Donald Trump already has an excuse if he loses the election in November: It’s rigged.
But do Trump’s supporters believe it? On Full Frontal, Samantha Bee sent her team to Trump rallies to find out. And it turns out they do believe the election will be rigged — but only if Trump loses.
Here’s one such exchange, between Full Frontal correspondent Amy Hoggart and a Trump supporter:
TRUMP SUPPORTER: The election is definitely rigged.
HOGGART: Is that just protecting himself before the results in case he loses?
TRUMP SUPPORTER: No. He won’t lose.
HOGGART: So why would the election be rigged then?
And another, between Full Frontal correspondent Allana Harkin and a Trump supporter:
TRUMP SUPPORTER: It’s definitely not rigged for him. He doesn’t get a fair shake. CNN, they Trump bash all the time.
HARKIN: So the media is favoring Hillary Clinton.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: 100 percent, Hillary Clinton. She doesn’t get hammered on the emails. She doesn’t get hammered on Benghazi.
HARKIN: But you seem to know a lot about them.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: I mean, I watch the news.
HOGGART: If the Democrats could rig the voting machines, why would they lose the congressional races in 2010?
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Maybe to just throw us off.
While funny, the exchanges also show a very important aspect of the presidential race: Emotions are running high going into the election, some voters don’t want to accept their candidates could lose, and whatever a candidate says can seriously influence what his or her supporters think and say.
This is what makes Trump’s claims that the election will be rigged so dangerous. On one hand, it’s easy to see the claims as Trump just preparing to be a sore loser. But if it seriously affects what a lot of Americans are thinking and undermines the legitimacy ascribed to American democracy, that’s dangerous. Dara Lind explained for Vox:
The problem for Trump is that his supporters believe what he says. If he says a Trump loss means the election has been stolen, there are millions of people prepared to believe it. And on the day after the election, professional provocateurs on talk radio and the internet may be ready to tell them to reject the results of the election and the peaceful transfer of power that comes with it.
Trump may not mean anything malicious when he says the election is rigged — it’s not hard to think he just has a hard time believing he can lose, even though the polls suggest that he will. But regardless of whether he means it, his claim could undermine the legitimacy of American democracy — and his supporters’ comments to Bee’s team demonstrate that.