It’s the stuff of dystopian fiction: A president with a hair-trigger ego gathers party identification and the voting history of every American to be kept in a centralized data base. The imagination runs amok thinking what could happen if this information fell into the wrong hands.
Last week President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission led by Vice President Mike Pence sent letters to every state asking for voters’ personal information. In addition to wanting party affiliation and voting history, the commission asked for addresses, last four digits of social security numbers and other detailed voter data.
Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman complied with the commission’s request to a point, only sending what is already available to the public: the name of every voter along with address and date of birth.
As she told the Spokesman Review, “I have no choice. It’s public record.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee defers to Wyman on such matters, but he had strong words for Trump’s fishing expedition this week. In a meeting with The News Tribune editorial board Wednesday, he called it “venal, sad, undemocratic and un-American” and invited Trump to jump into Lake Washington.
Indeed, that might be a way for Trump to cool off and rethink his hot-headed attacks on the media, imaginary fraudulent voters and others he fears are conspiring to undo his presidency.
Instead of accepting his easy Electoral College win (Trump won 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227), our president maintains that he lost the popular vote because of massive voter fraud. He alleges, without a shred of evidence, that 5 million people voted illegally.
In fact, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million votes. Trump’s rival won the popular vote by the widest margin of any losing candidate in presidential history.
Trump should take solace knowing it wasn’t the first time the will of the people got stymied by the Electoral College: John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush all became president despite losing the popular vote.
Al Gore won by more than 539,000 votes, but you didn’t see Bush knocking on the door of every secretary of state crying foul.
Painting himself as some billionaire Rocky Balboa ready to take on the well-oiled machines of big government and “fake news” may have pumped up support during his campaign, but Trump’s underdog act has now traversed into the realm of the melodramatic — or worse, pathologically paranoid.
Granted, Trump isn’t the first president to establish an election commission. In 2013, President Obama asked his former opponent Mitt Romney to be part of a bipartisan group looking at voting access.
But it wasn’t a snipe hunt. The 122-page report advocated for expanded use of online voting and streamlining the process for military and other Americans living overseas. There was no mention of widespread fraud.
Like Trump’s degradation of journalism, his allegation of massive voter fraud is a disease on democracy. A U.S. District Court judge from Wisconsin articulated it best, “A preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermines rather than enhances confidence in elections, particularly in minority groups.”
Obviously losing the popular vote left a gaping wound. Trump can heal it by proving voters wrong, not by sending snarky tweets.
He needs to lead our country with integrity and become the statesman the world expects. Only then can he speak those words he’s longed to say: “I told you so.”