Let me count the ways…
Since Rep. John Lewis challenged President Trump’s legitimacy, the mainstream media has stumbled over itself to declare Lewis wrong, saying that it is beyond equivocation that Trump is the legitimate president. While this is true in the most narrow constitutional sense of the term (he received a majority of the electoral college votes), Trump can be seen as illegitimate in several other ways.
Voter suppression. I remember the poll tax in Texas, a system aimed at poor blacks and Hispanics in an effort to keep them from voting by charging them to do so. This worked well both before and after it was adopted as a part of the Texas Constitution in 1902. The poll tax was usually the equivalent of one or two days of a poor person’s earnings.
‘The poll tax is a great evil, for it puts a
price tag on freedom.’
About the Texas poll tax, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “The poll tax is a great evil, for it puts a price tag on freedom.” Yet Texans in 1963 voted to keep it. A headline from the Dallas Express explained it: “Texas Does Not Want Voter Participation In Government.”
A year later, the 24th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, outlawing the poll tax in federal elections. Two years later, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that it was prohibited in state elections as unconstitutional.
The latest requirement of a driver’s license or official state ID to vote has much the same effect as a poll tax. It takes money and effort to obtain the ID, even if no charge is made for the plastic card itself. As many as 400,000 potential eligible Texas voters live three hours by round-trip travel from an office of the Texas Department of Public Safety, where such IDs are issued. Three times more blacks and twice as many Hispanics as whites are adversely affected by the ID requirement.
The poll tax used to be justified by directing the money raised to support schools. The new justification for an ID is to prevent in-person voter fraud, but only one out of 28 cases prosecuted for voter fraud throughout the U.S. since 2000 involved in-person voter fraud, according to a journalism project at Arizona State University.
ID requirements are only one type of
But ID requirements are only one type of voter suppression. Dropping names from voter rolls based on lists of convicted felons is another way. If just a part of the name on the voter roll matches a name on the list, the voter may be dropped from the roll, something voters may not learn about until they show up to vote on election day.
Changing voting locations with inadequate notice, long lines caused by reducing the number of voting locations in minority areas, limiting early voting time periods and locations, voter intimidation at the polls by poll-watchers, and using flyers or notices giving the wrong date or location to vote are other ways voter suppression is accomplished in today’s America. These tactics, among others, have been used primarily by Republicans to keep people from voting. They help make Trump an illegitimate president.
The Electoral College. For the second time since 2000, a candidate for president was elected by electoral college votes without receiving a majority of the votes cast in the general election. This time, Trump was elected even though he received nearly 3 million votes fewer than Hillary Clinton, his main rival.
This compromise resulted in more Electoral College votes for slave-holding states.
The Electoral College system was created originally as a compromise between allowing the Congress to select the president and a direct election by the people, and to mollify the slave-holding South by allowing states to count slaves as three-fifths of a person when determining the number of representatives for each state. This compromise resulted, also, in more Electoral College votes for slave-holding states.
The Electoral College was conceived at the same time that most unpropertied white men, women, slaves, free men of color, and Native Americans were prohibited from voting under the U.S. Constitution and many state constitutions. Many people who support the national popular election of presidents consider the Electoral College a vestige of the past and believe that any candidate for president who does not receive the greatest number of votes cast by the people is not a legitimate president.
Two-party system. It is very difficult and expensive for a third-party or fourth-party candidate to get on ballots in all 50 states. Both major parties have done what they can to make ballot access by other parties extremely difficult. For those dissatisfied by the primarily two-party system in this country, whoever is elected president is in some sense an illegitimate president.
Hacking into the DNC files allowed the Russians to leak selected information that hurt Clinton.
The Russians. Hacking into the Democratic National Committee computer files, along with those of John Podesta, who headed Hillary Clinton’s campaign, allowed the Russians to leak selected information that hurt Clinton, thus helping Trump be elected. U.S. intelligence agencies are unanimous in believing that the evidence shows that the Russians did involve themselves in corrupting this past election in a way that aided Trump, helping to delegitimize his election in the opinion of some.
FBI’s Comey. The head of the FBI, James Comey, became publicly involved with the election when he made an unprecedented announcement that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State during Obama’s first term. He later announced that the FBI had cleared her of criminal wrongdoing, but 10 days before the election, Comey announced that the investigation had been reopened.
He then announced two days before the election that there was nothing new in this material, which the FBI had discovered in an unrelated investigation into former Congressman Anthony Weiner. In revealing this information publicly, Comey linked Clinton to Weiner, a thoroughly discredited public figure, and further brought up Clinton’s email problem, actions which may have skewed the election results, and which lead many people to see Trump’s election as illegitimate.
