article in the New Yorker last year restated Kerry’s paranoid conspiracy theory
The message is clear: if a Republican insists that an election is rigged, it’s dangerous and reckless rhetoric. But if a liberal insists that an election is rigged, it’s fine.
I’m Taking My Ball and Leaving!
Then there is liberals’ ever-present threat to leave the country if a Republican wins an election. Anyone is free to leave the country for whatever reason he desires, of course. But there is a weird unseemliness to making such a threat just because an election didn’t go the way you like. Many progressives who simply can’t stand the thought of living in the United States under a Republican president seem to be tacitly implying that the American political system is, practically speaking, unacceptable and worthy of abandonment.
One almost gets the feeling that liberals aren’t really all that scandalized by accusations of “rigged” elections; they only pretend to be so if a Republican is making the accusations. When faced with an election result they don’t like, the Left seems delighted to delegitimize every last shred of American political integrity they can find.
Perhaps a reasonable conclusion is this: modern progressives don’t really care all that much about protecting and preserving America’s political institutions. They just care about securing power for themselves, and they are perfectly willing to be duplicitous to secure that power.
Why is liberalism so concerned with getting power and so willing to debase the American political system to get it? One possibility is the life-and-death, apocalyptic style of liberal politics. In many cases, the Left styles elections as the choice between a liberal political savior and a conservative demon. The implication is always that, if the conservative wins, then America will turn into a kind of continent-wide Nazi Germany. Looked at from this angle, it’s not hard to see why many progressives might believe that the ends justify the means: they’ll do whatever it takes to keep Republican Hitlers out of the White House.
Or maybe there is a lower and baser explanation than that: perhaps the progressive impulse, generally speaking, is one that views policy as secondary or even tertiary to the quest for power. Maybe power in political terms is less the means for the Left and more the end. How that power is used once in office is not a primary concern so long as someone with a “D” next to his name is wielding the power. If this is true, we should be grateful whenever a conservative wins an election, regardless of how much liberals melt into hysterics.
Of course, there is an upside to one feature of this: if many liberals do follow through with their threats to flee the country, the probability of our having to deal with this stuff drops accordingly. So perhaps we should encourage that.