Trump's attempt to shut down recount is backfiring

Ezra Klein
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Donald Trump took some time off from staffing his White House and enjoying Thanksgiving to go on a series of Twitter rampages this weekend. The proximate cause of his rage is the movement for audits of the vote in a few key states — an effort he derided as, well, "Sad!" But his anger took a darker turn on Sunday afternoon, when he blasted out this missive:

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There's much to say on this, but here are a few of the obvious points:

  1. Trump has lost the thread of his own argument. The point of Trump's tweets was to dismiss those questioning the legitimacy of the vote. "The Green Party scam to fill up their coffers by asking for impossible recounts is now being joined by the badly defeated & demoralized Dems," he tweeted, adding, "Nothing will change." But here, Trump undermined himself. If Democrats worry the votes were miscounted, and the president-elect believes that millions of people voted fraudulently, then it's clear we need a recount to restore faith in the outcome of the election.
  2. This perhaps goes without saying, but it's unnerving that the president-elect can't restrain himself from making a bad situation worse on Twitter, or even hold himself to the logic of the argument he intended to make and the outcome he wanted to achieve.
  3. This tweet is an example of Trump's most dangerous quality: his tendency to mobilize against a threatening, sometimes imaginary Other whenever he himself is under siege. There is no evidence of significant voter fraud from this election. But Trump is telling his supporters that voting fraud did in fact happen, and that they should therefore worry that their political power will be overwhelmed by illegal voters.
  4. The nightmare scenario in 2016 was that Trump would refuse to accept the outcome of the election when he was a mere candidate. Imagine if he were to refuse to accept the outcome of the next election once he is the president, and after he has appointed loyalists to control America's security apparatus.
  5. Imagine this tendency of Trump's emerging after a domestic terrorist attack. George W. Bush worked hard in the aftermath of 9/11 to tamp down Islamophobia in America — to ensure it was al-Qaeda (and, eventually, Saddam Hussein) who was blamed, not American Muslims. Who would Trump blame in the aftermath of a terrorist attack? How quick would he be to turn Americans against each other, to find an enemy who could absorb the public anger that might normally attach itself to him?
  6. I've noticed a lot of people on Twitter seem to think Trump's tweet is scary because it's false, but the actually scary interpretation is that he believes it's true, which he probably does. It seems likely that Trump got his "information" from conspiracy theorist site Infowars.com, or someone else retweeting or rewriting Infowars — a lot of weird things Trump says later prove to emerged in the pro-Trump, conspiracy theory-corners of the internet. The problem with Trump isn't the lies he tells as much as it's the information he chooses to believe.
  7. Consider the difference between a world where Trump is lying to us, and a world where Trump has fooled himself. Trump lost the popular vote, and he lost it by a wide margin — more than 2 million votes and counting. A wise man would take that information seriously and think about how to staff his White House, set priorities, and moderate his message to win over a majority of the public. Instead, Trump appears to have convinced himself the vote count was riddled with fraud and that he won a majority of the legitimate vote — and thus he can govern like a man who won the popular vote, and holds the mandate that carries.
  8. Back in March, I wrote a piece about how Trump was too gullible — too fond of bad information and sycophants — to be president. I think that piece holds up.
  9. It has been weeks since Donald Trump won the presidential election, and here is what we can say: He is still just himself. He is governing like he promised. He is appointing the loyalists, lackeys, and extremists he surrounded himself with during the campaign. He is tweeting the same strange, crazed missives, pursuing the same odd and counterproductive vendettas. His conflicts of interest have proven, if anything, worse than expected, and he has shown no shame, restraint, or interest in addressing them. America — through the Electoral College — voted to make Donald J. Trump president, and we are getting what we asked for, good and hard.

Commentary by Ezra Klein, the editor-in-chief of Vox. Follow him on Twitter @ezraklein.

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