In most years, what Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday's morning talk shows could be dismissed as a conspiracy theory with no greater consequence or relevance. But this isn’t most years.
"Dead people generally vote for Democrats instead of Republicans," Giuliani said on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, insinuating that American cities are hotbeds of widespread voter fraud. "If you want me to tell you that I think the elections of Philadelphia and Chicago are going to be fair, I would have to be a moron to say that."
This is flatly wrong. Despite Giuliani’s dystopian fever dreams, election experts are clear that voter fraud is extraordinary rare, had no impact on the 2012 race, and isn’t expected to be a problem in 2016. As Tapper correctly pointed out, even the Republican Party of Philadelphia agreed that there was no voter fraud in the city.
But the big problem with Giuliani’s comments is not just that they’re factually incorrect. (Does he remember being elected mayor of New York City twice?) It’s that they’re contributing to the dangerous and widespread delegitimization of the electoral process — one that’s being dramatically amplified as we barrel toward Election Day.
Donald Trump, of course, is leading this charge. Trump has already begun warning about a cabal of global elites planning to "rig" the election for Hillary Clinton. Millions of people are primed to believe him: Majorities of independents and Republicans already say they won’t trust the election results regardless of its outcome.
As Vox’s Dara Lind has argued, Trump is breaking with previous Republican nominees by himself voicing and validating these fears. "That raises the possibility of violence on Election Day," Lind writes. "It certainly lays the groundwork for anger and denial afterward."
You could imagine a situation in which Trump’s top surrogates refused to go along with this irresponsible storyline. (Just last week, for instance, Giuliani refused to defend Trump’s "grab 'em by the pussy" comments, admitting that they referred to sexual assault.) If the top members of Trump’s inner circle also disavowed his talk of election rigging, then perhaps it would be a more difficult line for the Republican nominee to maintain.
But Giuliani is doing just the opposite. Not only did the former New York City mayor affirm the Trump talk of election rigging, he took it further — arguing that it would be ludicrous for him not to expect voter fraud on November 8.
Here’s what Giuliani said on CNN (you can see the barely veiled disgust on Tapper’s face in the video above):
GIULIANI: I remember when I was in Chicago, there were 720 dead people voted in the 1982 election … We have people who cheat in elections.
TAPPER: You’re saying only Democrats cheat.GIULIANI: I have found few situations where Republicans cheat. They don’t control the inner cities the way Democrats do. Maybe if Republicans controlled the inner cities, they’d do as much cheating.
TAPPER: I think there are a lot of election experts that would have very strong disagreements with you.GIULIANI: Well, then they’ve never prosecuted election fraud … I can’t sit here and tell you they don’t cheat, and I can tell you it’s because they control the polling stations … So they leave dead people on the rolls and pay people to have those dead people vote.
So there you have it. Giuliani isn’t exactly coming out and saying outright that minorities in inner cities will be used to steal the election for Hillary Clinton. He’s just saying that, in his experience, lots of dead people vote in "inner cities," and that most of the inner cities are controlled by Democrats, and that he saw election fraud happen once in Chicago 34 years ago. The aftermath of the election should be interesting.