Trump’s cabinet nominees. The cabinet nominees Trump has announced are mostly very wealthy people, including some billionaires, who have enormous conflicts in their businesses, investments, and relationships with foreign governments. These conflicts lead many people to wonder how such appointees can look after the interests of the U.S. when actions they take or recommend will benefit them (and their friends, families, and cronies) financially, as well. By surrounding himself with so many financially-conflicted individuals, Trump is seen as illegitimate by some.
His business interests call into question how well he can serve the interests of the American people.
Trump’s conflicts. The business interests of Trump himself call into question how well he can serve the interests of the American people. He owes large sums of money to a bank controlled by the government of China and to banks in Germany. He has a multitude of business arrangements and deals around the globe. He violated a government lease agreement for the Old Post Office property in Washington the minute he was sworn in. That lease prohibits any government official from benefiting financially from the lease.
In addition, foreign governments are paying Trump to stay at his hotel in the Old Post Office building. Such payments by foreign governments seem to violate the “emoluments” clause of the U.S. Constitution because they enrich Trump. And we are not talking about chump change or a night’s lodging at the Holiday Inn. One suite in Trump’s new hotel went for $500,000 during inauguration week as reported by The New York Times. Trump’s unwillingness to divest himself of this property and many others guarantees that his presidency is at a minimum ethically suspect, another way some believe that he is illegitimate.
Kellyanne Conway explained to Chuck Todd that the Trump administration had ‘alternative facts.’
Trump’s “alternative facts.” Two days after Trump was sworn in, his senior advisor and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway explained to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that the Trump administration had alternative facts, that is, assertions that are contrary to actual facts. Whenever Trump says or does something that is not well-received, his administration just denies that it happened or asserts something to the contrary. This dishonesty has played out with Trump’s criticism of the intelligence community, his assertion that more people were at his inauguration than the media reported, whether it rained during his inaugural speech, and many other matters both consequential and inconsequential.
The New York Times already is covering these “alternative facts” by reporting them accompanied by commentary that explains their untruthfulness, using one size or style of type for the “alternative fact” and another for the commentary. Other publications are reporting on this dishonesty through extensive fact-check articles. “Alternative facts” are simply lies with a new name — a version of Orwell’s “Newspeak.” Such dishonesty from the new president increasingly delegitimizes his presidency.
Trump’s tax returns. Repeatedly during the campaign and since, Trump said that he would release his tax returns when the IRS audit of them was over. Now, Conway says that they will never be released because the public doesn’t care about them. The importance of the returns is obvious — without them, the public cannot assess adequately the full range of conflicts that Trump has or may have. His vast international business empire connects to Russia, China, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and many other countries with which the U.S. will interact and support financially during Trump’s term in office.
Even 49% of his own supporters think he should release his tax returns.
According to ABC/Washington Post polling done just days before Trump’s inauguration, 74% of those polled want to see his tax returns. Even 49% of his own supporters think he should release the returns. And 69% of people in red states favor releasing the returns. Clearly, Conway’s and Trump’s “alternative facts” about public interest in the tax returns are lies unsupported by any offer of proof and serve to further delegitimate Trump’s presidency.
Rep. John Lewis’s views. When interviewed on Meet the Press, Rep. John Lewis was asked about working with Trump, and he responded saying, “It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.” Trump responded on twitter with “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”
Not only is Trump wrong about everything he tweeted, he was the one who pushed the birther issue for nearly five years, claiming that he had investigators looking into Obama’s birthplace and birth certificate, and suggesting that Obama was not born in the U.S. and the certificate was fake, making Obama ineligible to serve as president, and thus illegitimate. Now that his racist gambit has been exposed as false, which he finally admitted near the end of the campaign, Trump himself is being called illegitimate for many reasons. It seems to be a case of chickens coming home to roost. And Trump is so thin-skinned, inadequate, and lacking in character that he can’t take it.
Trump brought this illegitimacy talk on himself. The doubts about him are far more serious than anything he claimed about Barack Obama. It remains to be seen if Republicans will hold him to the same standards that they posited for Obama. I’ll be surprised if they do. They are mostly unprincipled party loyalists who care more about power than ethics, and even less about meeting the needs of the American people.
[Rag Blog columnist Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, City Attorney, also blogs at Texas Freethought Journal. This article © Texas Freethought Journal, Lamar W. Hankins.]
Read more articles by Lamar W. Hankins on The Rag Blog.