He’s only been president for a few days, but Donald Trump has already managed to undermine the institution of the American presidency with his rampant and delusional lies about everything from crowd sizes to environmental awards. It’s gotten so bad that even fellow Republican Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has emphatically called out Trump’s lies about voter fraud in the election, begging him to “share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it.” Ever a sore loser, Trump tweeted last November that “in addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” a delusion that he has continued to peddle even as it remains clear there was no substantial fraud in the election.
In reality, of course, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by close to three million votes, and rightfully should have become president were it not for the antiquated and discriminatory institution of the Electoral College. But Trump has never let reality get in the way of his “alternative facts,” and he has continued to insist that he lost the popular vote only because of rampant voter fraud.
In a meeting with Congressional leaders Monday night, Trump again claimed that he lost the popular vote on account of “three to five million illegal ballots,” an astonishing claim for which he of course presented no evidence.
While spineless Republican leaders like Paul Ryan (R-WI) have simply said that there is “no evidence” of the voter fraud Trump speaks of, as if perhaps he could be right, Sen. Graham finally took the sort of forceful stand against Trump’s dangerous lies that we need to see more of.
“To continue to suggest that the 2016 election was conducted in a fashion that millions of people voted illegally undermines faith in our democracy,” Graham said. “It’s not coming from a candidate for the office, it’s coming from the man who holds the office.”
Speaking of the tremendous danger that clearly fabricated allegations of mass voter fraud poses to our democratic institutions, Graham implored Trump to set the record straight. “As a matter of fact, I’d like you do more than stop saying it,” he said. “I’d like you to come forward and say, ‘Having looked at it, I am confident the election was fair and accurate and people who voted voted legally.’ ‘Cause if he doesn’t do that, this is going to undermine his ability to govern this country.”
To have a delusional vain child of a president who lies reflexively to preserve his own ego is damaging enough to the democratic institutions that Republicans are supposedly so fond of, but to have that delusional child alleging mass voter fraud simply because he’s a sore loser is an existential threat to our democracy. Tens of millions of people across the country surely believe Trump’s claims, and thus faith in our democracy is undermined as the Trumpeters begin to trust what they hear from the Donald more than what they see with their own eyes.
Feeble kowtowing Republicans and conciliatory Democrats should stop viewing this as some sort of political game and face up to the all too real threat Trump poses to American democracy. Mr. Graham’s emphatic denunciation of Trump’s lies is certainly a step in that direction and lawmakers from both parties would do well to follow his lead.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.