Every time she opens her mouth, it seems, Hillary Clinton is bitterly deflecting blame for her stunning loss in November's election. On Wednesday, though, she made her most direct accusation yet that President Trump's campaign essentially rigged the race by colluding with the Russian government to release emails hacked from her campaign manager, John Podesta.
"The Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I've talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided," she said at the Code Conference.
When asked who had guided them, she answered: "Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.....I think it's fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign? And how did they know what messages to deliver? Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with?"
The answer, of course, is Donald Trump's campaign. Even though nearly a year of investigating has turned up no evidence of such collusion, Clinton is keeping alive a convenient conspiracy theory that not only absolves her of any blame for the loss, but also reinforces the notion that the election was not legitimate and, therefore, Trump is not a legitimate president.
This is dangerous and, quite frankly, unprecedented territory. When in the history of the United States has a losing presidential candidate so loudly and so consistently claimed that the election wasn't on the up-and-up? When in the history of the United States has a losing candidate done so much to undermine faith in the electoral process itself?
Never. But it was precisely what Hillary Clinton was warning that Donald Trump would do if he were to lose. In fact, it became a theme during the last two months of the campaign: Trump would undermine democracy itself by questioning the legitimacy of the election.
There was even a question in the first presidential debate about it.
Moderator Lester Holt asked directly: "One of you will not win this election. So my final question to you tonight, are you willing to accept the outcome as the will of the voters? Secretary Clinton?"
"Well, I support our democracy," Clinton responded. "And sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But I certainly will support the outcome of this election."
Oh really? Does she still support it? Because it sure doesn't seem like it.
In the third and final debate, Clinton was even more direct; calling the possibility that Trump would not accept the results of the election "horrifying."
As Clinton put it:
You know, every time Donald thinks things aren't going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him. The FBI conducted a yearlong investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case. He said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus, he lost the Wisconsin primary, he said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then, Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering. He claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.
This is a mind-set. This is how Donald thinks, and it's funny, but it's also really troubling. That is not the way our democracy works. We've been around for 240 years. We've had free and fair elections. We've accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them, and that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election. You know, President Obama said the other day when you're whining before the game is even finished, it just shows you're not up to doing the job.
And let's be clear about what he's saying and what that means. He's denigrating, he is talking down our democracy. And I, for one, am appalled that somebody who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position.
Yet now one of our two major parties is taking "that kind of position" by "talking down our democracy" with the constant suggestion that it is so fragile that the hack of a campaign manager and a few fake news stories on Facebook could topple it.
And it wasn't just Clinton who was chastising Trump for raising the very same doubts that Clinton has been raising for months. Clinton's running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, blasted Trump the morning after the third debate.
Kaine back then called accepting electoral defeat "a bedrock pillar of our nation's history" and the linchpin holding American democracy itself together.
And the Clinton-Kaine was hardly alone in shaming not just Trump, but anyone who would decline to affirm that American elections can't be rigged in any way. The mainstream media echoed their sentiments, starting on MSNBC the second the third debate was over.
The next morning, TheWashington Post ran a story entitled "Donald Trump’s Astonishing, Damaging Refusal to Accept the Fundamental Premise of American Elections." Author Phillip Bump was incredulous:
The only way democracy works is if you trust that democracy works. Voters need to feel as though their votes count and that the result is the actual will of the people. Otherwise, why participate? Majority rule works because people have faith that they can rally others to their cause. If people believe instead that elections are a sham and that the outcome is predetermined or at odds with what the majority actually wants, democracy collapses. That faith in rational disagreement evaporates. It doesn't matter if the elections are valid or not, either: If people think they're not, the end.
On CNN later in the day after the third debate, reporter Jeremy Diamond similarly worried that Trump was shaking the very foundation of democracy:
Donald Trump said Thursday he will accept the results of next month's election if he wins, a caveat that threatens to cast unprecedented doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral process.
Trump offered a stunning declaration during the final presidential debate that he might not accept the results of next month's election. In his first speech since the debate, Trump seemed to simultaneously double down on the stance he articulated Wednesday night while also trying to clean it up.
Now, though, CNN and The Washington Post are the two news outlets most heavily invested in casting "unprecedented doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral process" by claiming that Russia in effect tampered with it and swayed the outcome through its hacking and subsequent release of Podesta and Democratic National Committee emails.
In other words, the very same people telling us for months before the election that the election is on the up-and-up have now spent months after the election trying to convince us that the election wasn't on the up-and-up.
The only explanation that makes any sense at all (especially when one considers that Russian hacking was known for months before the election) is that Democrats only believe elections are stolen when Democrats lose elections. Heck, they have contested every single presidential election they've lost since 1992. In 2000, it was the illegitimate awarding of Florida to Bush. In 2004, it was Senator Barbara Boxer and Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones delaying for hours the certification of the electoral college vote because they believed in a conspiracy that the state of Ohio was stolen from John Kerry.
In 2016, too, Democrats have revealed themselves to be the sore losers that they presumed Trump would be, and in so doing, they have undermined the faith in the American electoral process that they told us for months should never be assailed.
Remember, when they thought Clinton was winning it was impossible to fix an election, impossible to sway the outcome. It was only after Clinton lost that Democrats started to doubt this.
It seems that they should have listened to former President Obama:
One of the great things about America's democracy is we have a vigorous, sometimes bitter political contest and when it's done, historically, regardless of party, the person who loses the election congratulates the winner, who reaffirms our democracy and we move forward.
That's how democracy survives because we recognize that there's something more important than any individual campaign. And that is making sure that the integrity and trust in our institutions sustains itself.
Because democracy, by definition, works by consent, not by force.