1. Elections really are "rigged" in some sense, and
2. Accusations of election "rigging" often come from the Left.
I don't want to put words in Tyler's mouth, though, so I'll repost much of his post:
[O]ver the last few years or indeed decades I also have seen the following:
1. Numerous arguments insist that money buys elections and campaign finance reform is imperative...
2. Numerous arguments that Republican-backed voter registration requirements are keeping significant numbers of voters, most of all minority voters, away from the polls...
4. Do we not all teach the Gibbard-Sattherthwaite theorem to our Principles classes on week three? In case you forget, the theorem shows that under some fairly general assumptions elections processes are manipulable in a rigorous sense...
5. A related branch of social choice theory, stemming from Dick McKelvey’s work in 1979, suggests that when the policy space has more than one dimension, the agenda setter in Congress has a great deal of power and typically can shape the final outcome...
6. Major political scientists from schools such as Princeton tell us that elites determine policy and ordinary voters have very little say in what happens...
7. The American electoral system is designed to give the two major parties a huge initial advantage...
How many Democrats have alleged that the 2000 Presidential election was rigged? Or that today most Americans want some form of tougher gun control, but that the system is rigged against that outcome happening?Many people are not a big fan of this post. I would count myself among that number. Here are my points in response to Tyler:
Point 1: Let's not muddy the definition of "rigged".
When most people hear the word "rigged" in the context of an election, they probably think that means the results have been falsified - that the numbers of votes recorded for each candidate differ meaningfully from the number actually cast.
To most people, a "rigged" election probably does not mean that the franchise ought to have been extended to disenfranchised groups. For example, in 19th century America, women could not vote. That was bad. But were all 19th century American elections therefore "rigged"? Most people would say no. Similarly, there is a good argument for extending the franchise to 17-year-olds in America right now. If we eventually do that, would that mean that all elections in the 20th century were "rigged"? Again, most people would say no.
Similarly, I've never heard of anyone who says that tactical voting is a form of election-rigging. Since tactical voting is universal (that's what Gibbard-Satterthwaite is about!), it also doesn't seem very helpful to label this a form of "rigging".
How about campaign finance? There are certainly a few people on the Left in America who would define this as election-rigging. I personally think that's silly. First of all, most evidence shows that money doesn't really give that much of an electoral advantage. Second of all, stringent campaign finance laws - such as those found in Japan - will still result in some groups and individuals having disproportionate power over election outcomes. Again, it seems worse than useless to define something that is inevitable and universal in a democracy as "rigging".
The only item Tyler mentions that seems to me like it could significantly count as vote-rigging is intentional disenfranchisement of voters who are officially afforded the franchise. For example, if eligible voters are intentionally and systematically purged from voter rolls to produce a certain outcome, that probably counts as "rigging". There is at least an outside possibility that this sort of manipulation made a difference in Florida in the 2000 election, thus throwing the election to Bush.
But when Trump says that the election will be "rigged", he doesn't mean any of these things - he's suggesting that vote totals will be falsified.
Point 2: Watering down the definition of "rigging" gives aid and comfort to those who would deligitimize our democracy.
If politicians like Trump consistently claim that election results are falsified, it erodes confidence in the electoral process itself - the people on the losing side will distrust the results of any election. That seems like it could eventually lead to a lot of bad outcomes. Election losers, convinced they actually won the vote, could become more intransigent and refuse to work with winners. Polarization could increase, eventually leading to outright civil conflict and the disintegration of the nation. Support could increase for military coups to depose election winners on the grounds that these winners were not elected legitimately. In other words, false claims of election-rigging seem pretty clearly to lead to the breakdown of our institutions, our democracy, and our country itself.
Now, I think those are bad things. Maybe Tyler disagrees. Though he has affirmed his support for democracy in the past, his mind might have changed since 2008. Certainly not all of his colleagues at GMU support democracy as the best system. Similarly, Tyler might believe that the United States of America ought to be split up, along regional, economic, or ethnic lines - or that nation-states themselves shouldn't exist. Certainly, there are others who do believe this.
But I believe that countries where democracy has lost its popular legitimacy, like Russia, Turkey, and Thailand, have not seen good outcomes over the past couple of decades. I also pretty strongly believe in nation-states, and in the United States nation-state in particular. So I think that when Tyler claims that U.S. elections are "rigged" in any substantial sense, it is probably a bad thing.
Of course, I support calls for ensuring that the franchise be extended as broadly as possible, and I'm interested in improving our campaign finance laws, but - see Point 1 - I don't think that calling for these reforms is anything even remotely similar to making allegations of election-rigging.
Point 3: Just because some on the Left do this doesn't make it OK for Trump to do it, nor is there an equivalence between the two.
Yes, there are some people on the Left in America who claim from time to time that elections, especially Democratic primaries, are "rigged". These claims are very rare, but I have heard them, especially from diehard Sanders-then-Stein supporters in the current election. Here is a Salon column alleging "rigging", but defining rigging down much as Tyler does. Here is an Inquisitr article alleging true election-rigging, i.e. vote-falsifying.
I see these allegations as obviously false, reprehensible, and dangerous in much the same way Trump's are. But to point out that "the Left does it too!" only reinforces the need to fight back against delegitimization of our democracy. It does not merit a shrug or a "Hey, dude, both sides do it".
Also, there is an asymmetry here. Diehard Sanders-then-Stein supporters are a fringe, and there will always be a fringe in politics. Trump is the nominee of one of the two major parties. Al Gore certainly never alleged vote-rigging in 2000, even after everything that happened in Florida. There is no equivalence at all here, and to try to draw one is a de facto defense and excusal of Trump's dangerous, unacceptable behavior.
So for these reasons, I am not a big fan of Tyler's post. American elections are not perfect, but - unless there is major evidence that has not yet come to light - they're pretty darn good. And Trump's questioning of their legitimacy is truly unprecedented, and not a part of partisan business-as-usual.
On Twitter, Rajeev Ramachandran hits the nail on the head:
[T]here's a diff b/w "systematically favours X" and "result won't depend on votes actually cast". The first calls for reform. The second is a call to armed insurrection.Yes. Exactly. I couldn't have said it better (as evidenced by the fact that I didn't!).
Here is some new evidence that Republicans, but probably not Democrats, are starting to question whether votes are counted accurately in American elections. I view Tyler's post as contributing to this very negative and asymmetric trend.
As Trump intensifies his campaign to preemptively delegitimize the election result, Tyler's post is looking more and more spectacularly ill-timed...