Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election because she could not get enough votes from the Electoral College. Nonetheless, Clinton won a large majority of the popular vote, with a margin of victory of over two million voters. That doesn’t mean that Clinton will get to become the next President. It does mean that Donald Trump has no mandate for his extremist political agenda.
Over the weekend, Donald Trump issued statements claiming that Clinton’s lead in the popular vote isn’t genuine. On Twitter, he wrote, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”, and “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!”
The plain reality is this: There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire, California or anywhere else in the United States.
Donald Trump’s idea that millions of people who were not entitled to vote in the 2016 election nonetheless illegally voted has been traced to Alex Jones, who runs the conspiracy theory web site InfoWars. Alex Jones in turn has based his claims that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election upon speculations made by an attorney named Joseph Vanderhulst over a month before Election Day 2016 about votes that had been cast as much as 10 years earlier. Vanderhulst works for a right wing group called the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which has long-standing ties to right wing media organizations such as Fox News, Breitbart, and the Washington Times. From the thin speculations of Vanderhulst, Alex Jones extrapolated a huge new conspiracy theory about millions of votes being cast illegally in a gigantic plan to rig the election concocted by Hillary Clinton herself.
Alex Jones has also claimed that an ordinary military exercise last year with the code name Jade Helm was actually an attempted coup d’etat planned by President Obama in which Texans would have their guns taken away and be placed into concentration camps.
Alex Jones has stated that the infamous Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut that left 20 young children dead was an elaborate hoax planned by the federal government as an excuse to take away Americans’ guns. Jones told his fans that the dead bodies shown in photographs and videos were all actors just pretending to be dead.
Right before Election Day 2016, Alex Jones declared that Hillary Clinton is an actual demon who has come from the bowels of the underworld to spread evil upon the surface of the Earth. As evidence to back up this assertion, Jones said that he had statements from people observing that Clinton smells like sulfur.
Alex Jones doesn’t have much credibility with serious journalists, but he is held in high regard by Donald Trump. As President Elect, Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to receive intelligence briefings from government agencies, and appears to continue to get much of his information about what is going on in the world from InfoWars.
What makes Donald Trump’s outbursts this weekend so disturbing isn’t just the specific claim that millions of people voted illegally in a massive conspiracy set up by a shadowy group of people intent on destroying the USA. What’s concerning is the this bizarre claim isn’t an isolated mistake, but is one manifestation of a systematic flow of misinformation to the President Elect, coming from a network of delusional conspiracy theorists.
Donald Trump is making public policy decisions on the basis of this misinformation. While he is merely President Elect, the consequences of those decisions are limited to unhinged outbursts on Twitter. When Trump is inaugurated as President of the United States, the consequences of his immersion in a right wing culture of paranoia will expand dramatically.
Donald Trump will soon have the authority to detonate nuclear weapons. His allies will control all three branches of the federal government.
What crazy ideas will Alex Jones whisper into the ear of Donald Trump then?