Skip to main content

Donald Trump proves he is a bigger threat to democracy than hacking

Donald Trump proves he is a bigger threat to democracy than hacking

Share this story

Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Speaking today in Ohio, Donald Trump moved from questioning the integrity of primary elections to questioning the integrity of the upcoming general election, which is not the most shocking thing he's done, but perhaps one of the most dangerous. "I'm afraid the election is going to be rigged," Trump said. Forget conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines and stolen elections — what Trump just said is the real danger.

Trump has alarmed people of all political stripes for his ignorant and careless comments, so his latest throwaway remark is not surprising — but it is remarkably threatening nonetheless. US elections aren't plagued by fraud, but they are plagued by routine attempts by state and local governments to blockade minority voters from reaching the polls. And those efforts are aided by urban legends about fraud. In 2014, for example, conspiracy theories swirled on right wing sites about voting machines in Cook County, Illinois being rigged to turn Republican votes into Democratic votes. It wasn't fraud, but a glitch that affected just a handful of voters. Still, the conspiracy theory that cascaded from the glitch was lasting, and since the integrity of elections is ultimately only upheld by widespread public trust, it's plausible that real damage was done just by people who speculated about fraud.

It's absolutely true that hackers and bad actors pose a risk to elections, but it's exceptionally difficult to pull off a sleight of hand that could change an outcome on election day. It's also, therefore, extremely unlikely to happen. There are very good reasons to be concerned with the security of our democratic institutions, and the 2016 election has already been materially altered by hackers who infiltrated Democratic party systems. But suggesting the election itself is "rigged" is an altogether different monster that has no basis in reality.

Voter fraud is exceptionally rare in reality, and systemic fraud in US elections is an infectiously tempting but ultimately irrational conspiracy theory. Trump, who has casually questioned President Obama's birthplace and suggested Ted Cruz's father was involved in the JFK assassination, is no stranger to conspiracy theories. But questioning the integrity of US elections as a measure of baseless partisanship is truly reckless, even at a time when foreign hackers appear interested in interfering with the democratic process.

Democratic institutions are enabled by norms as much as they are by laws, and suggesting misconduct months before an election is abnormal. It's crazy for a presidential nominee to casually suggest an election is fraudulent before it takes place. Donald Trump's careless bullshitting could do more damage to our democracy than a glitch in a voting machine ever could.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.