President Donald Trump has spent much of the last two days rejoicing in the allegation that the 2016 Democratic primaries were “rigged” on behalf of his perpetual wicked witch Hillary Clinton. His “Cult 45” base of support has been in rapture over this story and it has provided a wonderful distraction for Trump from the many revelations regarding the growing scandal involving Russian influence on his election victory.
As usual, there are major factual problems with what Trump is claiming. The biggest, in this case, is that you can actually make at LEAST as strong an argument that 2016 GOP primaries were “rigged” for Trump as you can that the “fix” was in for Hillary on the other side of the equation.
First, the original allegation laid out by former DNC chair Donna Brazile has several problems:
–It was done for a book, which means that she has a great incentive to come up with a new information that fits a narrative that might make people want to buy it.
–She herself left the 2016 cycle disgraced and knows that she needs a new narrative to potentially rebirth her career. She also knows being supportive of the now powerless Hillary will not accomplish that.
–She took part in the so-called “rigging” by using her CNN connections to tip Hillary off to what she would be asked on televised “town hall” meetings.
–Her charges are remarkably vague, not particularly shocking or new, and do NOT touch on issues that indicate an actual “rigging” of the process (like preventing ballot access, altering vote totals, or changing the rules after the fact to insure Hillary’s win).
I am hardly being naive here. I get that Hillary was always going to be the 2016 Democratic nominee. But that outcome was executed in a way that was far more “staged” than “rigged.” This is kind of like when an NFL player who got drafted in the first round beats out an unknown free agent for a position. The process wasn’t “rigged,” but it would have been next to impossible for the first-round draft pick, in whom the team is already deeply invested, not to get the nod.
It should also be pointed out that, contrary to statements Trump has made in the past, the 2016 Democratic primaries were NOT that particular close. Hillary beat Bernie Sanders by almost four million votes and would have easily won the delegate count even without the “Super Delegates” being counted.
On the other hand, it is at least as clear that Trump was the beneficiary of a GOP primary process which was not remotely fair and, using his own bastardization of the word, “rigged.” Despite this, he ended up receiving far less than 50% of the total votes cast (even with the last ten states being essentially uncontested).
Trump received at least two BILLION dollars in free advertising during the primaries from a news media which was salivating over the ratings that he was providing them without having to even lift a finger. Leading the charge were the media outlets which had the most influence within the GOP voting universe, some of which (like Breitbart) we later learned were actively working to sabotage other Republican candidates.
Foremost among these media outlets, was Fox News Channel, which at the time was run by Roger Ailes (and old pal of Trump’s) and starred very Trump-friendly primetime hosts Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren. According to former Fox News star Megyn Kelly’s post-election book, there is ample evidence that Trump was leaked her VERY critical first question of him at the extremely important first debate (I am personally convinced that Ailes gave Trump the heads up and that his tremendous “Rosie O’Donnell” retort was the most significant moment of the entire campaign).
But it wasn’t just the news media which “rigged” the 2016 GOP primaries for Trump (some would say, in part, rather ironically, because they all had a desire for Hillary to be given the easiest opponent to defeat). The GOP “establishment,” against which Trump ran, actually did a remarkable job of helping him seal the deal, even when the game was far from officially won.
Then RNC chairman Reince Priebus went out of his way to open a potentially key GOP debate by effectively saying that it was time to stop attacking each other and accept that Trump had won. Then he and the party went to extraordinary lengths to shut down any real dissent against Trump at their convention (far more than the Hillary forces did at theirs), most memorably with Ted Cruz being humiliated for having the gall to urge people to “vote their conscience.”
I am sure that it is just purely a coincidence that Preibus and Sean Spicer were both rewarded with top White House jobs after they had helped set some key blocks which enabled Trump to stumble into the end zone. When you immediately hire the guys who refereed your shocking upset win, this might be a sign that the game was “rigged.”
Of course to people who understand Trump, none of this should be a surprise. He is a master at projection. Whenever he strongly accuses someone else of doing something unethical, there are usually only two explanations. Either he is creating a distraction, or he himself has done exactly like (usually worse) what he is alleging against his enemy of the moment.
In this case, he is clearly doing both.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.