Here, in five minutes, is why I think Obama’s job approval ratings have taken off as Trump has emerged as a prominent political figure. O’s not being judged on his policies anymore, he’s being judged on his tone, specifically his tone as a contrast to Trump’s. In any other year, the peaceful-transfer-of-power speech he delivers in the clip would be unremarkable. Not this year.
I wonder how much of this answer is just Obama riffing on a question and how much of it is calculated. If it’s calculated, there’s a calculated risk involved: The more O attacks Trump, the more Republicans will instinctively want to rally behind the nominee. That could cost Hillary something, as right now she’s trying to hold onto the millions of white college grads in her column who normally vote GOP for president. Then again, Obama’s been attacking Trump for months; if those college-educated Republican voters could shrug off his previous critiques and still stick with Clinton, they’ll shrug this off too. Meanwhile, though, there’s a potential strategic benefit. The more Obama becomes the face of the politicians who are pushing back on Trump’s claims of rigging, the more perilous it becomes for Republicans like Marco Rubio who are also pushing back to take that position. Rubio’s already on thin ice with Trump voters in undermining their hero’s attacks on the election. If suddenly it looks like he’s supporting Obama’s position over Trump’s in a high-profile spat, some Trumpers in Florida might decide to punish Rubio by not voting for him downballot. That’s decisive potentially if the Senate race there is close. I think O, knowing his unique status as a villain to Republicans, senses a chance here to extend some of that villainy to Republican incumbents who feel they need to defend the integrity of the election, either as a civic duty or as encouragement to voters in their party not to stay home.
Although not all Republicans feel that way, of course.
Interviews with more than two dozen members of the Republican National Committee reveal abiding fears of Democratic voting fraud and widespread belief that at least part of the process or outcome is rigged.
“I do believe that there are elements that will try to rig the election on varying degrees of scale and this will certainly affect the outcome in varying degrees,” said Peter Goldberg, an RNC committeeman from Alaska.
“Should Hillary get ‘elected’ she is immediately delegitimized,” said California RNC Committeeman Shawn Steel in an email. “The 1% of Wall Street Bankers, Clinton Machine and [mainstream media] including your employer, Politico, is part of a massive Left Wing Conspiracy to rig this election.”
Two Republican civil wars will follow the election if/when Trump loses. The larger war, which will run for years, will be fought over whether the party is an organ for conservatism or nationalism and whether an accommodation can be reached between the two. The smaller war, which will be shorter, will be fought over whether Clinton’s victory was legitimate or not. There may be surprises among the combatants in the small war: Mike Pence or Kellyanne Conway, both of whom have futures in the traditional GOP, may end up arguing that Clinton’s win was on the level. So will Trump-supporting Republican governors like Rick Scott, who’ll be forced to vouch for the credibility of Florida’s results. On the other side, Trump and his diehard fan base, including parts of conservative media like Hannity’s show, will dismiss everyone who accepts the election results as collaborationists with an illegitimate regime. That’ll complicate things for the GOP caucuses in the House and Senate: Some Republicans will fear being primaried if they defend Clinton’s right to govern or, worse, if they try to compromise with her on legislation. And there’ll be some Republican voters caught in the middle who want a robust GOP resistance to Democrats in Congress but who also think it’s stupid to go on whining about “rigging,” especially if Clinton wins in a landslide. You’re going to see, in other words, a splintering on the right on basic questions of the opposition’s legitimacy, not just on what direction the party should take. That should make the coming sh*tshow within the party extra zesty.
I recommend this piece by Joel Pollak of Breitbart on the ways in which the election is, and isn’t, rigged. “Rigged” in terms of a deeply slanted media? Most definitely. “Rigged” in terms of Hillary Clinton being let off scot free after committing a felony in mishandling classified information? Absolutely, and it’s worth noting that every day. “Rigged” in terms of vote counts being manipulated next month? Ah, no. Exit question: Since when is Barack Obama a fan of manning up and taking responsibility for one’s own political problems? He’s been whining about Republican obstructionism every day for seven and a half years.