Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is right to back a vote recount in the three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — that gave Trump the White House. But there’s a big “but” after that.
First, here’s why she’s right to support the recount and how it will work.
She conceded too quickly on election night. Yes, President Obama reportedly urged her to concede in part because it appeared that she had little chance to win the three contested swing states, and in part because the established and near-sacrosanct truism in American presidential politics is that there must be a quick, fast and orderly transition to the Oval Office.
The horror of what happened in Florida in the Gore versus Bush tiff in 2000 still hung in the air.
However, 2016 is not 2000. There’s a cloud over how the vote totals were gathered in some precincts in Wisconsin. Michigan is still up in the air with the state yet being too close to call. As for Pennsylvania, it’s one of a handful of states that still use electronic voting machines that are old, outdated and with no paper ballot back-ups to cross-check the totals.
It’s true that the bulk of the two to three million popular vote bulge that Clinton got over Trump came from the two-big lock down Democratic states, California and New York. The fact is that the pre-election projected vote differentials between Trump and Clinton were skewed heavily toward the Democrats. Put simply, more Democrats were projected to vote than Republicans in these states, and not one of them had voted majority for a GOP presidential candidate in recent presidential election cycles.
This doesn’t mean that that didn’t change this election. And that the GOP got more of its voters out than the Democrats. That’s certainly what the GOP and Trump claim, and they may be right. But Clinton did get a record breaking majority of popular votes over Trump, and that makes it imperative for Clinton to ensure that the vote count was as fair and accurate as possible.
The recount will also continue to stir the healthy debate and discussion over how America elects presidents. If Democrats keep getting popular vote majorities, as is almost certainly the case in future presidential elections, the great danger is that this will permanently jade voters — deepening the perception that the process is unfair, even “rigged,”– and this will badly taint the notion of what and how a true democracy should work when it comes to elections.
Nearly one hundred million adults didn’t bother to show up at the polls this election. That number could swell even higher in coming presidential contests if men or women keep winning the presidency with a minority of the nation’s votes. All the exhortations in the world about being a good citizen, doing your civic duty and guilt-tripping people about how many died for the right to vote will fall on deaf ears with millions who will continue to shrug off going to the polls.
Now here’s the “but” part of the recount call. It almost certainly won’t change anything. Clinton campaign officials have pretty much said as much. The number of votes Trump got over Clinton in Pennsylvania appear to be too great to overcome, even if irregularities are found in some voting districts. This means the electoral vote win Trump got in the state will stand. Though there is suspicion about the vote in some precincts in Wisconsin, there as yet is no tangible evidence of theft, tampering or hacking to boost Trump’s numbers there.
Clinton is also bumping up against deadlines in the three states for the recount to proceed. She’s also bumping against the deadline of December 19 when the Electoral College voters will formally meet and vote to make Trump’s win official. Just how many, if any, electoral voters will have second thoughts about Trump is anybody’s guess. The betting odds, though, are that barring any colossal evidence of fraud or vote improprieties such as the starry-eyed hope that Russians or some shadowy intel operatives hacked the vote machines in state after state, Trump will be the legally constituted president.
There would have been no Clinton talk of recount if Green Party candidate Jill Stein hadn’t quickly hauled in a few million dollars to pay for a recount. She was honest in saying that she had no chance of changing the outcome of the contest, with the paltry one percent of the vote she got. But she was on to something when she said that the recount was one way to make sure that the vote was really what it purported to be. A reluctant Clinton agreed, there were just too many millions who backed her and who want genuine assurance that Trump really got the votes he appeared to get for her to ignore this perfectly reasonable request to make sure America really got it right about its next president.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming The Obama Legacy (Middle Passage Press) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.